Containers may be more effective than VMs for hybrid apps – Gartner

Sure, licensing is a mess. Packaging, distribution in good shape, tho


Containers may already be your best bet when building and running applications that run in hybrid environments, according to Arun Chandrasekaran, a distinguished vice president and analyst at Gartner.

Delivering a talk titled "Compute Evolution: Virtual Machines, Containers, Serverless, Which to Use When?" at the Asia-Pacific edition of the firm's IT Infrastructure, Operations & Cloud Strategies Conference, Chandrasekaran predicted rapid uptake of containers and serverless functions.

Containers, he said, will be used by 90 per cent of global organisations by 2026, up from 40 per cent today. Serverless will go from 25 per cent adoption to 50 per cent in the same period. Both will be used mostly for cloud-native apps, while serverless will be almost exclusively used for new apps because migration is extremely difficult.

Adoption won't be easy. Chandrasekaran said container licensing is frustratingly inconsistent – both for third-party software and for container management platforms. Those platforms remain immature, he said, necessitating adoption of third-party tools. Containers remain a poor option for stateful apps. Serverless by its nature offers very insight into its inner workings, which makes ops teams nervous. Skilled people to drive both environments are currently hard to find.

But if you need to scale in a hurry, and fancy elasticity that easily falls to zero consumption, serverless can't be beat.

And if you are building for a hybrid environment, containers offer an alternative to VMs that may be hard to ignore.

"If hybrid architectures are a key goal, building an app that will span on-prem and public cloud, or a service that will span edge and multiple clouds, containers might be more effective," Chandrasekaran said, citing strengths in application packaging and APIs. The availability of Kubernetes for many and varied platforms was another factor in his opinion.

On-prem and hybrid Kubernetes options are not hard to find: Google advances its cloud and Anthos platform for the job, while VMware's Tanzu and Red Hat's OpenShift also happily work in many environments. But all are reasonably new as edge options, while VM-centric vendors have delivered hybrid cloud tools for almost a decade, making Chandrasekaran's advice a little surprising.

As was his suggestion that one way serverless can fit into an organisation is for infrastructure ops teams to put it to work for their own workloads – such as data migration or creating new logins – that don't need applications to run full time.

Chandrasekaran also recommended that infrastructure teams aim to offer excellent delivery of all the abstractions mentioned above, rather than butting heads with developers over which is the most appropriate. Ops teams can also add value by delivering observability and monitoring tools – which Chandrasekaran said are more complex, more needed, and more appreciated in containerised and serverless environments. ®

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