Before we start, a public service announcement: If you’re new to the newsletter, be sure to also check out the ARCHITECHT Show podcast for interviews with very smart people about AI, cloud computing and more. You can find all things ARCHITECHT at architecht.io.
Containers are a funny thing, in that they receive quite a bit of attention and often get talked about as “the future of” something (infrastructure, often, or application development), and yet they’re somehow still an overlooked technology. Most people who aren’t actively building containerized applications or running containerized infrastructure know Docker and Kubernetes—at least as the two most popular technologies in the space—but beyond that everything seems to get a little bit fuzzy.
This is a little surprising for a set of technologies that some people believe will underpin the corporate digital transformations we hear so much about, and the help flatten the cloud computing landscape by making applications more portable. When cloud computing began taking off about a decade ago, people immediately understood what it was Amazon Web Services was trying to do. Then, and even today—with cloud in some ways the legacy technology being disrupted—people followed AWS and its competitors like hawks and had opinions on every new service they rolled out.
I chalk some of the lack of knowledge (or maybe just excitement) around containers up to a a handful factors, some of which include:
- The open source nature of the space.
- The startup-heavy market.
- The (early on, at least) developer-centric adoption of Docker.
- The fact that it’s actively pushing a new type of application architecture.
On the last point, I think AWS was so successful early on not just because it was doing something new, but because it was doing something new that people understood. Servers, databases and storage are things with exact analogs in the legacy world, with which everyone had experience. Less so when you’re talking about microservices, distributed tracing and cluster management.
The fact that so much of the cloud discussion focused around a small group of relatively large companies, organizations (including OpenStack) and approaches was helpful, too. On the other hand, I could rattle off about 30 different companies, open source projects and foundations in the container space, many of which play fundamental roles in building applications.
(I’m happy to delve more into these via email, Twitter or wherever.)
This is all a long windup to my actual points: Containers will matter a lot to how companies build, and buy, applications and infrastructure. Kubernetes, in particular, is a project that has the backing and the vision to become a platform for many new applications over the next several years. And while it’s challenging to keep up with everything that’s happening in the container/microservices space, I think it’s a good idea to try, at least enough to get a sense of where things are going.
I think one of the biggest things we’ll see rather shortly is that containers are going to underpin a new style of “platform as a service,” which many people (Google and Microsoft, included) initially viewed as a superior delivery vehicle for cloud resources over infrastructure as a services. This is a pretty common sentiment among folks in the container world, but one that I haven’t seen discussed too frequently in more mainstream circles.
With that in mind, here are some news items from today, and writeups of news items from last week, that help illustrate this shift, as well as the growing popularity of containers:
P.S. Tomorrow’s podcast guest is Alex Polvi, co-founder and CEO of CoreOS. Listen to hear a lot more about what’s up with Kubernetes and containers, and why he thinks they’ll be so revolutionary.