The “Containers Without Locks” Approach

We have been talking a lot about containers, Kubernetes, and open source here at Cisco. And we are not the only ones. The entire IT industry is now trying to compete on the “Kubernetes and open-source control plane” battlefield. This relates to a more general mindset shift from investing in siloed technical capabilities towards transforming teams and simplifying the technology element across a multicloud landscape in order to build new digital experiences.

Basically, it’s all about empowering and liberating developers to do what they do better and with more confidence. [Please do notice the irony here when not so far back we were talking about the “dangers” of “shadow IT,” not to mention our treatment open-source 😳 ].

Half of the apps in the world changing is a big dealHalf of the apps in the world changing is a big deal

Let’s look at some numbers here to put things into perspective:  IDC suggests a 50% increase in the number of applications over the next two years, with 47% of applications being built using a “modular development framework” (IDC InfoBrief, sponsored by Cisco, Transforming Applications and Multicloud Operations, August 2019). Around half of the total amount of existing applications are being changed in some way (migrated, built new or retired) says the same research, and that is a BIG DEAL.

Interestingly but not unexpectedly, this transformation comes with increased interdependencies with existing or new applications (and their associated infrastructure, wherever that is). And this is important as it means multiple software tooling and infrastructure approaches will be needed to cover every unique dev project and its requirements.

 Modular development frameworks requires modular tools Modular development frameworks requires modular tools

There is a parallel here to be drawn; as applications become more modular and interconnected, the tools (open source or not) required to build/manage/operate/optimize them and the associated infrastructure, networking, and security should be too. Able to support projects that require integration with existing applications and new or existing infrastructure, but also open to integrate with other 3rd party toolsets across different teams.

That means de-prioritizing “deep” vertical stacks and investing in an open, modular approach based on open-source and interoperable components that can be adopted and used (and ideally automated) horizontally across different teams and domains (in a DevSecNetOps approach, for example). A component that does one job and can be adopted and automated as part of a chain across dev, security, and network teams might be more valuable than a solution stack that offers vertical functionality as a standalone solution which will remain within a technical domain. Ten years ago the focus and value came from virtualizing compute, storage, data center networking and controlling the whole domain as one. Now the value comes the ability to quickly connect multiple domains (including individual systems) together and collaborate across teams to build automated workflows on top of them based on APIs, open source tools and easy repeatability in mind.

What is happening with the democratization of containers and the Kubernetes community is a good example. The technical benefits from an infrastructure perspective are a given, but with the correct toolset, Kubernetes can also be seen as an opportunity to drive standardization in processes and governance across different teams. (IDC Technology Spotlight, sponsored by Cisco, “Why Container Management Platforms Are a Top Enterprise Investment Priority”, July 2019). One after the other, the infrastructure and cloud industry players are offering the up-stream (native) Kubernetes toolsets to users, as opposed to proprietary container offerings. And the community is growing with open source projects to extend the functionality of Kubernetes in order to support unique project requirements across different technical domains.

Finally, there is a more strategic reason why versatility and agility in technology investments are important now: we are really at the beginning of a grand re-architecting of IT serving a new application landscape. Breaking down monoliths to services or moving to serverless means we will end up with multiple times the “things” we had, but now they will be ephemeral, talk to each other across heterogeneous infra and network layers, and will need to be connected, secured and observed; in other words, a complete mess(h). 😉 And by the way, isn’t it about time the network evolved into a utility (“network as code”)?

Opening the lid at Cisco Opening the lid at Cisco

At Cisco, we have been re-thinking how organizations operate by using a multi-domain architecture and how cloud is dramatically changing our customer’s environments, with applications being at the center of this transformation. And the feedback is consistent: our customers’ dev and IT Ops teams need the freedom to work with any cloud they choose, using a collection of open source technologies and components that need to integrate to those architectures seamlessly.

Our focus is to offer modular multicloud software products that can integrate with any public or on-premises cloud, depending on our customer’s needs across app and workload management, security and networking, and with the ability to integrate seamlessly with our on-premises portfolio (HyperFlex, UCS, ACI etc), but work with any other hardware.

Kubernetes and apps is again a good example of our open approach: while we have our own infrastructure-agnostic, up-stream Kubernetes management platform (Cisco Container Platform) that integrates natively with Amazon EKS, Microsoft AKS and soon with Google Cloud GKE, we have also been building architectures with our partners that allow our customers to use OpenShift (Red Hat/IBM) or GKE On-Prem (Google Cloud). In addition, CloudCenter Suite works with Kubernetes and many other platforms and clouds, but also with 3rd-party tools such as ServiceNOW and Jenkins to build ITaaS workflows and DevOps automations.

Our approach is not to lock customers in with vertical stacks and proprietary products but to offer choice with open, API-exposed tools that can be integrated into their delivery pipelines amidst an ever-changing and ever-distributed application landscape.

 


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