VMware CEO attempts to break the myth about containers

VMware CEO Pat GelsigerNew concepts and tech buzz words emerge almost every day in the technology world. The rise of container technologies is appealing for many developers, but daunting for some executives managing IT infrastructure. With rapid innovation in the IT infrastructure space, it is creating more myths than truths.

One of the myths is that container technologies are going to replace hypervisors. At the recent VMware Greater China CIO Summit in Hangzhou, the company’s CEO Pat Gelsiger attempted to break this myth that confuses many IT executives in Asia.

“This myth is around containers,” he said. “[It is believed that] all applications will be built from containers and traditional infrastructure or traditional companies like VMware will soon be irrelevant.”

This is not a surprising observation considering the remarkable development of container technology in recent years. First released in 2014 by Docker, containers grew at an astonishing rate. In less than three years, the container technologies market reached US$762 million in 2016, according to 451 Research. The market is expected to exceed one billion by the end of this year.

As a pioneer hypervisors player, VMware’s Gelsiger agrees on containers’ significance in the market. “There’s clearly a consensus that containers are the right one for the next phase of application development, deployment and lifecycle management,” he told Computerworld Hong Kong. “I want to start from being very bold to say, we love containers.”

Containers disrupt IT infrastructure

There are good reasons to love containers, particularly for the enterprise users.

Unlike hypervisors, which virtualize the entire hardware to create VMs, containers only abstract the operating system (OS) kernel. This enables more efficient use of system resources, allowing more applications to run on the least amount of hardware. In practice, a single server can run two to three times more applications with containers than with a VM.

In addition, containers create a portable, consistent operating environment for development, testing, and deployment. This lightweight container can run virtually anywhere, allowing developers to make applications and workloads more portable. Containers also allow developers to build mircroservices and deploy DevOps easier.

“Containers enable workloads to be moved around their multi-cloud environments, while maintaining the flexibility to scale up and down according to industry demands,” added Peter Man, regional director, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Macau and South China at Red Hat.  The company provides applications that support both VMs and containers management.

Asia CIOs are realizing the benefits

He added that many major enterprises in Hong Kong and Asia have also included container technologies in their digital strategies.

“CIOs with long-term vision normally understand that a shift in such technologies requires time and education,” he said. “They are looking to implement pilot projects that let their teams learn and familiarize themselves with the technology.”

“Will containers replace VMs eventually? This is possible, given we now see the largest customers heading in the direction of containers,” Man added.

“Container is not just a better way to approach VMs, it serves as a better and new infrastructure to address evolving business needs,” he said.

But not everyone agrees with this observation. VMware engineering architect Scott S. Lowe suggested users look at the scope of work. When running multiple copies of a single application, container is a good option. But if the enterprise needs the flexibility of running multiple applications within a server, VMs could be a better option.