Containerisation – Building a Resilient Future

Cloud platforms have forever changed corporate IT. Infinite scalability coupled with a pay-as-you-use billing model allow dev teams to accelerate deployment and deliver improved services faster without significant capital investment.

Now the introduction of containers is set to change the game again. With the  containerisation of business computing workloads being seen as the next step forward in building a highly adaptable digital transformation strategy.

What are containers?

Server virtualisation was a radical data centre evolution, increasing resilience, reducing risk of data loss and helping to generate a greater return on hardware ROI. Virtual servers were also the essential element in early cloud projects.

Also known as cloud-native applications, ‘containers’ take virtualisation a step further. A container is a fully self-contained application that includes everything it needs to run – settings, libraries and dependencies.

Deployed directly onto the cloud platform, containers are managed at runtime using a controller program, like Docker Engine, rather than a VM hypervisor or guest operating system.

Why is containerisation  so exciting?

Traditional virtual servers are relatively heavyweight. Every machine is a fully provisioned system, with a full operating system and applications to run your code. You have to license the OS and software and manage and support the servers just like any other machine in your infrastructure.

For a small deployment this approach is fine. But as you scale, the licensing and management overheads become prohibitive. Containers like Docker and Kubernetes operate on a slightly different principle.

Containing nothing more than the application and its dependencies, you immediately avoid the problem of OS and application licensing.

The next stage in your digital transformation

For the digitally transformed business, speed of operations is a strategic priority. The fact that creating and destroying containers is quick and simple is a step towards that goal.

As demand on applications increase, you can automate the deployment of new containers. And you can do so without having to manage a guest OS. Stripping away layers of software also provides direct access to underlying hardware, allowing you to optimise your resource usage and bring cloud bills back under control.

Containers provide a roadmap for the future of your applications. Defining a standardised container structure built around open APIs will help when choosing where your application will be run. This is particularly important as businesses move towards multi-cloud operations. Done right, you will be able to move platforms and providers with minimal disruption.

Optimisation of resource usage is a hot topic. The on-demand nature of cloud platforms makes it easy to spin up processing resources as required. But when using non-cloud native applications this can be costly and wasteful.

Engineering lightweight, efficient containers helps to reduce overheads and prevent wasteful consumption of cloud processing resources. Adopting a cloud-native approach to future application design will help to control costs and free up budget for investment in other strategic projects.

To learn more about containerisation, its benefits, and how to prepare your cloud applications for the demands of the future, please get in touch.

Useful Links

The Doppler – The State of Container Adoption Challenges and Opportunities

Is digital transformation the answer to modernising your business?

It is a fact that today’s customers expect a lot from their suppliers and providers, whether that is a supermarket, bank, energy provider, insurance company or any other business they buy products or services from. The digital revolution has been a major contributor to customers’ rising expectations, with a recent customer survey from Salesforce “State of the Connected Customer”, finding that 75% of customers expect businesses to use new technologies to create better experiences, and 73% say that one extraordinary experience (tailored, contextualised engagements across different touch points) raises their expectations of other companies.

This offers businesses an opportunity but also a challenge, to update systems and infrastructure sufficiently in order to offer new services and extraordinary experiences, at scale.

The challenges of digital transformation are many. Legacy systems are costly to replace, businesses might not have the necessary skills and expertise in house and budgets are always reducing.

So, what does digital transformation mean?

Firstly, businesses need to understand how critical their data is. Businesses that are data-driven and data-centric outperform the competition.

Secondly, businesses must modernise their infrastructure in order to increase efficiencies and provide better customer service. A modernised infrastructure can allow businesses to streamline operations, automate tasks where possible, control their data and leverage the public cloud in order to succeed.

Finally, businesses should prepare for scale. Building a scalable platform from the outset means they can keep pace with the growth of the business quickly and without high levels of extra investment.

But how does a business get there?

Cloud infrastructure is an essential part of any data centric business, but it’s not always as easy as adding some public cloud services to your existing on-premise infrastructure. Traditional infrastructure is usually organised in application focused silos and data won’t be able to flow as required between this legacy infrastructure and the cloud, unless you add automation, public and private cloud elements. In fact, the most successful hybrid cloud environments are built on a private cloud platform which can provide the flexibility, automation and simplified data management that businesses need to serve their applications and manage data in any location.

Many businesses are turning to hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) which is a popular building block for a modernised hybrid cloud infrastructure.  HCI contains every element of the infrastructure stack in a single, virtualised block. It is built in a modular way, allowing blocks to be added easily as and when additional compute or storage is needed.

HCI meets the needs of the data centric business, allowing them to serve the most demanding cloud-native applications from day one, and allow data to flow between locations and applications, in public or private clouds. When the business grows, the HCI environment can grow with it. HCI is managed centrally and simply and the day to day monitoring and management can be done by generalist IT administrators, without the need for specialist storage, virtualisation or networking administrators.

Because it is so simple, HCI enables the automation of custom provisioning and encourages and fosters self service, which means businesses become more self-sufficient and free up time which can then be spent innovating.

Businesses looking for HCI solutions should evaluate NetApp, which is designed for highly performing environments, with high availability, scalability and simplicity. All the key requirements of a modernised infrastructure.

NetApp HCI also integrates with NetApp Data Fabric which connects everything in the hybrid cloud together. It also unlocks other advanced services such as file services, object services, replication, data visibility, and backup and recovery.

Find out more about NetApp HCI solutions in this white paper.

Useful Links

ZDNet Digital Transformation Playbook

The Connected Customer – 3rd Edition