Docker container technology has seen a rapid rise in early adoption and broad market acceptance. It is a technology that is seen to be a strategic enabler of business value because of the benefits it can provide in terms of reduced cost, reduced risk, and increased speed. As a relatively new technology, enterprises do not yet know how to introduce Docker to achieve business value, how to run Docker in development, test, and production, nor how to effectively use automation with Docker.
As experienced users of this transformative tool, we have had success with a three-step yellow brick road approach. This process will enable your enterprise to embark on the Docker journey too.
3 Steps to Introduce Docker Containers
Step 1: Evaluation
In the early phases, engineers play and evaluate Docker technology by dockerizing a small set of applications. First, a Docker host will be needed. Ubuntu or Redhat machines can be used to setup Docker in a few minutes by following instructions at the Docker website. Once the Docker host is set, at least initial development can be done in an insecure mode (no need for certificates in this phase). You can login to the Docker host and use Docker pull and run commands to run a few containers from the public Docker hub.
Finally, selecting the right applications to dockerize is extremely important. Stateless internal or non-production apps would be a good way to start converting them to containers. Conversion requires the developer to write Docker files and become familiar with Docker build commands as well. The output of the build is a Docker image. Usually, an internal private Docker registry can be installed or the public Docker hub can be used with a private account so your images do not become public.
Step 2: Pilot
In the pilot phase, the primary goals are to start bringing in IT and DevOps teams to go through infrastructure and operations to setup Docker applications. An important part of this phase is to “IT-ize” the Docker containers to run a pilot in the IT production so that IT operations team can start managing them. This phase requires that IT operations manage dual stacks – virtualization platforms like VMware vCenter and vSphere infrastructure for virtual machines as well as new infrastructure for running Docker application containers.
Management systems and software tools will be needed in four primary areas:
- Build Docker infrastructure: Carve out a new Docker infrastructure consisting of a farm of Docker hosts to run containers alongside with traditional virtualization platforms and hybrid clouds.
- Define and deploy your app as a collection of containers: Management system software can provide blueprints to define application topology consisting of Docker containers. Spin them up and then provide “Day 2” management of the containers for end users, such as start/stop and monitoring of Docker applications. They can also integrate with Docker Hubs or Docker Trusted Registry for sourcing images.
- Build your delivery pipeline: DevOps products can offer CI/CD workflows for continuous integration and continuous deployment of Docker images.
- Vulnerability testing of containers: Server automation tools can be used to do SCAP vulnerability testing of Docker images.
Step 3: Production
Now Docker containers can be deployed to production infrastructure. This will require not just DevOps and deployment of containers to a set of Docker hosts, but also security, compliance, and monitoring. Supporting complex application topologies is a degree of sophistication many enterprises will, in fact, desire to allow gradual introduction to the benefits of containers while keeping the data in the traditional virtual or physical machines. Another degree of sophistication is the introduction of more complex distributed orchestration to improve data center utilization and reduce operational placement costs.
While in the previous phase we had used static partitioning of infrastructure resources into clusters, this phase will use more state of the art cluster schedulers such as Kubernetes or Fleet. Governance, change control, CMDB integration, and quota management are some of the ways enterprise can start governing the usage of Docker as it grows in the enterprise. Container sprawl reduction through reclamation are additional processes that need to be automated at this level.
Each enterprise should evaluate the business benefits at the end of each of these steps to determine if ROI has been achieved and goals accomplished. We believe that using this three-step phased approach to introducing Docker, with increasing sophisticated usage and automation, will make it easy to test drive and productize Docker inside enterprises.
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