The rise of containers and serverless computing has prompted some to wonder if the virtual machine (VM) has outlived its usefulness. We haven’t reached the end of the VM era yet, but cloud adoption has accelerated in the midst of the pandemic. This is moving the needle on containers and serverless computing, allowing businesses to further optimize — just as virtualization adoption did. Furthermore, as cloud-based PaaS and SaaS offerings become more popular, responsibility for the IaaS layer — including VMs — will continue to shift to cloud service providers.

According to Gartner, Inc., 75% of organizations will be running containerized applications in production by 2022. The firm anticipates that public cloud container orchestration and serverless technologies will see the most growth during this time period.

Containers improve efficiency and optimize IT operations. Every VM includes an operating system (OS) layer. With containers, you have a shared OS layer that the container engine abstracts. This allows containers to be used as interchangeable building blocks.

Container technology facilitates innovation by speeding up application development. It enables businesses to rethink their services and rapidly bring new capabilities to market.

The most effective method is to package services as microservices and deploy them using container models. The component services of an application are loosely coupled and deployable independently with microservices. You can now make changes, validate them, and deploy them quickly, effectively turbocharging the entire development life cycle. Containers enable an agile, DevOps approach, allowing you to deliver software 200 times faster.

Containers also promise the ability to build once and deploy anywhere. Docker is a popular containerization platform that is frequently paired with Kubernetes for container orchestration, and the three largest cloud providers — Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service, Microsoft’s Azure Kubernetes Service, and Google’s Kubernetes Engine — have managed Kubernetes services that enable portability across these providers. For example, we recently assisted a U.S. state agency in deploying a critical application in production in a private cloud, as well as development and testing in Microsoft Azure. We enabled the agency to automate building once and deploying across the hybrid environment by containerizing the application and implementing a continuous integration and deployment (CI/CD) pipeline.

Consider whether you need a computer running all the time.

Serverless technology functions similarly to an API call. It enables you to call functions without having to run your own container or virtual machine. If you have data ingest functionality that picks up data every few hours, you don’t need to run that service 24 hours a day just to ingest data for a few seconds. Instead, for that task, you can use serverless technology on-demand. This is an excellent method for reducing your IT spending.

Because cloud providers now provide serverless functionality, this is now possible. Serverless technologies are frequently supported as stateless containers that are launched on-demand in the back end and have their life cycle fully managed by the cloud provider, allowing for greater operational efficiencies.

This represents a significant shift in computing. Consider whether you require compute to be active at all times. If the answer is no, you can use serverless technology whenever you want. The serverless approach eliminates the need for infrastructure management and provides agility and scalability. Companies such as Netflix have used it to provide highly accessible services to millions of customers.

Clearly, the cloud, containers, and serverless technology are extremely beneficial. They do, however, necessitate new ways of thinking and acting for the organizations that use them.

Security Should Underpin Container and Serverless Efforts

Cyberattacks have been on the rise in recent months. When adopting containers and serverless technology, ensure that your efforts are supported by security — and keep in mind that securing these new technologies necessitates a new approach.

For securing VMs, people are familiar with methods such as antivirus, patching, and endpoint protection. To address security earlier in the development life cycle, you must shift left with containers. Container security entails more than just scanning the contents of a container. It necessitates integrating and automating security checks throughout the development cycle — from beginning to end. As a result, container security is mandating and partially enabling DevSecOps as the next evolution of enterprise software development CI/CD pipelines.

Securing serverless technology is similar to protecting APIs. You must safeguard against threats such as malicious parameter data, identity attacks, and attacks on insecure transport. You must ensure that hackers cannot inject malicious data into serverless functions, stage denial of service attacks, or mine for private data.

As part of your container and serverless strategies, consider identity and access management. If those are your endpoints, you must ensure their security. Assume you’re ingesting and retrieving secure data using serverless technology. You’d like to limit access to that data by implementing role-based access. People frequently overlook this critical aspect of security.

Consider The Human Factor

It took some time and effort for people to adopt and become comfortable with the transition from physical servers to VMs. Initial concerns about hypervisor overhead and resource contention by multiple workloads have been mostly alleviated.

Containers and serverless technology necessitate a more profound cultural shift. This alters the skills required for IT operations. You no longer require resources to perform VM management tasks such as patching. As you implement containers and serverless technology, make sure to transform your workforce to acquire digital and cloud-native skills, as well as adopt a more DevSecOps mindset to meet new requirements.

The cloud has assisted organizations in meeting today’s challenge of accelerating business transformation and becoming more agile, competitive, and resilient. Adopting containers and serverless technologies as part of your cloud transformation journey can help you go even faster, allowing you to bring business services to market faster and at a lower total cost of ownership.

It’s a completely different world. That’s a good thing in this case.

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