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FCW : July 30, 2015
Containers enable developers and systems administra- tors to build, distribute and run self-contained applica- tions. Experts say their adoption could usher in the age of microservices, a software architecture approach in which agencies develop small, lightweight applications that oper- ate in system-level isolation. “I think containers are part of a general trend in the government toward more modern application development and architecture,” said Mark Ryland, chief solutions archi- tect at Amazon Web Services’ Worldwide Public Sector. David Messina, vice president of enterprise marketing at Docker, said the developer workflows that containers enable could become the foundation for a major applica- tion transformation — from giant monolithic applications to more distributed models. The fundamentals “Given that it’s a developer-led movement, enabling your development team to use Docker in their developer pipe- line has instant productivity benefits,” said Messina, whose company is a leading open-source container developer. “What Docker enables is the ability to make decisions at any point to migrate your applications from one infrastruc- ture to the next,” which is especially useful as agencies move to the cloud. “Your application can be developed within the four walls of your agency, and then you can have the flexibil- ity of running your Dockerized applications in any cloud and also have a model where it’s hybrid across your own private cloud, in a public cloud or across public clouds,” he added. That portability brings freedom of choice for infrastructure and operations. “At a certain level, you can think of containers as a way to package the applications and then to deploy them in a predictable and consistent and fast way,” said Kurt Milne, vice president of product marketing at CliQr Technolo- gies, an application-defined cloud management vendor. Containers eliminate “some of the dependencies [and] configuration issues that can often sideline or slow down a new project.” The hurdles Jared Rosoff, senior director of product management and architecture at VMware, said that right now container com- panies offer “a code base that is very new and changing very rapidly. [The technology] doesn’t lend itself to an environment where you want to push some code and let it sit for a year. You [must] plan on upgrading the base in a container infrastructure pretty frequently until the technology is stabilized. That’s going to be a problem for everybody.” He also cautioned that we are only at the beginning of the maturity curve for containers. An ecosystem of tools for managing fault diagnostics, configuration, performance and security does not yet exist for containers. That means federal agencies might have to cobble together their own container management systems from various parts. Christian Heiter, chief technology officer at Hitachi Data Systems Federal, stressed the key role an agency’s infra- structure will play. “There are a number of management tools because you will be launching all of these virtualized applications, [so] you need to have a good infrastructure... to be able to keep your costs under control,” he said. “Otherwise, you’re building tools, [but] you’re not really monitoring what’s going on in all these virtualized envi- ronments, and the costs can rise.” There is also the struggle for control between develop- ers and operations teams. “Because you are going to be using the base operating system for the application, you An explainer on containers BY WILL KELLY If containers continue to advance into federal enterprise IT, they could spell the end of monolithic legacy applications 24 July 30, 2015 FCW.COM ExecTe c h 0730fcw_024-025.indd 24 7/8/15 3:18 PM
July 15, 2015
August 15, 2015