Poll Highlights Container Security Concerns

The results of a recent survey on container usage trends suggest that a deployment surge is likely within the next two years — but also that companies have serious concerns about container security, certification and skills.

The survey, commissioned by Red Hat and conducted by TechValidate, assessed enterprise adoption plans for application containers. The survey sought responses from more than 383 global IT decision makers and professionals from April 28 to May 5. The organizations polled ranged from Fortune 500 companies to state and local governments.

The challenges survey respondents identified have informed Red Hat’s container strategy, the company said.

That is, it directly addresses security and certification concerns to provide robust container management capabilities, regardless of the container deployment platform, according to Red Hat Senior Vice President for Infrastructure Business Tim Yeaton.

That strategy includes creating tools and best practices to help enterprises develop the right skill sets to leverage the promise of Linux containers for their organizations, he added, noting that it’s apparent that enterprise interest in containers is growing.

“We have already taken some key steps towards alleviating these concerns,” said Lars Herrmann, general manager for Red Hat Enterprise Linux and Container Strategy.

“First and foremost, we have launched Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host, a container-specific operating system built from Red Hat Enterprise Linux,” he told LinuxInsider.

That brings military-grade security and enterprise-class reliability of the parent platform to deliver a solid foundation for businesses to deploy containerized applications.

Survey Results Say

Many of the companies that participated in the poll had strong enterprise plans for container deployments. Some 67 percent of respondents were planning production rollouts over the next two years. Half (50 percent) of the survey respondents planned to use container-based applications in cloud roles. Fifty-six percent intended to use containers as vehicles for Web and e-commerce software.

Application development enhancements dominated as containers’ top benefits. The most important benefits topping the list were faster application deployment and reduced deployment effort, at 60 percent each.

Forty-four percent of the respondents viewed containers as a means to consolidate existing servers. Virtual machines were the preferred deployment method, with 83 percent of respondents planning to deploy containerized application implementations on top of virtual environments.

That finding demonstrates that organizations recognize the benefits of using containers and virtualization together, rather than one or the other, according to Red Hat.

Measured Response

“Overall, the results of the Red Hat study are about what I would expect, especially in light of the changes that data center professionals and practices have been subjected to over the past decade,” said Charles King, Principal Analyst at Pund-IT.

Traditional IT has been inundated — even placed under siege — by a variety of “shiny object technologies that promised more than they really delivered, or whose benefits came with often unspoken caveats,” he told LinuxInsider.

The impact of container technologies and services certainly should be beneficial, King continued, especially for businesses that benefit from high levels of flexibility and portability, such as organizations focused on DevOps and related processes.

Challenges Ahead

Despite strong enterprise adoption plans for containers, there are several lingering challenges, the survey revealed. The greatest concerns, according to 60 percent of the respondents, were security and a lack of certification/image provenance.

Container integration with existing development tools and processes was the second most critical concern, voiced by 58 percent of the respondents. Management concerns were reported as a major concern by 55 percent of the respondents. Following very close was concern over existing knowledge and skills, expressed by 54 percent of those participating.

The range of opinions about open source versus other platforms hints at a challenge with future container deployments. Open source is the dominant platform in the container world, with more than 95 percent of respondents planning container development on the Linux operating system.

Question Priorities

Internal champions for adopting container technology are at the grassroots (39 percent) and middle management (36 percent) levels, the survey suggests.

Upper management and CIO directives are playing limited roles in containerized application adoption within the enterprise, according to survey respondents.

“More conventional IT departments are wise to question the practical impact of containers on mainstream processes,” cautioned King.

They should extend that questioning to include quality assurance and changes to management controls. They need to proceed carefully until their concerns are adequately addressed, he said.

Stumbling Blocks, Not Barriers

Deployment interest is growing, but certification and security, as well as skills, are stumbling blocks, Red Hat’s Herrmann said.

These challenges exist with every new technology, he pointed out, including enterprise Linux during the inception of the concept — and more recently, cloud computing. Strong ecosystem support and a transparent and a collaborative certification program can alleviate these concerns in the eyes of enterprise buyers.

Red Hat already is addressing security and certification issues through the creation of a certified container ecosystem. Additionally, its Red Hat Connect for Technology Partners program is providing ISVs with a clear path to delivering secure, enterprise-consumable containers to end users.

“Moving forward, we are creating an extensive road map for container tools to include multi-host orchestration and cluster management … , atomic updating of container hosts, container content updates, and lifecycle and policy management for the container,” Herrmann said.

Extended Benefits

Containers are viewed as a developer technology, but their benefits can extend to the highest levels of a business.

“The grassroots movement for Linux containers mirrors that of other innovations, including Linux. As successful deployments begin to creep higher up on the management chain, more and more managers and higher-level decision makers will see the benefits and begin to make more decisions at-scale involving the technology,” said Herrmann. “We see this as a positive chain of adoption within the organization from the bottom up.”

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

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