Containers emerged as an alternative operating system virtualization tool, ditching both the need to depend on isolated physical servers as well as operating system images for functionality. Designed specifically to address the above complications, containers hold all the critical aspects of an application, from binary code to data libraries and configuration files, and can be activated in multiple environments. One of the most notable features of modern container platforms, particularly in the case of Docker and Conoa applications, is their ability to leverage the cloud as a way to increase efficiency and decrease the use of overhead that comes with hardware based solutions.
In addition to freeing up resources, the portability of containers makes them a far more practical option for any business that might need to run applications in diverse environments, even allowing developers to build and test programs from a personal laptop. Moreover, the development process itself becomes much faster and more efficient through the use of containers, and once developers gain a clear understanding of how to navigate the technology, the possible applications are nearly limitless.
Essentially, Docker provides a runtime environment that allows you to create containerized applications and automate their deployment, and it does this with virtually none of the compatibility issues or reliance on hardware that has plagued previous virtualization methods. It works by using text images, originally referred to as “Dockerfiles,” to deliver the containerized software to its target, and the container can be as simple or as complicated as the developer desires. By learning to build or work with pre-built Dockerfiles, DevOps teams can instantly benefit from drastically more efficient processes and advanced functionality, seemingly packing years of technological growth into the relatively short time frame of a few months long training program.
It turns out, however, that initiating a successful implementation of the technology for a company’s unique environment is where a lot of developer’s get stuck, at least in the beginning. And this is often because, by no real fault of their own, they lack something in relation to Docker of which Conoa has a surplus: experience.
Because containerized applications are only as useful as they’re designed and directed to be, there is simply no substitute for the guidance of trusted advisors who understand how to extract real benefits in the context of real life applications. Open source solutions, as well as their strategic implementation, is the foundation of Conoa’s expertise, and their team has the advantage of years of experience working directly with Docker developers on the technology prior to its more widespread adoption.
This is what has made the Mirantis and Conoa partnership so effective over the years; the experience and technical competency of Conoa’s consultants, enhanced further by their unique visibility into present and future developments of the Docker platform, consistently translates into tailor-made guidance for Mirantis’ customers. Whether it’s a large financial institution or a small business, the shared mission between our teams is to provide open source solutions that actually empower developers and produce reliably positive outcomes.
Through the use of in-depth and company-specific workshops, in addition to a more generalized offering of online courses and training programs, Mirantis and Conoa are constantly promoting the education of their customers, as well as remaining trusted advisors on all projects at varying capacities. There is simply no denying that the diversity of potential applications can be overwhelming at times, and that different applications often require vastly different skill sets to run effectively. Whether developers are just getting started on containers with Docker, or are beginning to venture into more complicated functionality with orchestration software like Kubernetes or Swarm, there will inevitably be a learning curve that most organizations would agree is worth mitigating at the outset.
Although the growth of open source solutions may have been initially fraught with hesitation, the benefits have become so clear at this point that it’s no longer a question of why a business should implement containers, but how. Attitudes around open source solutions have been changing rapidly, and the conversations that Conoa and Mirantis are having today with existing and potential customers sound almost nothing like they did two years ago. As recently as 2019, there was often still the need to work hard educating and convincing developers that containers were superior virtualization tools, and that open source applications would almost certainly become necessary to remain competitive and efficient. But today, the technology has garnered so much buzz that most businesses and developers know they want it, including many who aren’t sure exactly why.
Solving for Compatibility
Conoa’s ability to remain ahead of the curve on both technologies and their various implementations has been the key to their success from the beginning. In fact, it was the company’s early interest and specialization in open source solutions that allowed them to be instrumental in many of Docker’s early adoptions and successful integrations in Sweden and the greater Nordic regions.
One of the first rollouts of the Docker platform at scale involved one of Scandinavia’s largest financial institutions. In 2017, the future of container technology appeared bright, however the fragmented nature of competitive development across unique operating systems made it difficult to bring into focus. In general, the shifting landscape of software solutions put many businesses in an uncomfortable position. Change management was clearly needed in the realm of IT infrastructure, but hardly anyone had an idea about where to start.
