CI/CD / Containers / Contributed

The Business Case for Running a Container-based Infrastructure

7 Nov 2016 7:07am, by

Scott McCarty
At Red Hat, Scott McCarty helps to educate IT professionals, customers, and partners on all aspects of Linux containers, from organizational transformation to technical implementation, and works to advance Red Hat's go-to-market strategy around containers and related technologies. He also liaises with engineering teams, both at the product and upstream project level, to help drive innovation by using feedback from Red Hat customers and partners as drivers to enhance and tailor container features and capabilities for the real world of enterprise IT. Scott is a social media start-up veteran, an e-commerce old timer, and a weathered government research technologist, with experience across a variety of companies and organizations, from seven-person start-ups to 8,000 employee technology companies. This has culminated in a unique perspective on open source software development, delivery, and maintenance.

For many years now — through bubbles and booms and busts — the standard business credo has been “Do more with less.” That thinking still makes sense, but companies that only adhere to this saying are setting themselves up for failure.

In today’s dynamic business environment, companies still need to make effective use of resources, but they need to make sure they are doing so across key areas — in a way that not only accommodates but also encourages innovation and agility. This requires a focused mindset, but it also demands a strategic use of new technology frameworks, including containers.

Several years ago, I attended a CIO breakfast in Columbus, Ohio. There, Patty Morrison, the CIO and executive vice president of healthcare products and services company Cardinal Health, spoke about the ways in which CIOs are driving change in their organizations. Patty eloquently explained that the business problem is deeper than “doing more with less.” In short, it’s about doing more with the following three resources:

  • Capital Budget
  • Human Capital
  • Change Budget

So, how can containers — which are a lightweight piece of the operating system — help companies more effectively do more with these tightly rationed resources? It’s helpful to first explain a little about container technology.

Linux containers keep applications and their runtime components together by combining lightweight application isolation with an image-based deployment method. Containers package applications with the files on which they depend. This reduces the friction between development and operations, simplifies application deployment, and accelerates delivery cycles — allowing companies to deliver value to customers faster.

All of this combines to help companies get the most out of their precious resources — be they people or places or things. Indeed, containers help companies attain and maintain a competitive edge at a time when an organization’s ability to respond and drive change is the difference between success and failure.

Here’s how containers can help companies wring every drop of value out of the following areas.

1. The Capital Budget

IT budgets are spent in many different ways, but, generally speaking, a budget is spent either to protect current revenue or to generate new revenue. Typically, more money is spent on the former than the latter.

Containers tackle topline and bottom-line revenue in several ways. In today’s fast-moving world, containers can increase the velocity in which lines of business can deliver customer satisfaction and revenue by enabling quicker delivery of new capabilities, features, and products. The best way to deliver top line revenue is to try a lot of ideas out quickly. Containers help product teams “fail faster” where and when it makes sense.

People generally understand the value of containers when doing in-house software development, but the value also extends to IT infrastructure, where most of the IT budget is spent. Container technologies improve existing systems by simplifying deployment/upgrades, improving productivity, and even improving efficiency by allowing operations to deliver more applications with the same amount of resources. This allows development teams to do what they do best: focus on code.

2. Human Capital

To compete in today’s market, you have to hire — and keep challenging — your top talent. Developers, architects, and operations people who are top performers are compelled to use technology to address the business and technical problems that they see.

Developers want to produce applications that will help enable the business. This requires quick and efficient releases of code. To do this, they need cutting-edge tools, processes, and culture. Architects are constantly in search of new technology to enable new projects, while at the same time maintaining a low cost for currently deployed applications. Operations people are diligently maintaining applications that are generating revenue, while at the same time trying to enable new applications to be deployed quickly, efficiently, and in a way that can be maintained for years — all while contributing to revenue and providing a return on investment.

Companies that can’t provide this type of environment are at risk of losing top talent — and, thus, competitive advantage. Adopting container, orchestration, and continuous integration/continuous deployment (CI/CD) tools from a trusted vendor, like a Red Hat, can help attract, retain, and leverage top talent to their fullest. These same vendors should also leverage community-driven innovation around cutting-edge tools such as Kubernetes and Linux containers. This kind of collaboration with the community is key to engaging, retaining, and training top talent.

3. Change Budget

Companies today have to be prepared to turn on a dime. This includes having the people, skills, technology and budget to accommodate any and all changes needed to meet internal and external customer demand.

Container technology helps companies make the most of these resources by providing a high level of agility. In other words, the “barrier to change” is lowered with an automated and orchestrated containerized application workflow. This is because when you change an application that is containerized, you do it “in the factory,” instead of by orchestrating change on running systems, as is done today on traditional bare metal and virtualized environments. Since containers are self-contained and immutable, you know that what you build in the factory is the same thing deployed into the runtime environment. The net result is that developers can make small changes and get them into production more quickly. Also, if there is a failure due to a change, the risk is smaller because the change is smaller and because it can be quickly rolled back. All of this lowers the cost of change and creates a much more competitive business model.

Companies just doing more with less are doing less than what’s needed to successfully compete in today’s dynamic business environment. Container technology enables companies to make effective use of key resources — setting the business up for competitive success now and in the future.

Red Hat is a sponsor of The New Stack.

Feature image via Pexels.

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