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Container Growth Slow, Still Significant to HIT Infrastructure

Containers are significant to the future of HIT infrastructure despite the slow adoption due to management challenges.

HIT infrastructure container growth

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- Organizations are looking to containers to manage and deploy their applications for HIT infrastructure improvement, but entities are challenged by implementing containers at scale, according to the latest Cloud Foundry Survey.

Cloud Foundry surveyed over 540 enterprise developers across all major verticals, including healthcare. The survey revealed that while containers do have many benefits, the market did not grow as rapidly as expected over the past year.

Last year’s survey had a much more positive outlook for containers in 2017.

“As these organizations search for tools to enable their digital transformation, they increasingly land on containers as a technology to enable that shift to cloud native application architectures,” the 2016 survey authors stated. “Organizations are moving from the use of containers as a means of increasing density in existing infrastructure, to using them to increase the velocity of application development as well as the scalability of applications.”

Only 25 percent of enterprises in the 2017 survey confirmed that they actually use containers in their IT infrastructure, which is only a 3 percent increase over the previous survey.

"In the 2016 Container Report, we saw the excitement around containers and their potential —yet this excitement was constrained by the complex challenges of deploying, managing and orchestrating containers at scale," Cloud Foundry Foundation Executive Director Abby Kearns said in a statement.

"In our follow-up one year later, we see the same steady growth in interest but actual adoption of containers has still failed to accelerate,” Kearns continued. “We believe the gradual or even glacial adoption of containers in production reflects more on the central challenge. The challenges of container management are real, and loom larger at scale."

Despite the minimal growth of enterprise containers over the past year, Cloud Foundry still predicted an increased rate of uptake in container technology over the coming year. Survey authors maintained that as container technology becomes more mature, so do the ways of overcoming management and orchestration challenges.

“As enterprises have begun to adopt containers, the discussion is shifting from ‘why containers’ to ‘how containers.’ This ‘how’ conversation will drive larger scale adoption as organizations move forward,” survey authors explained.

The security and deployment benefits of containers have already been established, making them a valuable asset to any health IT infrastructure. Containers are more secure by design and offer IT administrators a better way to build more applications.

Last year, there were not many enterprise-ready solutions for managing Docker containers. This year, 53 percent of organizations using containers were managing them with either a container service (i.e. AWS EC2 or GCE) or a provider-managed PaaS, like IBM Bluemix or Microsoft Azure.

Fifteen percent of respondents used self-managed container tools such as Kubernetes, Hashicorp Nomad, Docker Swarm, and Mesos.

The survey also indicated that Kubernetes is on the rise for open source container management and grew in adoption by nearly 200 percent over the past year. Kubernetes (K8s) is a “platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers across clusters of hosts.”

Kubernetes is gaining traction in the health IT world because of the vendors using it to develop their cloud platforms. For example, VMware announced its collaboration with Pivotal and Google Cloud on the Pivotal Container Service (PKS) last month.

PKS allows enterprises and service providers to deliver Kubernetes on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform with compatibility to Google Container Engine (GKE). PKS is built to help organizations operationalize Kubernetes.

The lack of container adoption over the past year does not negate the value containers have to health IT infrastructure. Organizations need to consider the challenges of managing their containers and select a container management platform that meets their needs.