Containers viewed from below with blue sky and cloudsWhile hybrid cloud is rising in adoption, many organizations are struggling to take full advantage of the efficiency it offers because of application portability confinements.  However, there is help at hand: Containers. RightScale’s State of the Cloud report says that Docker is the leading tool for DevOps processes, and overall Docker adoption rose to 35 percent, taking over from configuration management tools Chef and Puppet. So why are businesses so excited about this tool, and why do containers help configure a hybrid cloud better?

What are containers?

First, let’s review what containers are. Basically, they’re a type of virtualization technology. They have their own CPU, memory and resources like a virtual machine, but share the kernel (the brain) of the host operating system and therefore don’t need a guest operating system or hypervisor. Because the operating system is abstracted away, they are lighter and more easily stackable than virtual machines. The abstraction also provides a higher level of granularity, which means better integration between cloud environments.

Without the hypervisor, guest OS or networking components, containers are very portable and can be easily transported to any machine capable of Docker, which is great news for cloud computing, especially hybrid cloud. With so many organizations having trouble moving their applications (or parts of them) across environments, containers provide the level of abstraction needed so that applications can move more easily from one place to another, such as a public to private cloud. This will give them a more agile environment than running solely on virtual machines.

Another benefit of containers is that those that run within an orchestration engine (like Apache Mesos or Google Kubernetes) can also copy themselves and run within a cluster. This means containers are highly scalable, allowing organizations to increase or decrease them based on workload demands running in a public or private cloud

Challenges to container setup

Even though containers have been around for a number of years, they’re only just becoming popular, so they are still maturing. There’s a lot of work the organization will need to do to configure their container setup to work efficiently in a hybrid environment. Technologies such as RedHat’s OpenShift Container Platform 3.4 or Cloudify’s container orchestration system do help simplify matters, but because there’s no solution yet that completely separates the user from the architecture, organizations will still need to integrate the container, orchestration engine and applications.

If you’re considering hybrid or multi-cloud strategy, containers should be on your radar because they offer high granularity and improve portability between cloud environments. For more information, read our blog post on Docker and containers, or read about the hybrid cloud, including what it is and three benefits you get from moving to a managed hybrid cloud.