21 Apr Docker And Kubernetes Fostering New Hybrid Cloud Options For Enterprise

As strong enterprise cloud adoption continues, many enterprises are looking to achieve hybrid cloud capability to benefit from the flexibility of different cloud infrastructures for deploying their application portfolio. Survey data from IDC shows 73% of enterprise cloud adopters have a hybrid cloud strategy. The most commonly desired hybrid cloud approach in enterprise combines one or more public cloud providers with a private cloud to achieve the widest range of options in cost, reliability, scalability and security.

Yet actual enterprise IT delivery of this hybrid cloud capability for their organizations remains low. This has resulted from limitations in hybrid cloud options addressing enterprise application management and orchestration needs. This has been an attractive opportunity that vendors have struggled to deliver on for years, but upcoming new offerings are expected to make significant progress in meeting enterprise needs. Microsoft and VMware have made clear that they are racing to be the leaders in addressing this opportunity, whereas it has only been more recently that improved open source options have emerged. More specifically, the Docker and Kubernetes projects seem well positioned to enable much improved open source-based alternatives, which was evidenced this week at DockerCon 2017 by strong enterprise adoption testimony and tremendous ecosystem adoption.

The reason for this gap in hybrid cloud solutions is that no single cloud infrastructure management and orchestration platform has delivered on network, security, monitoring and orchestration needs across public and private cloud infrastructures with sufficient centralized automation, control and ease of operational use to truly meet the needs of most enterprises. Leading public cloud providers focused first on building feature leadership specific to their infrastructure, so they are only now turning to address this depth of hybrid cloud needs. Leading private cloud platforms from VMware and the OpenStack community suffered from lack of interoperability with a cost and feature-competitive public cloud running their same platform. The variety of platform-as-a-service (PaaS) vendors attempting to deliver hybrid cloud across the leading public clouds and private cloud platforms struggled with feature and operational complexity in their attempts at pairing their orchestration implementations with enterprise level centralized management across infrastructures.

Now Microsoft and VMware are nearing general availability release this year of their solutions to better address the need. Microsoft has long seen this gap as an opportunity to deliver a hybrid cloud solution advantaging its Azure public cloud versus the leading public cloud competitors Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Google  Cloud Platform. Its Microsoft Azure Stack private cloud platform aims to deliver management and orchestration capabilities enabling application portability across Azure public cloud and Azure Stack private clouds. VMware and AWS are partnering on VMware Cloud on AWS, which extends VMware’s existing private cloud platform for management and orchestration to allow deployment in public cloud on AWS.

But those are emerging proprietary options in a technology space where many enterprise IT leaders are still hoping to take advantage of the transition to cloud to reduce platform vendor lock-in by using open source alternatives. This has previously been evident in enterprise adoption of OpenStack for private cloud. At DockerCon 2017, it was clear that Kubernetes orchestration of Docker containers has emerged as the dominant open source enabler of platforms for hybrid cloud. The wave of early Docker adoption was driven by developers for speed of application development and ease of testing. It is now being driven into production use—usually orchestrated using Kubernetes—by operations teams, because it improves collaboration with developers (often easing the transition into a DevOps culture), delivers cost savings from reduced compute capacity and offers deployment flexibility via portability across infrastructures.

Beyond Google as project founder and companies highly focused on Kubernetes (ex: CoreOS, Rancher Labs), community convergence on Kubernetes for orchestration can be seen in the PaaS vendors who have each announced their shift over the past year to either combine support of Kubernetes with their existing management and orchestration capabilities (ex: Apcera, Apprenda, Containership, IBM , Pivotal) or base completely on Kubernetes (ex: Red Hat). Many of them were already able to discuss strong progress at DockerCon.

The importance of this open source community convergence is in the consolidation of investment now pouring into the Docker and Kubernetes projects with obvious network effects driving customer adoption and surrounding ecosystem support typical of a leading technology platform. Whereas prior cross-cloud platform / PaaS efforts at building out management capabilities with orchestration were fragmented, the community has formed the Cloud Native Computing Foundation for collaboration in build-out of management capabilities to pair with Kubernetes orchestration.

While all this value is limited to applications deployed via Docker containers, that looks less like a significant constraint. Containerization of applications was originally expected to focus on cloud native applications much more than legacy applications. However, the growing list of enterprise success stories of Docker containerization of legacy apps has turned them into a potential majority use case based on the same capacity cost savings, DevOps culture and infrastructure portability benefits.

When you combine the designed-in portability of Kubernetes-orchestrated Docker containers across hybrid cloud infrastructures with investment in the management capabilities surrounding orchestration, there is strong opportunity to improve hybrid cloud management. This is easier said than done given many differing viewpoints on optimal architecting of the management capabilities.

One way to ease the challenge would be if enterprises would converge on their hybrid cloud needs from these vendors—whether delivered by Microsoft, VMware with AWS or those building on open source with Docker and Kubernetes. This is exactly what the Open Networking User Group (ONUG) is working to create via its Hybrid Cloud Frameworkstarting with focus on orchestration and four other top cloud management needs:

  • Software-Defined Wide Area Networking (SD-WAN): Aiming for consistency in route discovery and distribution via cloud connect or connectivity services to multiple cloud providers
  • Software-Defined Security Services (S-DSS): Aiming for portable security policies bound to applications with distributed enforcement local to the application’s infrastructure platform
  • Monitoring & Analytics Tools: Aiming to uniformly cover applications running across different infrastructure platforms
  • Full Stack / Site Reliability Engineering (SRE) Skills: Aiming to scale up the available enterprise IT talent able integrate a set of disparate best-of-breed solutions to construct and operate a hybrid cloud

Their goal as enterprise IT leaders representing billions in cloud infrastructure and tooling spend across the Financial, Industrial, Retail, Tech and other verticals is to drive agreement on standards allowing flexibility to deploy applications across multiple clouds through a hybrid cloud infrastructure. This would better enable enterprise IT to deliver on digital transformation of their business. This work continues next week at ONUG’s Spring 2017 conference in San Francisco on April 25-26 and is open to all.