The Stack Archive

How new technologies like Docker and PaaS are forcing changes to legacy IT organisations and processes

Wed 21 Jan 2015

Bernard Golden, VP of Strategy at ActiveState, is speaking at Cloud Expo Europe on the incredible pressures that enterprise IT is under to get things done faster. Here he discusses the sea-change that Docker is bringing to Cloud provisioning…

“It is very clear that the theme of the moment is the incredible pressure that enterprise IT is under to get things done faster,” says Golden. Although he points out that it is crucial for IT organisations to adopt these new technologies, he warns that companies should not be rushed or tempted to ‘build the new legacy’ by creating their own toolsets and infrastructures. “Don’t build a one-off system if you’re going to be the only ones using it,” he advises. “The challenge then is that you have a long-term need to maintain and improve an infrastructure toolset rather than focus on business value applications – that’s not where enterprise IT should be.”

Golden feels the big task for 2015 will be encouraging organisations to recognise that they need to “rely on broader ecosystems and products which they can leverage,” rather than deciding to run and build their own infrastructures.

He also believes that a further challenge lies with virtualisation, arguing that while the technology provides many benefits “it doesn’t necessarily address some of the things that people really want to accomplish – not just with virtualisation but with the whole application process.” Golden notes that its over-arching goal is to get applications into production and the marketplace faster but has lost its overall value by over focusing on the efficiency of running operations.

“Docker is so much lighter in weight, so much faster to execute, and universally portable. It therefore has a broader capacity to be able to address that over-arching goal of accelerating the application lifecycle.

“It’s a broader range revolution than what virtualisation has primarily been directed toward, which is a way of making operations more efficient and raising the utilisation of hardware.”

Learning curve

For legacy IT organisations adopting Docker, like any new technology, there is new skill building to take on board, says Golden. “Docker is a different framework – it’s an abstraction layer which you have to learn and understand how it operates.”

Golden recognises that to truly accelerate application lifecycle with Docker, companies must examine other parts of their application pipeline, tool chain and processes. He warns that if companies employ new light-weight technologies but keep the same processes in place, they will not achieve faster overall application lifecycles. “You’ll get stuck with manual processes with change control boards and so much manual overhead – In effect it’s sort of like having a really powerful engine in your car but keeping the emergency brake on. You’re not going to go any faster than you used to.”

Despite its relative infancy, Golden sees Docker becoming the de facto application execution environment and believes that it will achieve the true vision of virtualisation of delivering “a very portable execution environment, providing IT organisations with the flexibility to deploy an application anywhere.”

Early adopters

ActiveState has always been heavily committed to Docker, he says, adding that they were the first commercial solution using Docker. “We’ve been tracking Docker before it became a headline star. We made the move because we viewed it as core to the vision of being able to decide where you want to run an application, based on the characteristics of that application.

“We’ve been strong believers in Docker all along. In terms of cloud computing, our belief is that the right decision for an organisation about where they want to run an application should be where the best location for that application to run is.

“We believe very strongly in choosing the application execution environment based on the characteristics of the application, the goals of the organisation, and whatever constraints that it may face in terms of application deployment environment. ActiveState’s Stackato PaaS enables that. You literally write an application on your laptop and run it unchanged across any platform. Docker is the execution environment and we wrap that with a set of application lifecycle operation design and capabilities which can run in any environment.”

Although the adoption of PaaS has been slower than expected, Golden highlights research conducted by Gartner which names 2015 as the ‘year of PaaS.’ “Our customer base is primarily large enterprise and we’re seeing an increasing interest from them in our products. A year and a half ago, these were big visionary enterprises, but now we’re seeing more interest from mainstream enterprises who find themselves under increasing pressure to accelerate application delivery.

This area is going to be an open-source-based solution because open source is becoming the clear choice for enterprises,

Companies are beginning to look at their traditional models and processes and realise that they need a new set of tooling to respond to that pressure.”

In terms of the PaaS vendor landscape, Golden doubts that every merchant will attain their dreams – “Not every actor wins the Golden Globe.”

“This area is going to be an open-source-based solution because open source is becoming the clear choice for enterprises. IT organisations are going to require the ability to deploy across multiple environments. They should not be constrained to say that everything’s great if you just choose to run everything on Amazon, Google, Azure or OpenStack.

By their very nature enterprises need to have more flexibility. The solution has to be generally applicable and has to be open-source based – if you look at that, there are only a couple of players.”

An open field for OpenStack

Golden predicts that open source is likely to be the foundation for all cloud computing infrastructure. “AWS is built on open source, and OpenStack is going to become the de facto private cloud implementation framework. It is going to become the foundation of the infrastructure.”

“It is very likely that open source will also become the working parts for the kind of applications that are built to run in cloud environments. Enterprises will start to look to open source as the natural toolset to use.”

Golden suggests that open source communities have traditionally driven much more innovation within a given sector than proprietary alternatives. “Bill Joy, originally of Sun, said that there are always more smart people outside of your company than within. By having larger communities with larger numbers of contributors, and crucially contributors who see lots of different requirements that you may not see if you’re a proprietary vendor, you’re going to see a generally higher rate of innovation.

Cloud Foundry will be the winner as it is the larger ecosystem with a larger number of contributors so it gains market momentum too. For example, in the cloud orchestration sector, OpenStack looks like it will become the standard, rather than CloudStack, and a big part of that is because of the size of the ecosystem.

“Now that the Cloud Foundry Foundation has been set up, there are clear rules and processes around engagement and code contribution. I think we’ll see a lot of action in this area.”

Bernard Golden will be speaking at Cloud Expo Europe, which takes place at ExCel London 11-12th March 2015. Don’t miss out on attending this unique event and find out: What’s New. What’s Next. Register for your FREE tickets today.


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