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Lightweight and Portable, Containers Are Trending

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By Paul Miller, HPE Vice President of Marketing, Software-defined and Cloud Group

More than 60 years ago, a trucking entrepreneur revolutionized the shipping industry by introducing a more efficient method of transporting goods. Instead of workers manually loading and stacking small boxes of goods onto ships, Malcolm McLean debuted the world’s first ship that would carry trailer-sized containers, thereby dramatically simplifying and speeding the process of shipping goods globally.

In the same way that shipping containers changed that industry, today’s container technology is changing how businesses deploy and use applications in their datacenter. (This analogy works so well that the leading container company today, Docker, used it for its name and logo.)

Although containers have been around for many years, Docker made them popular with their first release in 2013. And since then, containers have taken off. According to the Container Market Adoption Survey 2016, “79% of respondents said that their organizations run container technologies, with 76% of them in production environments. This represents a significant advance from last year where only 38% of respondents had deployed containers in production.”

So why are containers so popular? Two reasons: They are lightweight and portable.

Containers share a common lightweight Linux OS and only keep the different pieces that are unique to that application within the container. This type of OS-level virtualization means you can hold a lot more containers on a particular server compared to virtual machines (VMs). More applications on fewer servers mean your datacenter can be much more efficient.

Containers are also more portable than VMs because of the way they are designed. You can run the same container on any Linux operating system that has a container management system. Without containers, if you created an application on VMware, you couldn’t move it to a KVM hypervisor without having to make a lot of changes.

In contrast, you can easily move containers around, which makes developers much more efficient. You can develop an app and take it from your desktop at work and move it to the Amazon cloud, Google cloud, or the Microsoft Azure container environment – all without having to make any changes at all.

Another trend that impacts how developers function in the container world has to do with microservices, which allows developers to create an application using a series of small services accessible through an API rather than a monolithic application. Microservices architecture allows developers to make a small change to an application and push it out immediately--without effecting other microservices, truly enabling businesses to be agile. As they are lightweight and portable, containers tend to be the ideal operating environment for microservices.

The trend toward using containers and microservices is real and is transforming how IT infrastructure is deployed. HPE is at the forefront of this transformation, developing and evolving HPE products to be more container and developer friendly. As a matter of fact, HPE is taking advantage of containers today in our own development environments to develop products faster and to be more agile. By using containers, the HPE OneView team was able to reduce software build times by more than half.

HPE is also partnering with companies such as Docker and Mesosphere. Last year, HPE announced a partnership with Docker that helps customers build, ship and run distributed applications in a hybrid IT environment. This partnership gives programmers, development teams and operations engineers the common toolbox they need to take advantage of the distributed and networked nature of modern applications. And just last month, HPE announced a partnership with Mesosphere. By combining Mesosphere’s DC/OS technology with HPE infrastructure and service leadership, HPE is making it easier for customers to leverage hybrid IT to run, deploy and manage today’s distributed enterprise environments more efficiently.

The world is moving in the direction of containers on bare metal, virtual machines and in the cloud. What is still needed is simplified management across all of these environments. And that’s what HPE is working on now. To read more about how to build a better cloud through container technology, click here.

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