Containers ready for the primetime, Rackspace CTO says

John Engates was in London for the Rackspace Solve conference

John Engates was in London for the Rackspace Solve conference

Linux containers have been around for some time but only now is the technology reaching a level of maturity enterprise cloud developers are comfortable with, explained John Engates, Rackspace’s chief technology officer.

Linux containers have been all the rage the past year, and Engates told BCN the volume of the discussion is only likely to increase as the technology matures. But the technology is still young.

“We tried to bring support for containers to OpenStack around three or four years back,” Engates said. “But I think that containers are finally ready for cloud.”

One of the projects Engates cited to illustrate this is Project Magnum, a young sub-project within OpenStack building on Heat to produce Nova instances on which to run application containers, and it basically creates native capabilities (like support for different scheduling techniques); it effectively enables users and service providers to offer containers-as-a-service, and improves portability of containers between different cloud platforms.

“While containers have been around for a while they’ve only recently become the darling of the enterprise cloud developers, and part of that is because there’s a growing ecosystem out there working to build the tools needed to support them,” he said.

A range of use cases around Linux containers have emerged over the years – as a transport method, as a way of quickly deploying and porting apps between different sets of infrastructure, as a way of standing up a cloud service that offers greater billing granularity (more accurate / efficient usage) – the technology is still maturing and has suffered from a lack of tooling. Doing anything like complex service chaining is still challenging with existing tools, but that’s improving.

Beyond LXC, one of the earliest Linux container projects, there’s now CoreOS, Docker, Mesos, Kubernetes, and a whole host of container-like technologies that bring the microservices / OS ‘light’ architecture as well as deployment scheduling and cluster management tools to market.

“We’re certainly hearing more about how we can help support containers, so we see it as a pretty important from a service perspective moving forward,” he added.