4 things CTOs should know about containers
The whole tech world is buzzing about containers these days — and rightly so. Containers underpin many of the cloud's most robust applications, enabling them to rapidly scale up when user demand surges, and down again — saving time and money — as the load decreases. Sounds like every CTO's dream, no?
In reality, despite the recent increase in adoption, most organizations have yet to exploit the true benefits of moving their IT operation to containers. The main challenge is that containerization is often viewed as a mere infrastructure upgrade, and not as a transformative shift for an entire business. Unfortunately, this over-simplistic "lift-and-shift" approach downplays their potential value, potentially compromises execution, and may even cause the migration to fail.
On the flip side, before making any big moves, it's essential that you understand what challenges container technologies could potentially introduce.
In our latest BLT session, we talked to Jon Hammant, container expert and Head of Compute for UK & Ireland at Amazon Web Solutions (AWS), who shared some hands-on insights into the role of containers in modern applications and tips for making the leap to this ramping infrastructure.
Tip #1: Rethink your organizational structure
According to Conway's law, the structure of an organization should define how its software is built and delivered; in today's IT industry, this hypothesis could not be more relevant.
If we look at traditional businesses, their structure can be compared to that of the army — you have generals, or CTOs, at the top, and then troops coming down. But in fact, such top-down management creates a huge gap between the C-level and the work being done, which is no way to run a modern organization.
In contrast, ongoing agile transformation follows guerrilla tactics; this involves empowered, decentralized teams working within rapid change cycles that are closely aligned with the business. And this is where we see a growing synergy between agile methodologies and containers; they both enable really small, self-contained, but flexible and reusable applications.
Therefore, any modern application should closely reflect your internal structure. If you want to stay — or become — a competitive company in today's landscape, adopting small agile teams that can deliver functionality in small components is the move.
Tip #2: Prepare for cultural adjustments and fill skill gaps
The move from virtual machines (VM) to containers and serverless — which is rapidly becoming the industry standard — is more than a technological transformation. To maximize the value of tech investments, organizations must incorporate talent readiness programs and new operating models to evolve the culture and transform how people work.
While your team no longer has to perform tedious VM management tasks like patching, it’s critical to acquire digital and cloud-native skills and adopt more of a DevSecOps stance to address new — and often extremely complex — requirements.
Tip #3: Align technology and business
Moving to containers for its own sake is inherently wrong; it's crucial to understand what specific value it could bring to your company. Introducing and properly measuring relevant metrics is the first step toward bridging the technical and business sides of your organization.
Create KPIs for all stakeholders to align employee and company interests. Linking personal goals to the overall strategy will immediately sharpen your team's focus and improve results in the long run.
Likewise, don't overlook A/B or multivariate testing — this enables you to gather in-the-moment insights and give everyone customized views of what they're doing, which, in its turn, helps mitigate potential modernization risks.
Hence, you should take the long view, not just the broad view.
Tip #4: Containerize no matter your size
Gartner predicts that by 2023, 70% of companies will be running three or more containerized applications in production, which means you're still among the first to reap the first-mover rewards.
And company size should not dictate your path to new opportunities.
The introduction of AWS cloud computing solutions leveled the field for small companies, giving them the capacity and capabilities previously available only to larger and mightier enterprises. Kubernetes, in its turn, equipped enterprises with tools that allow market giants to act and innovate like a startup.
In other words, if you want to embark on the journey to greater flexibility, agility, and scalability, the time is right whether you have 10 or ten hundred employees.
There is no magic bullet
As crucial as containerization has proved to be, it should not be treated as a minor update or resource optimization. A rushed migration without a proper plan will likely end up costing the business more than any modern architecture could ever offer.
No one tool can act as a panacea, fixing any and all problems a company might have. Instead, choose wisely, remove complexity, and develop strategies that maximize the benefits of containers and drive real business value — now and long into the future.
To learn more about containerized infrastructure and cloud-native technologies, listen to the full interview with Jon below.