Cloudera: What are the business benefits of containerisation?

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As the world plunged into lockdown some months ago, perceptions of the ‘new normal' were simply that businesses would have to ‘endure' remote working and modified processes until further notice. However, as time has passed, we've begun to acknowledge that in many ways, the pandemic has advanced businesses, rather than limited them. 

In just a matter of months, numerous industries and the companies within them have become the most digital, online, and weightless versions of themselves yet. It's no longer a matter of holding the fort; rather, it is now about how to harness this new way of business and making it work on a more permanent basis.

As companies endeavour to accelerate their digital journey, containerisation has really risen to the surface. In our conversation with Jan Kunigk at Cloudera, Jan outlined how this technology can be beneficial for your data warehouse, as well as how it can lead to cloud-native flexibility. Curious to understand the wider business benefits, we drilled further into this topic with Chris Darvill, RVP, Solutions Engineering EMEA, Cloudera.

Firstly, Chris set the scene by explaining the impact of the pandemic on the uptake of containerisation. In particular, he characterises it as a byproduct of more cloud-native architectures – a principle that has become especially ubiquitous amid the COVID-19 crisis. This approach enables businesses to separate storage and compute, as well as the ability to then access compute on demand.

Chris reminds us that, during the pandemic, the way businesses interact with employees and customers has changed. To facilitate those changes, they need a lot more server power – and quickly. 

Chris shares the example of grocery stores, which had to undergo a complete shift to accommodate an increase in deliveries versus people coming into stores. To meet the increase in demand, they would have to double their computation overnight, with particular regard to the data they're holding and how much analysis they intend to do on it.

“You can't just do that in the data centre,” Chris explains. “But that's where containerisation, being the cornerstone of a cloud-native architecture, does make a difference.”

Rapid scaling

The grocery industry is just one of many that has experienced such a shift. Consider vendors of collaboration tools, online learning, ecommerce; many industries became subject to new, increased demand. 

As Chris pointed out to us, these businesses are simply not going to get that kind of compute or computer horsepower from their data centres. That's where technologies like containerisation come in, as they can be rapidly scaled up for use with certain types of workloads. 

The benefits don't just stop at scaling up either. “What's really, really important is that they shrink down after you've consumed them,” Chris outlines. “Then that compute capability is available for other types of workloads.”

In turn, workloads can scale and consume compute capacity differently, only ever using the capacity they need, when they need it. “Then, they give it up, and someone else or another workload can consume it as well. That's key to the scalability element.”

Ensuring agility

Business demands changed as quickly as COVID-19 infection cases began to swell all over the world. However, Chris reminds us that the pandemic is just one (albeit significant) contributing factor to business' digital transformation initiatives. Rather, it's a big strategic transformation that encompasses ambitions such as better access to data analytics – ambitions that date back to a pre-COVID-19 era. 

Chris explains that to make these initiatives possible, businesses should harness container architectures. Not only do they support that agility, but they will also give teams the flexibility to perform tasks where they most prefer. For example, people can choose to do certain data analysis on certain information in a certain location, or even build a machine learning model in an area of their choice.

Getting started

Chris made quite a case for containerisation, but for those who haven't yet tapped into it, how can they best get started?

His advice is that instead of concentrating on containerisation, think about how you want to move to a more cloud-native architecture. “First, think about data and compute capacity separately,” he suggests. “What's your strategy for sorting all of your data, and how can you provide all of the computation to analyse it?”

The second consideration is more consumption of compute capacity, but on demand. “You use it when you need it, and you give it up when you don't need it. Then, other workloads can utilise it as well.”

“Think about those two things first because really, containerisation is just an enabler of that cloud-native architecture.”

Future forecast

As Chris has demonstrated, containerisation helps businesses tick off numerous business buzzwords: scaling, agility, cloud-native, and more. Thus, containerisation has firmly asserted its place in the modern enterprise world – but how does its importance and relevance develop as we look to the future?

For Chris, he believes it'll come down to the enterprise data cloud, a category created and pioneered by Cloudera. He explains that people will have more flexibility and agility about where they want to run different workloads, and ultimately, they will have more choice. 

“Really, containerisation is the fundamental building block of being able to take a workload and saying ‘I want to run this piece of analysis, and I'm going to run it in Cloud A because I've got a special price today' or ‘I'm going to run that on my data centre because I don't want this particular data to leave there.' Containerisation is going to support that ability to take your workload and run it anywhere that's best for you as an organisation.”