While container and cloud technology are increasingly mature, there are still a lot of different software, staffing, and architecture considerations that CTOs must address to ensure that everything runs smoothly and operates together.
The Gartner “A CTO’s Guide to Navigating the Cloud Native Container Ecosystem” report estimates that by 2028, more than 95% of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production, which is a significant increase from fewer than 50% in 2023.
This level of adoption means that organizations must have the right software to effectively manage, monitor and run container-based, cloud native environments. And there are a multitude of options for CTOs and enterprise architecture (EAs) leaders to sift through, which makes it hard to get environments level set and standardize processes.
“Despite the apparent progress and continued industry consolidation, the ecosystem continues to be fragmented and fast paced. This makes it difficult for EAs and CTOs to build robust cloud native architectures and institute operational governance,” the authors state.
As container adoption expands for cloud native environments, more IT leaders will see an increase in both vendor and open source options. Such variety makes it harder to select the right tools to run a cloud native ecosystem and stretches out the evaluation process.
Here’s a look at container ecosystem components, software offerings and how CTOs can evaluate the best configuration for their organization.
What are the components of container-based cloud native ecosystems?
Gartner explains that “containers are not a monolithic technology, the ecosystem is a hodgepodge of several components vital for production readiness.”
The foundation of a containerized ecosystem includes:
- Container runtime lets developers deploy applications, configurations and other container image dependencies.
- Container orchestrator supports features for policy-based deployment, application configuration management, high availability cluster establishment,, and container integration into overall infrastructure.
- Container management software provides a management console, automation features, plus operational, security and developer tools. Vendors in this sector include Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft, Google, RedHad, SUSE, and VMware.
- Open source tools and code: The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is the governance body that hosts several of the open source projects in this space.
These components all help any container-based applications run on cloud native architecture to support business functions and IT operations, such as DevOps, FinOps, observability, security, and APIs. There are lots of open source projects that support all of these architectural components and platform engineering tools for Kubernetes.
At the start of cloud native ecosystem adoption, Gartner recommends:
Map your functional requirements to the container management platforms and identify any gaps that can be potentially filled by open source projects and commercial products outlined in this research for effective deployments.
Choose open source projects carefully, based on software release history, permissiveness of software licensing terms and vibrancy of community, characterized by a broad ecosystem of vendors that provide commercial maintenance and support.
What are the container management platform components?
Container management is an essential part of cloud native ecosystems; it should be top of mind during software selection and container environment implementation. But legacy application performance monitoring isn’t suited for newer cloud technology.
Cloud native container management platforms include the following tools:
Observability enables a skilled observer – a software developer or site reliability engineer – to effectively explain unexpected system behavior. Gartner mentions Chronosphere for this cloud native container management platform.
Networking manages communication inside the communication pod, between cluster containers and from the outside world.
Storage delivers granular data services, high availability and performance for stateful applications with deep integration with the container management systems.
Ingress control dd network communications of a container orchestration cluster. All inbound traffic to services inside the cluster must pass through the ingress gateway.
Security and compliance provides assessment of risk/trust of container content, secrets management and Kubernetes configurations. It also extends into production with runtime container threat protection and access control.
Policy-based management lets IT organizations programmatically express IT requirements, which is critical for container based environments. Organizations can use the automation toolchain to enforce these policies.
More specific container monitoring platform components and methodologies include Infrastructure as Code, CI/CD, API gateways, service meshes and registries.
How to effectively evaluate software for cloud native ecosystems
There are two types of container platforms that bring all required components together: integrated cloud infrastructure and platform services (CIPS) and software for the cloud.
Hyperscale cloud providers offer integrated CIPS capabilities that allow users to develop and operate cloud native applications with a unified environment. Almost all of these providers can deliver an effective experience within their platforms, including some use cases of hybrid cloud and edge. Key cloud providers include Alibaba Cloud, AWS, Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Oracle Cloud, IBM Cloud, and Tencent.
Vendors in this category offer on-premises, edge solutions and may offer either marketplace or managed services offerings in multiple public cloud environments. Key software vendors include Red Hat, VMware, SUSE (Rancher), Mirantis, and HashiCorp (Nomad).
Authors note critical factors of platform provider selection include:
- Automated, secure, and distributed operations
- Hybrid and multicloud
- Edge optimization
- Support for bare metal
- Serverless containers
- Security and compliance
- Application modernization
- Developer inner and outer loop tools
- Service mesh support
- Open-source commitment
IT leaders can figure out which provider has the most ideal offering if they match a software to their infrastructure (current and future), security protocols, budget requirements, application modernization toolkit and open source integrations.
Gartner recommends that organizations:
Strive to standardize on a consistent platform, to the extent possible across use cases, to enhance architectural consistency, democratize operational know-how, simplify developer workflow and provide sourcing advantages.
Create a weighted decision matrix by considering the factors outlined above to ensure an objective decision is made.
Prioritize developers’ needs and their inherent expectations of operational simplicity, because any decision that fails to prioritize the needs of developers is bound to fail.
Read the full report to learn about ways to effectively navigate cloud native ecosystems.