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Why containers aren't one size fits all

At a time when it seems containers and microservices are practically all everyone is talking about, it’s easy to think they’re a no-brainer solution to so many development problems.

But it’s not that straightforward. I spoke recently with Scott McCarty, an evangelist and “container thought leader” at Red Hat. Why wouldn’t someone user containers? It turns out there are several compelling reasons. First, not every application is container friendly.”Will my app fit in the container and will it be able to run in a relatively sane way?” McCarty asked. Containers require the operating system to be broken in to two pieces so an application needs to be able to handle that, McCarty explained. “Some apps just weren’t meant to be divided in to two.” And then there are what McCarty calls the “edge cases” which are apps so large and so dependent on, say, an Oracle database, that it’s just not feasible to port them in to containers in any kind of reasonable time frame.

Stay safe

Security is another significant concern, according to McCarty. If you can break the app down in a way that makes it work in a container, you’ll get a good bit of built-in security, he said. But if the application can’t be divided correctly, “you don’t get those security codes for free and the value proposition is really limited.”

Can we do this?

But there’s a third, surprising, reason companies are not choosing to containerize and that’s because they’re afraid they don’t have the internal talent to pull it off, McCarty said. “Do I have the talent to do this? Are we we even prepared to do this? Will I be able to hire the talent to do this?” And apparently this is a real concern, not just because of the worldwide shortage of software developers but because an explosion of tools and choices has meant each developer has the opportunity to do it his or her own way. But will they do it correctly, with so many choices? “That’s really the issue,” McCarty said. “Will they choose the right tools and will they be experienced enough to make it happen?”

What’s holding you back from moving to containers?

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