Application containerization, Part I: The silver bullet for enterprise digital transformation

How containerizing applications can help businesses get to market faster and support continuous integration and deployment

After months of meticulous planning, business strategy iterations, acquisition of project funding and business approvals, and analyzing competitor portfolios, products and services, you’ve finally launched a great product — only to find out a competitor was ahead of the game. One of your customers requested a feature addition to a B2C application but it required major technology and process changes that are not possible in your current IT environment. Your application development and deployment workflows are not responsive enough to meet demanding business requirements, and you’re searching for a way to solve the puzzle.

Do any of these situations sound familiar? If so, you’re in the right place! Like many businesses, you’re feeling the disruption of digital transformation.

Digital transformation

If a business isn’t able to respond to a customer or a competitor’s strategy, then it will feel the impact in its financial performance and, in some cases, the very existence of the business. To be responsive and agile and to deliver at the speed at which they are expected, enterprises must  digitally transform their IT systems, business strategies and business processes.

This can be accomplished by either building everything in-house or by consuming ready-made services in the cloud. Gone are the days where cloud is looked at only as a cheaper alternative for in-house IT Infrastructure; cloud computing has matured drastically over the last decade, and cloud-native services are emerging in cutting-edge technologies like machine learning, AI, IoT, big data and blockchain, to name a few.

Application containerization

Traditional applications are generally monolithic in nature, with multiple business functions realized in a single application. Application containerization is a virtualization method that allows you to deploy and run distributed cloud-native applications without launching an entire virtual machine for each app. Using containerized applications can drastically reduce the time-to-market of business functions, feature releases, and business initiatives.

Migrate and modernize to accelerate digital transformation

Say there’s an issue with a business function supported by an application. Without containerization, the development and deployment cycles have to be triggered for all the business functions that are part of that application. This is not an efficient process and requires a considerable amount of time and money as the changes have to go through the entire pre-production to production environment. With containerized applications, you can make fixes to just the business function that is having an issue, without making any changes to the pre-production to production environment. In other words, build once and deploy anywhere. This allows the enterprise to go to market quickly and provides a platform for the Continuous Integration and Continuous Deployment (CI/CD) of applications across environments.

Cloud-native vs. cloud-enabled

If you develop your application in a container, then it becomes portable across deployment environments. However, monolithic legacy applications that are deployed inside a server cannot be ported across deployment environments unless changes are made and rebuilt according to the target deployment environment. These cloud-enabled applications can be either hosted in an on-premises environment or in the cloud.

During the digital transformation journey, both cloud-native, microservices-based applications and cloud-enabled, monolithic applications will co-exist in the application landscape. It’s not feasible to overhaul the entire application landscape to be cloud-native container applications, so only containerize the applications that can transform the business and deliver ROI.

The cloud-native applications running inside a container become highly available, isolated services — highly scalable and  mobile across environments. Docker is one of the leading container runtimes available in the market, and Kubernetes is a widely adopted container orchestration platform.

This series will explore approaches, tools and methodologies of containerization and migrations. Stay tuned for the next article, which will go into greater detail about Docker and Kubernetes and what they bring to the strategy table. If you have any specific containerization questions, please feel free to reach out to me on LinkedIn.