Are software containers the key to reducing operating system sprawl in the cloud?

Software containers are not an entirely new concept, but they have been getting a lot attention of late as a way to use existing applications in a different environment, including the cloud.

A container is a way of isolating an application so that it can’t see other applications. Done properly, containers can’t impinge on the resources of other applications in containers, and can be an efficient means of packaging up applications for easier deployment and improving data centre efficiency.

Last year, Gartner rounded up the “Cool Vendors in Servers and Virtualization, 2015.” The report included DH2i, which just announced what is said is the first the first Container-as-a-Service (CaaS) offering for Microsoft SQL Server. Company co-founder and CEO Don Boxley said it allows SQL Server customers to plug into the company’s cloud-based container management software DxEnterprise, which is hosted by Rackspace.

DH2i’s CaaS for Microsoft SQL Server allows any new or existing Windows Server application service, file share or SQL Server instance to be containerized so organizations can to deploy these applications in the cloud at 50 per cent of the cost of standard cloud offerings, Boxley said. It supports Windows Server 2008R2 through 2016, and can manage SQL Server instances version 2005 to 2016, of any edition in any combination.

He said the idea is to make containers as simple as possible, providing built-in high availability (HA) and easier manageability for small enterprises. DH2i CaaS provides built-in HA and disaster recovery readiness with containerized workload mobility, as well as health and performance quality of service (QoS) and alerting management.

DH2i was founded in 2010 and has been focused on the Windows ecosystem, particularly the Windows Server environment, said Boxley. “We’re trying to help customers reduce vendor lock-in related to Windows in the data centre.” By taking a workload and putting into a container, it can be easily moved between different hardware, whether it’s HP to IBM, for example. “They can drag and drop in about 30 seconds,” he said. “That’s the extent of the outage an end user application would see.”

It’s great opportunity to keep systems up and running, he said, as it provides agility and mobility to move a workload from a dead host to a new host.

Boxley said DH2i CaaS frees up organizations to customize and tune their infrastructure and reduce the number of operating systems they have to deploy. While VMware was about virtualizing operating systems and reducing the number of physical servers, it didn’t reduce the number of operating systems. “Some would argue you increased the number of operating systems exponentially,” he said. “A good container technology should see a reduction in operating systems used.”

The barriers to new customers are similar to what VMware ran into with virtualization, said Boxley, as it’s a change in how things have been traditionally done. In the meantime, getting DH2i aligned with the cloud was a natural extension of the technology and allows customer take an on-premise deployment and move it to the cloud without any changes. “They still have control over SQL performance,” he said. Contrl is a cloud issue.”

Another issue for the current deployment model of SQL Server in the cloud means enterprises end up overprovisioning, said Boxley. DH2i CaaS for SQL Server takes advantage of the cloud’s fractional consumption and predictable scale to avoid sprawl, and as they expand their environment, they can stack workloads on existing virtual machines.

Boxley said reducing the number of operating systems has a ripple effect throughout data center. “It has a significant effect on TCO.”

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Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson
Gary Hilson is a Toronto-based freelance writer who has written thousands of words for print and pixel in publications across North America. His areas of interest and expertise include software, enterprise and networking technology, memory systems, green energy, sustainable transportation, and research and education. His articles have been published by EE Times, SolarEnergy.Net, Network Computing, InformationWeek, Computing Canada, Computer Dealer News, Toronto Business Times and the Ottawa Citizen, among others.

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