March 5, 2015
The single hottest topic these days in or out of the cloud is Docker containers. As an alternative form of virtualization containers have been around on Linux platform for years. But with the advent of Docker containers it’s becoming simpler to invoke “micro-services” to create distributed computing applications that can span almost any combination of hybrid cloud computing scenarios.
As with any emerging technology, there are a host of security and management issues that still need to be addressed before Docker containers will make it into production environments. One way to address those issues is to nest Docker container images inside existing Linux containers. According to James Bottomley, CTO for server virtualization at Parallels, that approach will enable the provider of hosting services to apply the investments it made in securing and managing Linux containers in a way that makes Docker containers suitable for more than just application development projects.
Of course, nesting Docker containers is only one option. There’s a fierce industry debate over whether it will ultimately be better to deploy Docker containers on physical servers, virtual machines or in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment. If a Docker container is deployed on a virtual machine or a PaaS environment then all the management and security software associated with those platforms gets extended to the Docker container.
But others argue those approaches will negate one of the primary benefits of deploying Docker containers in the first place. Docker containers typically consumer about one quarter the resources of a virtual machine. Running them natively on a physical server will allow cloud service providers to be much more efficient and, by extension, profitable. For that reason, Parallels is trying to have the best of both worlds by extending existing Linux container capabilities to Docker images.
Longer term, supporters of Docker contend it’s only a matter of time now before Docker has the same level of management and security software that can be currently found in virtual machine environments. As such, running Docker containers on top of a virtual machine may wind up being expedient for the time being. However, virtual machines are not likely to disappear soon, which means many organizations are not going to want to deploy separate IT management infrastructure to support both virtual machines and Docker containers. For that very reason VMware have decided to aggressively embrace Docker.
It will take a while for all these approaches to deploying and managing Docker to play out. The one thing that is for certain is that in the not too distant future there will be a lot more Docker containers than virtual machines running in the cloud and somebody in the channel is most likely going to be asked to manage both.
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