Where to Start Digital Transformation: Containerization
Digital transformations are complex initiatives that have both theoretical and concrete facets: Process digitization, adaptability, technology customer focus, data-driven decision making, culture change, and more. This is a daunting task to approach, and like anything challenging and complex, knowing where to start is essential for success.
A good first step is one that generates excitement, has a low barrier to entry, and creates momentum, and in that way, containerization is a technical step that carries with it more than just infrastructure efficiencies, including increasing excitement and adding momentum, and all with a low barrier to entry.
Containerization is exciting for technical teams, engaging with development, infrastructure, and DevOps practices. Containers are lightweight, portable, fast, and version-able, which has made them pervasive amongst the latest and greatest tools and practices. For example, newly developed tools include ArgoCD, Lens, and FluxCD, and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has made many more technologies accessible to everyone, where once they may have been available only to Big Tech. Among these tools are container orchestration platforms that have been built and designed with world class features (such as scaling, configuration management, service discovery, declarative deployments, and self healing).
Engineering teams will also be excited for the engineering interoperability containerization brings, including turnkey platforms. Building and deploying a hyperscale, horizontally scalable relational database would be a time consuming, talent heavy and security-risky task, but with container-based solutions like Vitess it becomes do-able by mere mortals.
In addition to development platforms, containerization has made COTS (Commercial-Off-the-Shelf) tools available to organizations in a simple way. An example would be an organization that needs a log monitoring solution. Before containerization, setup and configuration was challenging - servers, scale, networks and many complications, and this effort would be weeks or months, not hours. Now Splunk can be deployed quickly on Kubernetes through the use of containers.
Digital transformation is like pushing a heavy wheel. It is slow at first, but gains speed over time with consistent pushing. The intangible aspects of digital transformation are complicated; a more tangible starting point is needed. Containerization's straight-forward process can help with this.
Application portfolios become sprawl over time: applications are added and forgotten, developers and management (as well as domain knowledge) come and go. What remains is a nebulous, sprawling mass of applications. Containerization provides an opportunity to re-examine application portfolios. In the containerization process, management and development teams get a close look at what is outdated, does not make sense, or is duplicated.
Microservice architectures are a modern approach to software that cover a broad spectrum of use cases. Containerization fits with this well: developers build with bricks, as opposed to spaghetti. Applications are decoupled (divisible amongst teams), durable, and understandable, akin to the innovation of the intermodal shipping container.
The intermodal shipping container revolutionized the shipping industry by simplifying and standardizing cargo loads. Advanced and sophisticated tools and processes were able to be built because of this standardization. It also reduced friction in the shipping process around the world. In the same way, containerization has revolutionized the software industry by simplifying and standardizing workloads, and enabling the creation of sophisticated tools and processes for development and deployment.
As for marketplace adoption and popularity, the arrow points toward containerization as the dominant form of virtualization, and future-minded technical leaders and developers are learning and getting experienced with containers and Kubernetes. For now, finding developers with containerization is difficult, but a factor that draws talent to you. Going forward, technical teams will have an easier time with talent acquisition because of the expanding talent pool of containers and Kubernetes, with little to no upskilling needed.
Low Barrier to Entry
While operators and other teams might have to deal with configuring more complex tools, development teams are going to have an easier time. Getting started is fast. Containerization should start here and flow out to other teams such as DevOps and infrastructure. Development teams are closest to the business domain, and innovation starting here will inspire supporting teams to change.
If digital transformation initiatives are taking too long, are ineffective, or are too complex, consider a focused containerization initiative as a first step. The containerization process is straightforward, will generate excitement within technical teams, and can start the ball rolling.