But what you may not realise is that the insane popularity of containers, a tech used by computer programmers, promises to completely change the multi-trillion-dollar enterprise software market, Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst tells us.
“It is a whole shift in how applications are built, deployed, managed,” Whitehurst says. “It’s going to create winners and losers.”
Containers allow programmers to set up management features, like security and network settings, that travel with the app as it runs on different computers or in the cloud. That means that programmers can write code on their laptops, test it there, and when they publish it to servers, it works the same as it did on the laptops. They don’t have to spend hours debugging and fixing that stuff.
“It’s like the iPhone App Store for enterprise,” Whitehurst says, meaning containers are as significant to enterprise app developers as the app store is to consumer app developers. “It makes it dramatically easier to develop technology. It literally can double the productivity of your development staff.”
Docker is perhaps the biggest and best known startup offering containers because it was the first to commercialize the idea, but it’s no longer the only one. A notable competitor is CoreOS.
The containers themselves aren’t creating this big market. The opportunity is in helping companies and developers manage the millions upon millions of containers they’re pumping into the world.
“That’s the reason Red Hat has invested so heavily in it,” Whitehurst says.
For instance, a security hole was discovered in the part of the Linux operating system used by containers, which meant that the bug was “inside every container that’s ever been built,” he says. “How do you patch it? Let’s say you have five million ‘microservices’ in containers. Are you going to manually patch them all?”
Red Hat hopes to be among the winners as containers take off because it offers all the pieces needed for containers including the operating system and a management system.
But a lot of other folks see the same opportunity. The most notable startup in this area is Mesosphere, which has raised over $120 million, including over $73 million from Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Docker is also competing with its Swarm product.
And more startups are cropping up to handle some new aspect of managing containers, including Rancher Labs, Weaveworks, ClusterHQ, Twistlock, Tigera.
The market is so new that market researchers like IDC don’t have yet have a projection for how much revenue containers will create. A report on that is coming next year, IDC’s group vice president of enterprise infrastructure Al Gillen tells us.
Gillen predicts that these companies could generate a modest “couple hundred million” in revenue, but they will snapped up via acquisitions by bigger software companies particularly operating system companies like Red Hat, Microsoft and other Linux companies or cloud providers like Amazon, Microsoft and Google.
“Container technology itself, should have a long, robust future,” he says.