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Containers shift from IT optimization to digital transformation
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By Shohei Maruyama
Container technology is now the standard architecture of enterprise IT service. And it has done so in less than a 10-year period. Why?
Simply because you can have your optimization cake and eat innovation at the same time. Container and cloud-native computing technology is a complete game changer for enterprise IT. It started to be adopted in mainstream, perhaps from as late as 2013 when Docker emerged. Before we got to containers we got to cloud. Its advent helped many enterprises optimize IT spending by shifting discontinuous applications to a pay-as-you-go consumption model. It was a lift and shift of workloads to a different platform and created financial optimization in a way that parallels a similar transition with virtualization.
Fast-forward to 2019 and the container landscape changed again when the Cloud Native Computing Foundation had major projects graduate from incubation, making containers and the ecosystem generally available to its community. VMware, with its deep, virtualized user-base, made an apparent commitment to Kubernetes through strategic acquisitions, then announcing VMware Tanzu. IBM introduced Cloud Paks, Google introduced Anthos, AWS introduced Outposts, Microsoft introduced Azure Arc, and HPE announced what became called HPE Ezmeral Container Platform in 2020. The advent of these container platforms has begun shaping a seamless experience between public cloud and on-premises platforms via single vendor, consumption-based solutions.
Beyond this platform-level development enterprises have, either by design, or through the necessary reaction to the world-wide pandemic, centred their attention onto developing the customer experience. Again, we can ask why? It’s because enterprises that lead with enhanced customer experience (beyond cost and performance) outperform those that don’t. Forbes suggest 80% outperformance of laggards by enterprises leading in customer experience, with an average of S700m revenue uplift over three years.
As enterprise digital transformation programs speed up, the case for container adoption goes beyond consideration—it becomes the basis to enable line of business (LOB) developers to directly shape enhanced customer experience in the shortest time-span possible in a more innovative manner. And this transformation is disruptive.
Nike is a great example. In March 2020, Nike’s stock price plunged as it issued profit warnings due to Covid-19. Two quarters’ results later Nike had transformed its customer experience focus to online sales and customized shoes available online, not just in their flagship stores. They reported a 75% increase in online sales – nearly a third of total revenue, a goal Nike had previously set for 2023. The stock price hit all-time highs.
What else can containers do for us?
It is never too late to start the container and cloud native computing journey. What are the typical enterprise drivers to do so?
Different teams, different processes: Differing standards for developing and releasing software are often accompanied by limited governance and transparency.
Legacy applications: Teams working on legacy applications use containers so they can make more efficient use of infrastructure and avoid testing problems.
Organizational fusion: Coordinating software releases often takes a long time. Containers help merge the development and deployment aspects of IT organizations, based on a DevOps organization structure.
Negating VM sprawl: Setting rules to limit sprawl counteracts the benefits of elasticity and self-service for developers. Containers are a means to mitigate sprawl.
Stateless applications: Microservices and other cloud-native application architecture are better supported by container environments.
How should the move to containers for enterprise-wide adoption start?
“Container first.” If new projects are placed first, the urgency will drive the adoption process. All new projects with build and release cycles in the container environment help teams to get started without encumbrance of the complexity of existing project processes.
Start focused. Empowering a small Proof-of-Concept team to solve a specific business problem, whatever that may be. This team should feel empowered and act as change agents. At the same time, a second team can look at scaling the solution, assuming the solution works, or as a minimum, fails-fast.
Business use case-oriented. Container usage is no longer seen as application development and deployment. Expanded use cases are in plain sight, such as edge sensing, service delivery functionality, high-performance computing platform functionality, 5G NFV/CNF platform functions, and so on. It is key to look at container use cases instead of container technology in order to realize the benefits from it.
Upskilling needs. Do team members have the skills for the new technologies? It’s a key question – and it’s important to educate or attract new hires as needed depending on your answer. Here you may need external expertise to help with change management. Most digital transformation programs stall on the scaling issue.
Don’t be put off. We all know how Netflix led-out with fast development, but they didn’t have a legacy environment. Non-start-up enterprises will undoubtedly face a more challenging journey. It is critical that sponsorship comes from corporate leadership, keeping their nerve.
One thing is sure…. If you don’t take these steps to wholesale container adoption, innovation and speed from others WILL leave you behind.
Shohei is leading the center of excellence team for APIJ and Cloud Native Computing & Container Practice team globally. He joined Hewlett Packard Japan, as a system consultant for mission critical enterprise IT with the enthusiasm of applying best suited & emerging technologies to customers’ business in order to jointly generate business growth through disruption.
Since 2014, he started leading the center of excellence team for APIJ, and since 2018, the center of excellence team has been assigned to drive the highest business growth area, Cloud Native Computing & Container Practice, for global.