Containers have become a booming business as enterprises increase their focus on cloud-based services. Crucial to this growth is the use of container orchestration that allows for the automated management of container deployments.
The container movement is expected to grow from $762 million in revenues last year to nearly $2.7 billion in 2020, according to 451 Research. Forrester Research estimates that 31 percent of all enterprise IT organizations have already deployed containers.
As companies move into this new space, vendors and the open source community are rushing to provide container orchestration platforms. These platforms are designed to provide a broad view on those deployments as well as allow for the implementation of policies governing those deployments from a centralized account.
“Orchestration tools are necessary to manage any container deployment,” noted Cowen and Company in a recent container report. “This is true of even single-container applications, all the way through to complex microservice architectures. Hybrid cloud enablement has become a leading container use case, and this requires orchestration software to move the workload to wherever it is needed.”
Among container orchestration platforms, most activity revolves around Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Apache’s Mesos. Others are available, like Amazon EC2 Container Service and Microsoft’s Azure Container Service, but reports have shown the most interest around the first three.
According to a survey conducted as part of a recent SDxCentral report on container and cloud orchestration, 64 percent of respondents said they were using Kubernetes, 36 percent said they were using Swarm, and 18 percent said they were using Mesos. The survey included the option for multiple answers.
“The use of a variety of container management and orchestration software is also consistent with what we’ve seen previously in enterprise systems management software,” noted 451 Research in a report. “Given the number of teams and divisions across large enterprises, IT has always been a mixed bag of software. With all of those teams, it is not uncommon for several container management and orchestration software products to make their way into the organization.”
Kubernetes was originally developed by Google through its Borg platform, before being spun-off into the open source community under its current title in 2015. Kubernetes now resides under the Linux Foundation’s Cloud Native Computing Foundation arm, and has substantial industry support from dozens of vendors such as Mirantis, CoreOS, IBM, and Red Hat.
Because of that support, Kubernetes has established itself as the most often-cited platform for container orchestration. The platform is seen as ideal for medium to large-sized enterprises. Kubernetes supporters have said it has pushed more than 50,000 commits over the past three years.
Kubernetes is also on a three-month update cycle, with the most recent update, version 1.7, launched late last month. The update focused on additional security, storage, and extensibility features designed to target enterprises.
The next iteration, scheduled for the end of September, is expected to focus on storage and network enhancements.
Despite the vast support and growth, Kubernetes has not yet pushed aside alternatives.
“Based on vendor backing, community and momentum, it appears Kubernetes is in the lead, but we would reiterate the market continues to use a variety of container management and orchestration software, and we don’t yet see Kubernetes as a de facto standard the way Docker was for containers,” 451 Research said.
Docker is another big player in the overall container ecosystem, with Docker Inc. viewed as one of the pioneers in developing an enterprise-friendly platform. As part of that work, it developed Swarm as a scheduling tool for creating a Docker cluster.
Swarm targets small- to mid-sized enterprises, and can scale to support up to 50,000 containers and 1,000 nodes. While viewed as one of the business models behind Docker Inc., Swarm is compatible with numerous cloud deployments and has garnered strong support, including a push from Microsoft for its Azure cloud service.
While lacking the outright market share of Kubernetes, the platform does have strong enterprise support. This is likely because many companies use Docker for their basic container architecture and therefore are familiar with Swarm.
“If you’re new to containers, you probably started with Docker,” explained Vaughn-Nichols & Associates CEO Steve Vaughn-Nichols, in a recent blog post. “Your natural instinct is to turn to a container manager built by the same people who designed your container infrastructure, which means Docker Swarm.”
An alternative to Kubernetes and Swarm, Apache Mesos pools compute resources across the data center and simplifies application deployment and management. It also allows for applications to be moved around in containers to other locations, or even to the public cloud.
The platform was developed at the University of California at Berkley more than eight years ago, and has since gained significant vendor support. The open source Mesos DC/OS project is backed by more than 60 partners, including Microsoft, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Accenture, Autodesk, Cisco, Dell EMC, Equinix, Puppet, and Verizon.
Mesos is designed to support some of the larger container deployments and is seen as having a foothold among organizations operating at a larger scale in terms of their container needs. These include the likes of Twitter, eBay, Netflix, and Verizon, which all use versions of Mesos to manage cloud and data center deployments.
Software company Mesosphere uses Mesos as the basis for various as-a-service offerings, and recently signed a deal with HPE to further integrate its curated services.
Analysts noted the maturity of Mesos and support from Mesosphere has helped bolster confidence and support from large entities.
“We believe that Mesosphere is favored by many software service providers that need to run large-scale private clouds,” Cowen and Company said of the platform.