Over the past several years, server workloads have moved from being housed in physical servers to virtual machines and finally, to containers. The transition has been gradual and has been helped along with advances in technology that allow for increasing levels of abstraction. Virtual machines are agnostic the hardware that they are running on. Containers take it a step further and are agnostic of the Operating Systems. For large organizations, the transition across these three technologies has not been easy. Investments made in traditional Data Centers saw the wave of Virtualization make sweeping changes in their infrastructure as it brought with it the advantages of optimal use of compute resources. Just when it seemed like virtualization ticked all the boxes of requirements from the organizations, came the technology of containers which changed the landscape yet again.
Hardware and OS Dependency
Containers allow applications and services to be modularized by breaking them into micro pieces, each running individually and crucially, ephemerally. They can be launched and destroyed in a much shorter span of time when compared to the Virtual Machines. Build teams have adopted the containerized approach with CI/CD being the cornerstone around which software has been developed and deployed. The advantages apply even at an organization level – better accountability across organizations who embrace containerization as each group now owns a micro-service that fits into the larger puzzle of the application or service.
In large organizations, such transitions take a few years to implement with processes being entrenched as muscle memory. Which is why, even today, a large number of companies are still transitioning to a virtualized world although the technology itself has been around for more than 10 years. Containers are relatively new and transition for traditional software architectures to a containerized form will take time.
For CIOs and CISOs of the world, the emergence of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) providers such as Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform with cutting-edge technologies and services on offer has made transition of their workloads to the cloud, private, public or hybrid inevitable. Inevitable, yes. More secure? The answer to this is not as straightforward. In a simple world, the traditional form of perimeter security applicable to physical servers and workloads would find place in a virtualized form, with virtual machines. And this has held true to a large extent with the Next Gen Firewalls moving to a virtualized form factor. The evolution to containers, however, does not seem to be as straightforward. Or does it?