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Container orchestration: The key to effective service delivery


Guest blog by Arthur Cole

Container orchestration is quickly emerging as one of the most crucial technology initiatives in the enterprise since the advent of virtualization. This is due in part to the rapid introduction of containers themselves, which have kick-started the drive to remake IT—and the business model itself—as a service-driven entity.

By itself, a single container is no better or worse than a standard operating environment. Their power lies in the ability to deploy at scale while maintaining full portability across distributed architectures. This gives rise to a data environment that supports untold numbers of services and microservices that can be used to build new products, define new markets, and create new revenue streams.

But an army of containers isn't very effective without discipline and an organizational structure. That's where orchestration comes in. As Howard University professor Christopher Tozzi noted on Talkin' Cloud earlier this year, orchestration is essential to creating and managing containerized workflows and to overseeing their access to and consumption of data resources. However, the challenge is selecting the correct orchestration platform to suit the enterprise's needs. For example, some platforms are better at large-scale operations, while others are more tuned to high-speed transactional workloads. It's also necessary to ensure the container orchestration layer works well with the management stacks overseeing legacy infrastructure and emerging cloud deployments—that is, if the enterprise wants to receive full value from all these investments.

cargocontainersatharbors_350509.jpgThe case for container orchestration

Container orchestration that is tied to physical infrastructure is one of the surest ways to maintain an environment that is both flexible and efficient. Not only does it optimize container performance across the end-to-end IT stack, but it enables a true hybrid solution in which containers, apps, and related services function seamlessly across data center and cloud architectures. An additional benefit is that it enables built-in security by virtue of the bare-metal infrastructure that should already be hardened against intrusion.

Container orchestration is also effective at maintaining the functionality of host resources. As IT consultant Janakiram MSV noted to The New Stack recently, orchestration can extend lifecycle management capabilities to complex, multi-container environments in ways that allow entire clusters to be viewed as a single deployment target. This provides for much greater cohesion among disparate hosts and allows the orchestration stack to track and monitor the health of containers and their hosts. Should a host or container fail, the system can quickly port the container to another host or launch a new container—on a new host, if necessary. Regardless of which action is taken, the objective is to ensure the deployment continuously matches the state as defined by the user.

Keeping today's data flowing

At its heart, container orchestration is about making the life of the IT technician easier. Without it, according to Exoscale's Matthew Revell, deploying applications into production environments requires an exorbitant number of scripts and a DBA who has to laboriously push code into production. In the fast-moving services-oriented economy, the sheer volume of application development and deployment doesn't just make this inefficient, but also unworkable. By standardizing on the container layer and then abstracting disparate OS and hardware resources, orchestration allows the application owner to optimize its performance without having to worry about server provisioning, network configurations, or storage allocation.

While containers represent a new, revolutionary way to support applications and services, their success depends largely on the effectiveness of the orchestration platform. With so many moving parts in the data environment these days, it takes an enormous amount of skill and stamina to keep data flowing properly. This is a tall order for even the most experienced technicians, but it is well within the realm of possibility for a properly provisioned orchestration system.



Arthur Cole.jpeg

Arthur Cole.  With more than 20 years of experience in technology journalism, Arthur has written on the rise of everything from the first digital video editing platforms to virtualization, advanced cloud architectures and the Internet of Things. He is a regular contributor to IT Business Edge and Enterprise Networking Planet and provides blog posts and other web content to numerous company web sites in the high-tech and data communications industries.

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About the Author


Tracy Siclair has worked for HPE for 20 years in various positions, all geared towards providing a better customer experience. She has a passion for thinking out-of-the-box and finding innovative ways to get the job done. While not on a computer for work, she enjoys watching her kids play sports, photography, videography, and the occasional game of billiards. Tracy resides in beautiful Fort Collins, Colorado.