Containers Are The New App Servers

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Two conversations over the past couple of weeks have surprised me in a good way about what infrastructure companies are doing about containers.

The first was with Atlantis Computing, which is known for its VDI-centric hyper-converged appliances. Patrick Brennan, Atlantis’ Senior Product Marketing Manager, pointed out that there are a lot of similarities between VDI workloads and containers.

Consider that virtual desktops are essentially stateless (more on this in a moment). You don’t care which server the desktop is running on in the back end, and if it dies, you just restart it and continue on where you left off. You run hundreds (or thousands) of them, and they’re all pretty much identical. They’re usually based off a master image, as well.

Containers are very similar: they have no state (again, more on this shortly), you run lots of them and you treat them more as cattle than pets.

If you’ve built infrastructure that works well for VDI, then a lot of the requirements for running containers are going to be pretty similar, right? I mean, hyper-converged infrastructure started out because Google and Facebook and friends were running these vast herds of simple, commodity servers with storage built in, right? They weren’t using it to run virtual desktops. Kubernetes came from Google. You’ve read the (excellent, btw) Google SRE book, right?

I’m probably very late to this realization, but of course hyper-converged gear will be good for containers! And Atlantis is already bringing its decade-plus of experience with doing VDI on HCI to container-land by partnering with Rancher.

I see that as the longer-term future for the company than its ill-fated attempt to expand out of their strengths in VDI and the government, education, and financial and insurance verticals.

Then there was my chat with Diamanti, a new hyper-converged player that has started in container-land with an HCI appliance that runs bare-metal containers. There’s no hypervisor, and their secret sauce is a special I/O controller card and software to make the storage inside the HCI easy for containers to use, and for the external network to look familiar to existing enterprises. The parallels to SimpliVity, with its special accelerator card, are obvious.