Is the era of virtualization coming to an end? Going by some of the recent events and trends, the answer seems to be yes. Here are five signs that the industry is moving beyond virtualization.
1. The rise of containers
When dotCloud Inc., a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company based out of San Francisco, demonstrated a new technology based on Linux containers, it seemed like an interesting way of solving the DevOps challenges. But, no one expected it to become a game changer. Fast forward to 2015, dotCloud Inc. has become Docker Inc., a billion-dollar startup that is a darling of Silicon Valley; it is also redefining the way software is developed and deployed.
The success of Docker is not just limited to Docker, Inc. — it is expanding to hundreds of startups that are part of the broader ecosystem. Flocker, Weaveworks, Shippable, and CoreOS are some of the successful entities from the Docker world. CoreOS is the first company to create an exclusive operating system to run containers; it went on to create rkt, an alternative to Docker. RancherOS is another example of an operating system that runs Docker.
Canonical, the creator of Ubuntu (which happens to be the most successful Linux distribution), has created a lightweight hypervisor called LXD (pronounced Lex-dee). It claims that LXD offers the best of both worlds: virtual machines (VMs) and containers.
2. The virtualization market is saturated
In its 2015 Magic Quadrant report on x86 server virtualization, Gartner mentioned that about 75% of enterprise workloads are already virtualized. That is a warning bell to traditional virtualization companies such as Microsoft, Citrix, and VMware.
Enterprise customers are going beyond simple virtualization to implementing private cloud and hybrid cloud. Some workloads are migrated to the public cloud to reduce the capital expenditures on infrastructure. To get the most out of cloud investments, internal line-of-business applications are refactored and redesigned. This exercise is giving them an opportunity to evaluate emerging technologies such as containers.
Though it may be early for them, CIOs and CTOs are keen on understanding the impact of containers on their business. It's a matter of time before enterprises start using containers.
3. Top hypervisor vendors are embracing containers
With the virtualization market shrinking, traditional hypervisor vendors are looking at containers. In the last six months, Microsoft, Red Hat, and VMware made significant moves towards containers.
Microsoft is partnering with Docker to bring Docker tools and its ecosystem to Windows. Microsoft is also investing in native container technology called Hyper-V containers, a new container deployment option with enhanced isolation powered by Hyper-V virtualization. In addition, Microsoft is shipping a lightweight, container-friendly version of Windows Server called Nano Server, which is a minimal footprint installation of Windows Server optimized for the cloud and containers.
Red Hat is one of the most vocal advocates of containers. Through its partnership with Docker and Google, the company embedded containers and orchestration tools in its PaaS offering called OpenShift. Through an initiative called Atomic Hosts, Red Hat is optimizing its Linux distributions — Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Fedora — for containers.
VMware announced a partnership with Docker and Google to integrate containers and orchestration tools with vSphere and vCloud Air. The company created a lightweight Linux OS called Photon, which is optimized to run containers on vSphere. Project Bonneville is an attempt to bridge the gap between vSphere and Docker.
4. The formation of Cloud Foundry Foundation, Open Container Initiative, and Cloud Native Computing Foundation
Within the first half of 2015, the industry has witnessed the formation of three important foundations, marking the beginning of a new era.
With more than 30 members, the Cloud Foundry Foundation is a vibrant community. Its mission is to make Cloud Foundry an industry standard for PaaS. The foundation advocates the design of cloud native applications. Industry veteran Sam Ramji is at the helm to drive the governance of this foundation.
At DockerCon SF 2015, Docker and the Linux Foundation announced the Open Container Initiative (OCI) with an objective of creating a standard container format and runtime. From Amazon to VMware, the community has the who's who in the industry. Docker and CoreOS are committed to the initiative for creating a compatible container format, APIs, and runtime.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is an important milestone in the history of containers. At OSCON 2015, Google announced that it is donating Kubernetes, its open source orchestration tool, to the Linux Foundation. According to Jim Zemlin, director of Linux Foundation, the foundation's mission is to help facilitate collaboration among developers and operators on common technologies for deploying cloud native applications and services. If OCI focuses on standardization of core container technologies, CNCF is all about standardizing the tools used for container management.
Cloud Foundry Foundation, OCI, and CNCF have a common goal: drive the adoption of the contemporary technology stack in the enterprise.
5. The importance of containers in OpenStack
The OpenStack project started in 2010 as an alternative to commercial private cloud platforms. The recent version of OpenStack called Kilo has seen the convergence of its core compute layer and containers. Codenamed Magnum, this subproject aims at making Docker and Kubernetes first-class citizens of OpenStack. According to the wiki, "Magnum uses Heat to orchestrate an OS image which contains Docker and Kubernetes and runs that image in either virtual machines or bare metal in a cluster configuration." This project bridges the gap between Nova and Docker.
In June 2015, Google joined the OpenStack Foundation to bring Kubernetes to private cloud and hybrid cloud environments. This move will enable Google engineers to officially contribute to Magnum. With substantial investments in Compute Engine, Google wants to take the route of OpenStack to onboard enterprise customers. So, Kubernetes is all set to play a major role in OpenStack's hybrid strategy.
With all the key vendors joining the container bandwagon, it is clear that is the next big thing in the industry. Enterprises were reluctant to adopt virtualization in its early days, and we may witness the same resistance to containerization. However, it is time for enterprises to start taking containers seriously and to get their development and IT teams ready to deal with the cloud native platforms.
Janakiram MSV is the Principal Analyst at Janakiram & Associates and a guest faculty member at the International Institute of Information Technology. He is also a Google Qualified Cloud Developer, an Amazon Certified Solution Architect, an Amazon Certified Developer, an Amazon Certified SysOps Administrator, and a Microsoft Certified Azure Professional. His previous experience includes Microsoft, AWS, Gigaom Research, and Alcatel-Lucent.