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What’s on tap for Linux container technology in 2016

Robert Shimp, Product Management Group VP, Oracle Linux and Virtualization | May 4, 2016
Some debates remain, including what operating system will run under container applications.

This vendor-written tech primer has been edited by Executive Networks Media to eliminate product promotion, but readers should note it will likely favor the submitter’s approach.

White hot interest in containers has been driven by cloud computing’s demand to simplify deployment, streamline time to production, and automatically deliver the resources an application needs. Linux containers provide that in a nice package: a simple tool for developing, testing and delivering an application to the end user.

Containers are designed to make it easier and quicker for developers to create complete application operating environments. Gone is the painful validation process of traditional application deployments that require developers to identify the minimum system requirements needed to run the application.

There are other important benefits. Linux containers package just about any type of server application to run everywhere – on your desktop, in a cloud, or anywhere Linux is available – regardless of kernel version or Linux distribution. Containers also can have a considerably smaller footprint than VMs, which means your systems can see higher densities and run more cost effectively with containers than with VMs on the same host.

While containers are now established, debates remain. For example, enterprises will have to decide what private cloud infrastructure (and most importantly, what operating system) will run under container applications. In 2015 many proclaimed a thin operating system would win out, but a popular thin technology has yet to emerge. We predict that adoption of thin operating systems will take longer than expected to ramp up in the data center, making only modest headway in 2016.

Another important hurdle to broad adoption of containers is portability. Linux containers’ “write-once, run anywhere” philosophy is essential for simplifying application development and deployment across a multi-cloud environment.

In 2015 the Open Container Initiative, of which Oracle is a sponsor, gained broad industry support. Both LXC and Docker have become popular among all major Linux distributions for packaging and distributing cloud applications in Linux containers.

Now we’re seeing the Open Container Initiative make strides towards common specifications for container portability across operating systems, hardware and clouds without dependency on any particular commercial vendor or project.

Containers may be the answer for simplifying application deployment, but as this technology moves into wide enterprise use customers will raise the bar further. What enterprise workloads are currently suited for containers? Is it necessary for an application vendor to refactor their solution for container deployments, or will containers evolve to include things besides next generation applications developed specifically for containers? Or is it a combination of both?

How will containers be managed? If there ever was concern about VM sprawl, the situation could be exponentially more challenging with containers. VM monitoring is not too hard. It's been around and people know how to do it. But most enterprises have not yet established processes for monitoring a system with containers. For example, with containers memory is shared and CPU cycles are shared, even disk space is potentially shared.


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