containersIT vendors and many of their IT services provider partners are generally slow to recognize uncomfortable truths. IT vendors tend to develop and allocate the resources they make available to IT services partners based on the sales goals they create at the beginning of any fiscal year. While that approach can work great when a market is relatively stable, it can be a fatal flaw when markets are being disrupted. IT vendors keep churning out whitepapers and other types of content in support of legacy technologies they are trying to sell — regardless of what’s really happening within internal IT organizations.

That exact scenario is playing out with containers such as Docker. Reliance on containers to build next-generation microservices applications is already widespread. Many of those applications are already being deployed in production environments. Unfortunately, the average IT services provider is still trying to appreciate all the implications.

A survey of 137 solution providers published this week by Diamanti, a provider a bare-metal hyperconverged infrastructure (HCI) platform optimized for containers, finds that finds 45 percent of respondents describe their technical knowledge of containers as being at the “beginner” level. Only 4 percent claim to have “expert” knowledge.

Container challenges

That’s problematic on multiple levels. Containers are not only being used to drive the next generation of cloud-native applications, but they are also the foundational technology on which serverless computing frameworks are built. If IT services providers don’t have a firm handle on container technologies, their usefulness to customers going forward is likely to be diminished.

One of the arguably biggest issues with containers is they disrupt business models based on the consumption of hypervisors. Most IT services providers don’t yet know how to monetize containers.

Couple that with a lack of pre-sales and post-sales support from vendors such as Docker, Inc., IBM, Google, and a raft of others that have developed container platforms, and it is understandable why many IT services providers are falling behind the container curve. The Diamanti survey notes that 68 percent of survey respondents identified pre-sales support as an area where they would need the most help from vendors when it comes to containers, followed by 53 percent who cited post-sales support.

Transforming the future

Containers are very flexible, so they can be deployed on top of local hypervisors, in a public cloud, on multiple platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environments, and on bare-metal servers. Diamanti specifically is advocating for replacing hypervisors with containers on clusters in production environments, which is a position that everyone from Docker, Inc. to IBM has echoed to one degree or another. The core argument is that deploying containers on top of hypervisors is fundamentally inefficient and results in higher cost when commercial hypervisor licensing fees are calculated, sometimes referred to as the “VMware Tax.”

Hypervisors are not going away any time soon. But it’s also clear containers are transforming IT, and a much larger percentage of new applications are being built and deployed using containers. The only remaining issue is determining to what degree IT services providers will be a part of that transformation.

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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