A Containerization Strategy Shouldn't Automatically Mean Docker
It's easy to get locked into thinking that you need a container-based IT strategy. and that if you need containers then you should primarily look to Docker containerization. Picking the wrong container adoption strategy can be costly, so it's important to evaluate whether you really need a containerization strategy in the first place. If you do, what container technologies will you need, and how will they fit within your overall container orchestration strategy?
When You Need a Containerization Strategy
Containers are a hot topic in IT organizations, executive strategy meetings, and technology risk committees on the board of directors. Whether a company is building out a data center or cloud strategy, containers often provide resiliency and economies of scale that are harder to achieve without them. But containers are not the right IT solution to every business problem, so it's important to develop a container strategy for the right reasons.
Containerization means more than just Docker.
Should Docker containerization and orchestration be your company's only option for a container adoption strategy? Experts say no.
Containers are just one type of virtualization technology that exists on a continuum today. Blade servers, bare metal hypervisors such as VMware or Xen, container technologies such as Docker, and "serverless" technologies such as AWS Lambda all solve a set of closely-related problems, but each has its own unique technology and business trade-offs.
In general, a business should select containers when its cloud or data center strategy requires high density, low latency, and a process- or service-oriented architecture without the overhead that comes from a full-fledged operating system running on each node. Containers are optimized to run as thinly-provisioned, easily-replaceable services rather than as complete operating systems or tightly-coupled bundles of applications. Make sure you evaluate your virtualization options thoroughly before adopting containers as the cornerstone of your new infrastructure strategy.
Selecting Technologies for Container Adoption
Once you've decided on containerization as the right IT strategy for your company, be sure to look beyond Docker for the optimal solution for your unique environment. Some other choices include:
Each offers unique features and trade-offs that your DevOps engineers and IT infrastructure architects can explain, but the important take-away is that while Docker has the most mind-share (and for good reasons!) it's not the only game in town.
Because these strategic choices are as much business decisions as technology decisions, it's important to involve your Chief Information Officer in evaluating both the solution and the key metrics your organization will use to measure effective container adoption at the enterprise level. Because cloud and container strategies are part of MyFractionalCIO's core services, middle market companies without a current in-house CIO can still reap the benefits of a business-focused container strategy.
Develop a Container Orchestration Strategy
In many cases, selecting a containerization solution is actually less about the container technology itself, and more about the orchestration strategy. Docker swarms, Kubernetes clusters, and DC/OS systems each provide trade-offs in power and complexity. If you're using AWS, you can also choose between:
Within the various Amazon Web Services container management services, the trade-offs between cost and administrative overhead can be especially impactful.
Every containerization strategy needs to include a carefully-crafted orchestration and container management component at its core. Otherwise, it's very much like buying tires before you've chosen the car you'll drive. Make sure you consider the broader strategic IT picture.
Adopting a containerization strategy is a great fit for many organizations, but Docker containerization is not the only option. There are many virtualization solutions, and many container formats and container orchestration engines to choose from.