The development of shipping containers in the 1950s transformed the transportation of freight. These standardized metal boxes made it possible to move tons of cargo from ship to rail or truck in a matter of hours, dramatically improving efficiency and cutting costs. Before that, it might take a week or more for workers to unload that much cargo piece by piece.
Application containers have had a similar impact in today’s heterogeneous computing environment.
Deploying applications on diverse hardware platforms can be time-consuming and labor-intensive for IT due to the divergent requirements of each app. By packaging an app and all its resources in a uniform way, containerization enables software to easily move among various systems regardless of the programming language or framework used for development.
An application container is a lightweight and portable bundle that includes all the files, environment settings and libraries necessary to run the software.
Containers can run on any system or cloud without rewriting code or managing environment variables and libraries. In addition, multiple containers can run on a single host, eliminating the need to launch a virtual machine (VM) for each app.
Containers use CPU, memory and storage resources more efficiently than VMs, making it possible to support more apps on the same infrastructure.
These benefits are starting to capture the attention of enterprises. Although container adoption is still in its infancy, a recent survey conducted by 451 Research found strong movement beyond development and testing toward production use of containers. Of the roughly 25 percent of enterprises surveyed that use containers, 34 percent were broadly implementing production applications, and 28 percent had begun initial implementation of production applications. This represents an impressive rate of adoption for a technology that has only been in the enterprise for a few years.
As a result of these trends, 451 Research expects the application container market to see a compound annual growth rate of 40 percent, from $762 million in 2016 to $2.7 billion by 2020. Despite making up a relatively small portion of the overall market for cloud-enabling technologies — which also include virtualization, Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS), and other automation and management software — application containers will see the fastest growth compared to other market segments.
One of the most remarkable things about the emergent application container ecosystem is the number of vendors large and small that are offering meaningful application-container technology and support. 451 Research currently tracks 125 application container vendors, and expects new market entrants to continue to emerge.
The application container market can be compared to the OpenStack market given that both are based upon open source software and have participation from startups and established vendors. Both markets also saw relatively rapid adoption in the enterprise during a short amount of time. However, 451 Research analysts believe enterprise adoption of containers is happening more rapidly than OpenStack and other related trends, such as PaaS and DevOps.
Organizations should be evaluating containers and exploring potential use cases. In our next post, we’ll take a deeper look at the benefits of containerization and discuss some of the options that are available.