This customer was particularly struggling with how to integrate containers for use on the Windows platform. There were a number of technical issues, the largest of which involved an overall instability of the Windows system in relation to container applications. At the time, the software was still in Beta, and the latest available Windows OS (2016) had simply not been designed to support containers. In essence, there was a seemingly insoluble disparity between the application Windows was trying to get off the ground, and the operating system of their machines.
What made this situation uniquely important to both Conoa and Docker was the customer’s urgency to fix the problem, and subsequently the value their teams could offer to a company in operational distress. And it wasn’t just the one customer; several similar entities across the Nordic region were coming up against change management initiatives that seemed to be doing little more than draining time and resources, to the point it was becoming difficult to maintain regular operations. Everyone was interested in the benefits of containers and open source solutions in general, but they didn’t have the knowledge, experience, or even the proper tools for integration. After hundreds of hours spent debugging escalation calls and mitigating increasingly slow runtime environments, the situation was appearing more and more desperate by the minute.
It should also be noted that this was one of the first instances in which either Conoa or Docker had experienced so much enthusiasm about open source, specifically the implementation of Docker for virtualization. When Conoa’s Head of Sales Diego Villaman and co-founder Kenneth Albinsson set up a meeting with the customer to discuss Docker and container technology implementations, they expected maybe five people from the IT department to show up. But contrary to expectations, about 25 people attended from different departments with varying skill sets.
After that point, overwhelming turnouts to educational events held by Docker and Conoa had become a trend across Europe and the Nordics, including one seminar in Iceland that attracted upwards of 350 attendees with little promotion and less than a week’s lead time from the invitation. And despite the situation, people weren’t attending out of mere desperation or distress about change management initiatives, but rather, they were attending out of excitement for what the technology could offer their profession, both immediately and in the longer term. This wasn’t your typical going-through-the-motions response to a necessary adaptation in a rapidly changing industry. Something had clearly changed.
Conoa rose to the challenge together with Docker, and with the simple shared mission of finding not just a short-term solution, but one that would lay the groundwork for what the Docker platform is today across operating systems. Within seven months of meeting with the architects of the Windows container platform, Docker Datacenter was born. Docker Enterprise followed shortly after, and eventually four distinct implementations had been created in the form of two platforms for Windows and two for Linux.
Since the emergence of the Windows Server 2019, the performance of containers on Windows has become increasingly stable. The compatibility problems that troubled the original customer have since been resolved, and Mirantis and Conoa continue to assist them with further implementations as the technology continues to mature and evolve. In many ways, these early interactions and collaborative evolutions of the Docker platform would ultimately set the tone of what continues to be an endlessly rewarding partnership between Conoa, Mirantis, and their valued customers across Europe and beyond.
Implementation & Onboarding
More than building and providing the tools and infrastructure to run containers successfully, a great portion of Conoa’s work with Mirantis and customers is to promote a diversity of open source applications. Once teams become educated about the technology and understand its basic principles, it’s time to initiate an onboarding process and figure out exactly how to leverage containers for measurable and sustainable growth. And from Conoa’s perspective, this is where the real journey begins.
After all, versatility is one of things that makes open source solutions so attractive to businesses and developers. The potential applications are nearly limitless and remain open to creative discretion, but this also means that having a specific outcome in mind as well as a detailed plan of execution is just as important, if not more so, than being able to navigate the technology itself.
This first step in this process is for the customer to build out a qualified team, positioning members with specific skill sets in optimal environments for success. Competitive players with specialties in development, operations, monitoring, logging, and every relevant area to a company’s mission are needed to implement open source solutions effectively. Of course, wherever improvement is necessary, Conoa provides the tools and guidance to mine the potential of all involved parties.
Partnership is absolutely critical throughout onboarding, and a truly collaborative approach is what sets Conoa and Mirantis apart from their competitors. This approach can be summarized as a fairly basic formula: the customer knows their business and environment, Mirantis knows the technology, and Conoa knows how to bring it all together effectively in practice. By the time the necessary tools are in place, and a true partnership is realized, most competitors in the space tend to walk away, as they typically lack the wealth of experience with the technology as well as the resources to provide their customers individualized support on a day to day basis.