The relentless doubling of compute horsepower every 18 – 24 months known as Moore’s Law is one of the trends that has shaped the IT industry. Machine virtualization and cloud computing have combined to reduce the time it takes to create a new machine that harnesses the latest in computing power to nearly zero. These mammoth forces plus a bit of application developer productivity have resulted in a huge explosion in the number of machines running applications over the past 10 to 15 years.
Industry Trends brought us Here
The benefits of staying current and adopting the latest foundational technologies are undeniable. Faster compute, low-cost network and storage, reductions in time to market, agility – both technical and business- is a powerful amalgamation of trends that lays the groundwork for a competitive advantage for many businesses. Figure out how to leverage new technology before your competitors do, or be prepared to find yourself in the unemployment line.
The Growing Old Challenge
Let’s face it, everyone knows that growing old comes with some challenges.
“Growing old is like being increasingly penalized for a crime you haven’t committed. ”
Pierre Teilhard de Chardin
When trying to stay current with new technology, the fly in the ointment is the application; which once installed, injects its components into the many nooks and crannies of the operating system, making it extremely difficult to move. Applications are not designed to be moved once in production – they are basically stuck. Of course, the application can be updated with new code and new functionality but moving it tends to be really hard and costly. As the application ages, it is stuck running on an older OS and older supporting infrastructure. In a few years the shiny new application exploiting the latest advances in infrastructure becomes out of date; an albatross, a burden, and possibly a detriment to the business.
Aging Infrastructure in the Spotlight
One only has to look at the large number of machines (23.8M) that were still in production on Windows Server 2003 in the summer of 2014, just 12 months before the End of Support (EOS) for that OS. Upon reaching the EOS date there were believed to be 15 million machines in production. Most of the 8 million reduction in production applications that occurred have largely been attributed to decommissioning and the wholesale replacement of applications vs. migrating the applications to a supported OS (WS2008 or WS2012). In addition to running on an OS that was more then a decade old, many (45% estimated) were still running on physical servers that were almost as old. Multiplying out a doubling in power every 2 years, these apps were executing in environments that were 5 times slower and 3-5 times more expensive than what is available today.
Waiting until the EOS date has more severe consequences than the effects of running on aging infrastructure. Many enterprises have chosen to pay for an extended Microsoft Custom Support Agreement (CSA), often costing $3M+ in year one and projected to exceed $10M in year 3. Even if an enterprise does not select the punitive and escalating cost of a CSA, the lack of available security updates increases risk and vulnerabilities to applications and potential unplanned downtime. Running on aged hardware is also more expensive, less efficient, and increases downtime due to MTTF rates. Surely, if application mobility were a less expensive proposition, these applications would have been moved to a modern environment long ago.
Aging Infrastructure Expands Exponentially
It becomes clear as time marches on that the combination of increased processing power, VM to server density, self-service cloud computing (with near instantaneous machine provisioning), and falling costs, causes an increase in the number of server instances created every year. There are estimates that when Windows Sever 2008 nears EOS in 2019 there will be 57M or 2.5 times as many machines running production applications as was claimed the year before EOS for WS2003. A simple doubling puts the WS2012 population at well over 100M in 2024.
The above excerpt from the 2014 IDC study “The Cost of Retaining aging IT infrastructure” shows the dramatic increase in Logical Server Installed Base going from 25M in 2004 to 85M in 2013 or a 16.5% CAGR. If the trend continues at the same rate, there will be 456M servers by 2024. One could argue that the growth rate is increasing because of cloud adoption but even using the 10-year trend line results in an extremely large number of machines.
Automating Legacy Modernizations with Containers
Containerization is the process of encapsulating an application in a package with its own operating environment. This provides the benefits of isolating the application and a micro OS for quicker starts or moving a self-contained application from one machine to another. The containerized application can be run on any suitable physical or virtual machine without any worries about dependencies. An isolation layer encapsulates and maintains the separation of application from OS and machine.
Migration containers are purpose-built/specialized containers that can extract existing applications that are already installed on an operating system. Once an application is migrated into a container it can be moved to other machines. Advanced migration containers will allow for OS “up leveling” when extracted from an older OS and loaded onto a newer OS. For example, an application could be moved from a Windows Sever 2003 OS into a migration container and run on a Windows Server 2012 OS. Once an application as been packaged into a migration container it is liberated from the underlying infrastructure and the aging predicament is solved.
The ability to decouple existing applications from the OS allows it to be completely portable. The new migration container can be moved within a datacenter, across geographic distances, moved onto or off of a cloud. In essence, the application can run anywhere the target OS is running. Migration containers can also be turned on and off rapidly allowing flexibility to spin up an application in isolation, use it for any duration, and quickly tear it down.
It’s clear that there’s been a dramatic rise in the number of machines in production due to Moore’s Law, machine virtualization and cloud computing. The economic and competitive advantages of running a business on a current platform are clear. Once installed and in production, applications tend to be frozen in time and difficult to move or migrate to a newer platform. Containers begin to address the portability or mobility challenge of staying current. Migration containers are purposed to solve the migration challenge and can extract and containerize existing applications. They also allow existing application to fast forward into the future and enable the business to keep its competitive edge.