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ContainersEmerging technologies tend to be double-edge swords for managed services providers. They typically create new opportunities for MSPs, but often at the expense of existing revenue streams. The rise of Docker containers along with the Kubernetes orchestration platform employed to host and manage them is no exception. The technologies are seeing the most rapid rate of adoption in recent memory as organizations move to embrace microservices to build and deliver applications.

At the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2017 conference this week, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) released the results of a survey of 550 developers and IT professionals. The report finds that 75 percent of respondents are now using containers in a production environment. Furthermore, 49 percent report they have more than 250 containers in use.

Usage of Kubernetes as the cluster to manage those containers has also soared. A full 77 percent of the respondents says they are using Kubernetes. That compares to 17 percent using Docker Swam and 10 percent relying on Mesosphere, which are regarded as the two nearest rival platforms.

Containers on premises and in the cloud

Given that Kubernetes was originally designed by Google, it should come as no surprise that usage of containers in public cloud environments is high. The most widely used cloud services for deploying containers are provided by Amazon Web Services (69 percent), Google (39 percent), Azure (23 percent), and Digital Ocean (14 percent). In contrast, usage of containers in on-premises environments stands at 51 percent. In both cases, containers are mainly being deployed on hypervisors either provided by the cloud service provider or by VMware in an on-premises environment.

MSPs should note that the survey finds that usage of managed services in container environments is rising. The top three being employed are Google Kubernetes Engine (20 percent), Amazon ECS (18 percent), and Rancher (9 percent). There is no shortage of managed container orchestration services already available. But, Kubernetes is difficult to master and maintain, and there’s a skills shortage. In addition, many companies employing containers seem to prefer to focus on applications more than managing infrastructure.

The greatest unmet need for managed container orchestration services is in on-premises environments. Most companies will end up pursuing hybrid cloud computing strategies enabled by containers. The majority of managed services available today focus on public clouds. But as usage of containers in on-premises environments continues to grow, IT organizations will look to MSPs that have expertise in managing containers both in the cloud and on premises.

Preparing for the future

In terms of the shift to containers and Kubernetes, it’s still early days relative to the overall size of the IT market. But it’s clear that a major transition to microservices architectures based on containers is underway that will dwarf the size of the transition to client/server computing a few decades ago. By the end of 2018, most IT organizations will have multiple container projects in production. In addition, many legacy applications will be re-hosted in a container to make them more accessible to a wide array of external applications and services. Demand for MSPs with the expertise needed to help organizations make that transition will be off the charts.

MSPs could, of course, wait for all this to occur. But time is already running out to attain the necessary container and Kubernetes skills required to succeed in the future. Organizations of all sizes will be looking for help much soon, and it won’t be long before expertise in containers and Kubernetes will be a prerequisite for bidding on any new IT services contract.

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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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