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Why do you need Docker containers in your IT system?

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Docker containers bring cost-savings by reducing workhours and system resources needed to run applications.

Why do I want OpCon to run in a container? How do I manage multiple OpCon containers? What’s in it for me?

These are three of the most popular questions our product specialists and account reps get from clients and prospects, which is why we’ve brought in Cordy Ramer, our Consulting Team Manager, to shine some light on Docker containers, Kubernetes, and how OpCon works with this increasingly popular technology to add even more value to your business.

What advantages do containers offer?

Containers have several things going in their favor. Number one is that they get software to run reliably when moving to and from different environments. Since a container packages the entire runtime environment (the application, dependencies, libraries, binaries, etc.), differences in operating systems and infrastructure are abstracted away from affecting OpCon. The IT team doesn’t have to customize anything or worry about whether or not the containerized applications and workflows are going to play nice with the hardware configuration, which means they don’t have to waste any workhours tweaking it. This makes server migrations, whether local or to the public/private cloud, much more reliable and easier to execute at scale.

What is the difference between VMWare and Docker Containers?

With Virtualization software like VMWare, vSphere, Hyper-V, etc., the “package” is a complete Virtual Machine consisting of a full copy of the operating system. Five virtual machines running on a single physical server would have four separate operating systems running on its hypervisor. Let’s compare this to using containers, where multiple containers can run on ONE operating system as each container shares the kernel with the other containers. One copy of Windows or Linux can use up a considerable amount of processing power, storage, and RAM. When you start scaling that up, your required investment and maintenance overhead for hardware or cloud processing goes up accordingly. By comparison to other hypervisor virtualization solutions, a Docker container is typically using 10-20 watts less power when actively working on tasks and sending/receiving traffic. At scale, this results in significant cost-savings for IT leaders who move their most resource-intensive apps to containers.

How do automated containers reduce maintenance downtime?

You can configure images that already have updates or specific configurations installed, which is a huge time-saver. Installing and deploying updates is a time-consuming and, frankly, annoying process for IT teams to go through. With Docker containers it is far easier and faster. You simply turn off the container running the non-updated version of an app and replace it with a container running the updated version. We have yet to speak with a client who wouldn’t love to reduce maintenance downtime to a few minutes or less.

How does OpCon help you maximize containerized system resources?

Containerized applications, like OpCon, can be started in seconds and removed just as quickly when no longer required. Running in a “just in time” fashion frees up resources on the host system quickly, as well as reduces down time exponentially. A use case we’ve found internally is utilizing OpCon to automatically scale virtual server sizes up or down to optimize costs. When you combine this with rapid-start container environments, organizations can get a lot of bang for their buck running containerized environments in the cloud, minimizing the workload and uptime.

If your organization plans on staying on-prem for a while, containers still provide the advantages we’ve highlighted so far. They still use less fewer system resources than VMs, meaning you can run more containers per server and scale up accordingly without needing to add additional physical servers.

SMA’s roadmap for containers and OpCon

Containers are where SMA sees the future of IT I&O going, whether on-prem or in the cloud, and we’re staying ahead of the curve, so we’ll be ready as our clients begin to containerize their environments. Our main focus here is adding more and more modularity until 100% of OpCon features and agents are available on containers. OpCon Deploy will be released as a container in release 20.0, which will be available in the late October, early November timeframe. We are working on releasing agents as part of our STS (short term release) plan afterwards. In a containerized environment, rather than run OpCon, agents, and Deploy entirely in one single container, we can split them into modules. This way, OpCon is easier to manage because changes can be made to each module without having to affect an entire container. Since these containers are more lightweight, individual modules can be deployed only when needed, and it can be done really fast.

I hope we’ve made a compelling case for how containerization brings a lot of benefits to any organization that is looking to achieve cost-savings and make it easier to manage their IT environment. OpCon can help you achieve this migration with a lot more confidence because most of the workflows you’ve already scripted will still work in a Kubernetes deployment.

If you’re already an SMA customer, talk to your account rep and they can schedule a meeting with one of my consulting team members to take a look and help you build a containerization roadmap for your org.

If you’re not currently an SMA customer, drop us a line and we’ll set up a custom demo to show you how we’ll approach containerization for your environment.

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