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Does Enterprise Computing Need Containers?

By John Katsaros

October 28, 2015

Everyone asks the question “When will the enterprises start using Docker in production. “ We have a second question – “Why does it matter?”

Vendors care because enterprises are where the money is. Global spending on enterprise application software is expected to reach $149.9 billion this year, up 7.5% from 2014. 

Do we think enterprise applications will convert to a Docker platform? 

VMware’s focus on virtualizing Windows Servers was perfect for the first generation of downsizing sprawling applications.  For enterprises that have gone through s data center downsizing (most have) the IT organization is leaner, running fewer applications with smaller staffs. 

These organizations have already taken the “low-hanging fruit,” making it more difficult to cost-justify the next round of consolidation.  Some organizations are beginning to look at new “bare metal” computing and moving to open source Linux instead of buying Windows Servers licenses.

Unfortunately for container technology, most modern enterprises already have Docker-like functionality through virtualization: Configuration simplicity, any app to any device, lower power, flexibility for moving applications (Vmotion), device independence, virtual appliances, greater agility and improved productivity.

If there is a next round of consolidation, will enterprises take concrete steps to move their major corporate applications off of Windows and onto a Docker- enabled infrastructure?  Probably not, because they have already invested in virtualization and booked its benefits.  However, as existing systems grow, performance lags and more functionality is needed, we may see movement to a Docker-like infrastructure.

What’s needed to justify enterprise adoption of Docker? A killer app.

In search of the killer app

What will be the killer app to speed up enterprise Docker adoption? Most likely it will come from the enterprise’s desire for a digital relationship with customers beyond online billing statements.  We believe it may involve multi-party application development.

As an example, recently a large bank’s credit card division offered a new service: The ability for cardholders to temporarily lock their credit cards so that if a card is misplaced, the cardholder could block the card using a smartphone and unblock it when the card was found.  This application is designed to acquire and retain customers and to decrease turnover.

While this application seems simple, building it is anything but simple. Not only must it run on the bank’s computing infrastructure, but the bank’s business partners also must participate at some level in the development and rollout of this new feature.  A case can be made that using a container-based Docker infrastructure will speed up the application’s creation and deployment for each entity involved.

We believe this type of multi-party application built on a similar infrastructure will become normal. Because it is more agile than traditional systems, Docker’s role in this type of data center re-engineering is critical.