Move promises easier application development and operation; but re-engineering will be needed

Red Hat is hoping that its newly announced integration of Docker virtual container technologies will position containers as an alternative to virtualization for application development and deployment.

The company announced a series of initiatives and collaborative efforts Tuesday at its annual Summit conference to integrate with Docker technology.

Launched last year, Docker’s virtual containers enable applications to run seamlessly on different distributions of Linux.

Two new community projects and an addition to the Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) family were also announced. Red Hat says these will “form the backbone for the application-centric infrastructure of the future.”

The two community projects will make it easier for Docker to interoperate with RHEL. The first of these is Project Atomic, which will be used to develop the tools needed to create a new variant of Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host. Red Hat plans to launch RHEL Atomic Host at the same time as RHEL version 7. Red Hat will make the new technologies available to selected customers for testing before they are launched.

The second community project is GearD, which will support the integration of Docker into Red Hat’s OpenShift Origin Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) software. Red Hat says that GearD facilitates faster application development, along with integration, delivery and deployment of application code to containerized application development environments.

“OpenShift is designed to abstract the complex underlying services away from the developer,” said Paul Cormier, president, Product and Technologies, Red Hat.

Red Hat says that the addition of Docker technology to its “high-touch” beta program for Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7 will enable select customers to evaluate these new container technologies in enterprise environments.

One of the industry analysts on hand for the announcement was Al Gillen, IDC’s program vice president for servers and system software.

“This will certainly affect application development,” Gillen told IT World Canada. “You have to package your applications differently if you’re going to use a container rather than a full operating system.” Customers, as well as ISVs who write application software for Linux, will have to make changes in how they build applications to get the most out of containers, he said.

“Essentially the application portfolio out there will require some re-engineering to leverage container technology,” Gillen said. “The re-engineering isn’t extensive, but some customers who are reluctant to go through their portfolio may decide to pass on this.”

Gillen is impressed with the potential efficiency of container technology. “If it can significantly increase the density of applications on a server, that has real implications for return on investment,” he said. “But Red Hat has declined to provide any real metrics around that so far.”

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