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Container Platforms: Build or Buy? | @DevOpsSummit #DevOps #APM #BigData

You need to consider what operating system you’re using and what type of cloud infrastructure you are using

Container Platforms: Three Questions to Lead You to Your Perfect Fit

Throughout history, various leaders have risen up and tried to unify the world by conquest. Fortunately, none of their plans have succeeded. The world goes on just fine with each country ruling itself; no single ruler is necessary. That's how it is with the container platform ecosystem, as well.

There's no need for one all-powerful, all-encompassing container platform. Think about any other technology sector out there - there are always multiple solutions in every space. The same goes for container technology. When you create something that is super scalable, the drawback is that it's not going to be a one-size-fits-all approach. However, one person's drawback is another person's advantage.

Simplifying the decision-making process
You probably won't see someone using a VW Beetle to haul cargo long distances. Likewise, you aren't likely to see a parent loading children into a grain combine to drive them to school. Instead, someone has made the decision to pick a vehicle that best fits their precise needs. The same logic applies to container platforms.

The first decision point is to understand what will work best for your organization. Do you want to build something from scratch, to make it as truly customizable as possible or would you prefer to use an existing solution and custom-fit it to your needs? Neither is the better choice - it's a matter of different choices.

There are many container platforms and many options to choose from, and the process can become overwhelming if you don't know the right criteria to use. Fortunately, there are a few basic questions that will help you make the best choice for your needs.

1. Build or buy?
You have two options: you can create a solution on your own, to make it as customized as possible, or you can choose an off-the-shelf solution that can be slightly tweaked is better for your needs. Neither is the best choice for everyone - it varies greatly.

Here's a case in point: if your stack is comprised of several web services and common databases, you don't necessarily want a system that will require lots of integration and tuning work. In this case, an easy-to-use solution might be the best option, as opposed to something that requires more hands-on management.

Experience has proven that building your own container platform is incredibly hard and time-consuming. At first, it might seem you'll find all the bits and pieces from various open source projects, but making this complex stack of technologies work nicely together while making it maintainable as a platform is very hard and takes a lot of time.

2. What's the goal?
It's easy to get caught up in the details and forget to keep the main thing: What do you want to do with this platform? Many people find themselves unsure about what can actually be achieved with a container platform, which makes this an integral criterion to consider.

Will you use the platform to run your web services? Your Big Data databases? What is the scale you need today? It's important to understand that there are platforms for different needs: the platform geared toward Big Data is not necessarily good choice to run your web services. The platform designed to serve Googlescale deployment might add unnecessary complexity and difficulty if your scale is not at Google scale.

There are many similarities among most container platforms, but they offer different features and functionality, addressing different kinds of developer needs. Pinpointing the use case for which you need a container platform makes navigating the options much simpler.

3. What size makes sense?
Smaller companies are not going to have the same needs as larger organizations running some of the biggest workloads in the world. According to recent study, an estimated 66 percent of setups require fewer than 50 nodes. At the same time, many of the most popular container platforms out there are designed for setups with hundreds, even thousands of nodes. Using one of these for a smaller scale can be overkill - choosing to scale will ultimately make your life much easier in the long run. A mismatch between size and business needs makes training and installation far more consuming. Likewise, spending less time on needlessly consuming training and installation gives developers more energy and time to actually build on their existing skills without getting bogged down in the muck.

Compatibility and flexibility
Of course, the container platform is going to interact with other technology components. You need to consider what operating system you're using, what type of cloud infrastructure you are using and what tools you will need to be able to integrate with. From there, you can do your research and determine what's the best fit.

The good thing is that you don't need to stay with a platform that doesn't suit your needs. Containers are ultra-portable across any underlying execution environment. You can always switch to some other platform since the most difficult part is already done: your software is packaged and deployed as containers!

The choice of the right container platform is an important one, but the deluge of options doesn't have to overwhelm you. Think about the simple three questions above to help guide you in the decision-making process.

More Stories By Miska Kaipiainen

Miska Kaipiainen is the CEO and founder of Kontena, the creator of the Kontena open source, developer-friendly container platform that was recognized by Black Duck as one of the Top 10 Open Source Rookies of the Year 2015. A serial entrepreneur and business developer, he has extensive experience in managing high-tech businesses in both the hardware and software sectors. Twitter: @miskakai

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