Container Days Austin Recap: Docker and microservices architectures are hitting mainstream

As Docker containers picks up steam, the last weekend in March, Austin enjoyed the first Container Days #cdatx. This event was modeled after the highly successful DevOps days. It was a great event and credit goes to Boyd Hemphill from Stack Engine for spear-heading the effort.

And of course credit  is due to the strong Austin DevOps community. Turnout was good and conversation lively as the local software development environment is actively embracing container strategies. In fact, some of the talks were so popular, we had to move to larger rooms - thanks Hawaiian Falls for being so accomodating.

The first thing we noticed about the event was the companies represented. Companies of all sizes were represented, small startups to large companies like Google and IBM, really demonstrating the breadth and depth of container adoption that is happening.  Containers are emerging as a critical technology for enabling agile development and architectures and creating business advantage both in the enterprise and for the startup community. This was evident as presenters and attendees discussed the challenges, opportunities and best practices for container-based DevOps. As organizations embrace the idea of containers, infrastructure must change to accommodate them.

Yet, as far as container adoption has come since our personal first foray in 2013 when Docker was still wet behind the ears and Ben Golub himself was presenting at Austin Meetups, it is evident there is still a long way to go and the couple of years will continue to see interesting, innovative progress in this space.

Fittingly, the event was designed as an unconference which allowed for a lot more one on one interactions with knowledgeable people.

Being an unconference we got to see what the priorities of the developers are more than we would have with a top-driven agenda. While infrastructure and operations teams are the ones bringing containers into production, developers are really the ones who have been driving the demand for containers and the streamlined process they can bring to developer workflows.

The topics chosen by the various groups fell into a few themes.

One of the major themes was exploring fundamental software engineering: “How is good software designed and where does Docker fall into this?” Software is complex and to be able to write good software we need to be able to break it down into smaller more manageable pieces. Often developers find that each phase in the dev process is fraught with environment mismatches and complications that lengthen dev cycles and increase the chances of bugs. Docker plays a fundamental role in optimizing and speeding this development and release process by creating isolated environments and encouraging a microservices architecture. By isolating OS processes and improving accessibility to developers, they enable better collaboration and sharing of microservices. And by creating a framework by which to baseline build and test environment, Docker makes it easy to keep track of “clean” environments and easily spot problems.

Another common theme was about how to create a Docker setup in production. This included questions like how to orchestrate Docker containers and monitor them. Other than talking about tools there was a lot of discussion of what the goals of orchestration are. We also talked at length about what the requirements from a good orchestration tool are. As some tools are geared toward hypervisors, provisioning, deprovisioning and movement of VMs, the flexibility of current, or planned architectures must be examined before truly adopting containers.

At Flux7, we’ve actively committed to critical evaluation of containers to help our customers meet their unique challenges. For us, 2014 saw a predominance of startups getting in on the container action, and we definitely saw enterprise interest and indeed full-scale embracing of Docker by innovators such as Auto.com, who co-presented with us at the inaugural DockerCon Conference (you can see that video here). But the past six months have seen more enterprise interest than ever before. Continuous integration and automated testing are areas that can bring real business value while improving efficiencies through easing management of repetitive tasks.

Watch this blog for some upcoming examples.

We don’t take sponsorship lightly, and we were glad to lend support to Container Days, along with some premier tech organizations. We’re looking forward to the next event, to attending DockerCon in June and to continued innovation in this space.

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