Red Hat gets high marks in container space: Cowen analysts

Cowen analysts expect enterprise container usage in production environments to accelerate over the next 18 months.

The surging popularity of infrastructure as a service has catalyzed interest in the container space, and analysts at Cowen say Red Hat is best placed to take advantage of growing container adoption.

The equity research analysts put Microsoft in second place, saying it is well placed to take advantage of incremental public cloud workloads from containers, along with Amazon and Alphabet.

Conversely, VMWare has made little progress, which is cause for some concern, they said. Despite ongoing popularity of hypervisor-based virtualization, they believe VMware appears to be underplaying the Docker container opportunity/threat and that there is longer-term downside risk for vSphere, VMware’s suite of virtualization products.

The analysts say software container platform provider Docker has consolidated its position as the de facto containerization application of choice, with widespread support from vendors and customers alike. The market also has standardized on Kubernetes for container orchestration, although there are use cases where alternative tools such as Mesosphere DC/OS and Docker Swarm are valued, according to the analysts.

In a video accompanying their report, analyst Gregg Moskowitz said a report two years ago predicted significant enterprise uptick by around 2018, and that prediction appears to be right on track. Cowen’s 2015 "Ahead of the Curve" report stated that wide-scale production enterprise deployments were still two to four years off, in part due to organizational mindsets that take time to change.  

Cowen’s survey included about 500 cloud customers, where 41% of enterprises said they plan to deploy containers into production environments within the next 12 months, and another 29% expect to deploy in production over the subsequent one-year period.

Containers provide virtualization at the operating system level and enable apps to be deployed without requiring a hypervisor, often driving enhanced portability, performance, scalability and security. According to Docker, a container image is a lightweight, standalone, executable package of a piece of software that includes everything needed to run it: code, run time, system tools, system libraries and settings. Available for Linux- and Windows-based apps, containerized software will always run the same, regardless of the environment.

“At every level of the container stack, innovative solutions are now available from a thriving marketplace of new and established software vendors,” the Cowen analysts wrote. “Many of the early challenges have now been resolved, and various Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offerings provide customers with all they need to build and manage containers.”

However, they acknowledge that there is still work to be done, and it will be another two or three years before the ecosystem reaches maturity. For example, security is not yet at a point where most enterprises would feel comfortable running containers outside of VMs. In addition, there’s no clear-cut choice for enterprise container storage, which is required for databases and big data.

Andre Fuetsch, president of AT&T Labs and CTO, told SDxCentral that the company sees containers and their management as being really important going forward. He was not ready to discuss AT&T’s specific container implementations or vendor partners, noting only “I can assure you we are working with them all,” according to the publication.

Sprint Vice President of Technology Ron Marquardt recently told FierceWirelessTech that the company wasn’t ready to say anything publicly about where it will use a container versus a virtual machine, but it’s very much analyzing its options.