Welcome to the era of containers

By Muggie van Staden, MD of Obsidian Systems

This year, open source will become even more fundamental to the success of companies as they transition to fully-fledged digitally-led businesses. In the coming months, proprietary software will lose relevance as local organisations start embracing the likes of the cloud and containers to deliver value and capitalise on growth opportunities.

Even though the cloud has become familiar to many, containers are still relatively new despite coming to the fore more than a decade ago. Docker, arguably one of the most influential technologies of the 2010s, gave rise to Kubernetes. This has become one of the most significant open source projects in the world. Using this, companies can transform their legacy environments into more advanced, agile ones leveraging microservices and a containerised approach to development.

In many regards, this new decade will herald unprecedented growth when it comes to companies becoming cloud-native and container-led. South African organisations will start seeing more use cases across industry sectors emerging that highlight where the most important benefits of going the container-route will materialise.

This will help ease the migration for those companies still requiring a relevant business case. In the past, the temptation to embrace the latest technologies proved too great. This resulted in businesses rushing in with new implementations that wound up delivering very little value. Lessons have been learnt and decision-makers now want proof of concepts first before embarking on significant new technology projects. Going the container route means this can be done quicker than in the past, with projects targeting specific problem areas inside the organisation.

AI environment

As part of this, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation will become vital tools. However, to effectively use these sophisticated technologies, companies must be able to leverage the computational resources available through the cloud.

And while the cloud is needed to drive this hyperscale computing, organisations must ensure that their cyber security needs are still adequately addressed. If their security is misconfigured, then the impact on data quality (and availability) could be significant. This is where trusted service providers become essential to help those businesses get the computing resources needed using open source technology in the most effective and secure ways possible.

This includes conceptualising the myriad of aspects needed in a data-driven business environment. The service provider will be able to link the cloud, containers, applications, and existing organisational systems together. DevOps will become the glue to tie all these aspects together. In doing so, the company will still be able to maintain control of its data, ticking all the right regulatory boxes, while still innovating with insights derived from data analysis.

Taking a smart approach

Those service providers that can meet these needs will be the ones that take the time to understand the strategic objectives of the organisation, the resources available, and what the best methodologies are to unlock the potential of open standards, the cloud, and containers.

Integration with existing processes and systems must be as smooth as possible. It is as much about being smart with open standards as it is about ensuring the company can continue to run as effectively as possible.

South Africa still has many challenges to overcome when it comes to technology adoption. But one of the most pressing concerns is skills development. There are still too few private programmes that address this. With technology evolving at such a rapid rate, organisations must do more to ensure staff are upskilled and reskilled to meet the demands of the digital future. Yes, DevOps skills will be an essential element of this. But this also needs to be married with the strategic business insight required to make it fit effectively into operations.

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