Hybrid IT and cloud computing are completely changing the computing landscape, from ownership and payment methods to the way applications are developed. The perfect example of this is the seemingly overnight adoption of containers. According to the 2018 SolarWinds IT Trends Report, nearly half of the public sector IT pros who responded ranked containers as the most important technology priority today.
This ranking comes with good reason. Containers simplify the applications development process—and, in particular, provide a level of application portability and agility that is critical within a hybrid or cloud environment.
All this said, containers are still relatively new. It’s important for every federal IT pro to understand containers and their potential value in helping to enhance an agency’s computing efficiency as the agency moves to a hybrid IT/cloud environment.
What is a container?
When applications are developed, they’re built within a production-staging environment, either on a virtual machine in the cloud, or on a developer’s laptop. The challenge is that the environment where the application will ultimately run may be different than the environment where the application was developed. This has been an application development challenge for years.
Enter the container. A container is a complete environment—the application and all the technological dependencies it needs to run (libraries, binaries, configuration files, etc.), all self-contained in a single container. This means the application can run anywhere; the underlying infrastructure becomes irrelevant since the application already has everything it needs to get its job done.
Why are containers important?
First and foremost, containers can enhance the adoption of hybrid and cloud environments as they make applications completely portable. That’s invaluable as agencies look to make the cloud migration process as easy as possible.
Containers can also help agencies meet additional challenges introduced by hybrid IT/cloud environments. According to the 2018 SolarWinds IT Trends Report, those challenges include:
- Environments that are not optimized for peak performance (46% of respondents)
- Significant time spent reactively maintaining and troubleshooting IT environments (45% of respondents)
There is another forward-looking advantage of containers. The accelerated development cycle enabled by containers can help open the way to implement automated systems and technologies, further streamlining agency dev cycles.
According to the report, while hybrid IT/cloud ranked highest among the top five most important technologies to their organization’s IT strategies, automation was ranked second in the category of “most important technologies needed for digital transformation over the next three to five years.”
In a nutshell: containers can help agencies more effectively move to hybrid IT/cloud environments, which can then help agencies more effectively incorporate automation—which has the potential to change the game completely.