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HPE turns to Docker Engine to fuel server sales

HPE has found a data center friend in Docker to ease container entry into the enterprise, but right now, it's a step too far for some IT shops.

LAS VEGAS -- Hewlett Packard Enterprise's new servers bundle Docker Engine and support to help customers embrace containerized environments, but acceptance from IT shops appears sluggish for now.

Docker Engine and support will be bundled out of box with Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) servers and hyper-converged appliances later this year, to help IT pros more easily create distributed applications that are portable across any infrastructure, according to both companies at last week's HPE Discover event. The same management tools for Docker Datacenter orchestration and lifecycle management will work with HPE OneView and SiteScope.

HPE must support both Docker and Microsoft Nano Server "to maximize the presence of the underlying infrastructure it provides as customers trial and migrate to containerized environments," according to Krista Macomber, senior analyst at Technology Business Research in Hampton, N.H.

Chad McGuire, senior manager of IT architecture and standards at Mentor Graphics Corp., Huntsville, Ala., thinks Docker integration with HPE servers "would make [containers] easier since we are a heavy HPE server shop."

His company is virtualized and is investigating containers as the next step, he said.

Currently, Mentor Graphics mostly uses distributed computing on Univa Grid Engine, but the company works with Univa to learn what containers can do and determine Univa's support for containers within the Grid Engine product.

According to Gartner, 50% of workloads will be in containers by 2018 -- many of those will be inside a container inside a VM, others inside a container on Bare metal, and the most common will be hybrid, pointed out Ben Golub, CEO at Docker, in his keynote.

The greatest value will come from the "pre-integration" and tie-in with OneView, Macomber said, as Docker continues to move into the mainstream as enterprise-ready technology.

"It makes it easier to deploy an infrastructure model to support containers," she said.

Enterprise containers: Ready or not?

While the integration between containers and HPE servers might make sense for McGuire, it isn't for everyone.

Large development shops that use Docker stand to benefit most because Docker support is offered through HPE, said Brian Kirsch, a virtualization and cloud architect at Milwaukee Area Technical College and a TechTarget contributor.

However, for most enterprises, Docker isn't a "flagship enterprise product" on par with VMware, or Hyper-V hypervisors as a "critical component" of the data center, Kirsch said. He doesn't see this HPE-Docker combination spurring them to start using containers, either. 

I don't know anyone who has moved their entire enterprise into containers ... unless you are a Docker shop, I don't see this changing your infrastructure.
Brian Kirschvirtualization and cloud architect, Milwaukee Area Technical College

"I don't know anyone who has moved their entire enterprise into containers ... it is not there yet," he said. "Unless you are a Docker shop, I don't see this changing your infrastructure."

Kirsch, who typically orders blank servers because he has his own enterprise licensing agreements, also pointed out the partnership leaves VMware's Photon and the upcoming Microsoft Nano Server "on the table."

One IT engineer at a multinational semiconductor company said he sees the value of containers, but the integration with HPE servers wouldn't make a difference for him.

"Containers are something that definitely piques our interest," he said, with the benefit of sharing compute among the thousands of engineers developing chips. "We don't want an engineer to see chip beta for a chip he is not part of," and containerizing everything could eliminate that."

Containers key to HPE's vision

Containers will be an "important technology" to reach HPE's vision of The Machine because of their flexibility, portability for applications, and the ability to modernization apps, Tana Rosenblatt, vice president of corporate strategic alliances at HPE, told SearchDataCenter.

"It is the customer's decision and comfort level to whether they believe containers play a role in their strategy and we will be able to provide those options to them," she said. "On our servers, it is tested, optimized, it is running the best it can on our infrastructure and it is supported."

Containers are also a disruptive technology for big financial institutions, Rosenblatt said, who mentioned she met with leaders from three of the country's largest banks at HPE Discover. Many financial businesses have legacy applications and containers allow them to use what they have and modernize an application to get more out of it. "This is disruptive technology that is really going to help solve a lot of pain points as they modernize their applications," and she said it will help with continuous integration and continuous delivery workflows.

Containers appear potentially to go head-to-head with server virtualization or also augment virtualization, said president and principal analyst Dana Gardner of Interarbor Solutions in Gilford, N.H.

Containers offer more to IT pros making the move to hybrid cloud where some of the drawbacks to virtualization are sprawl and the "Vtax," he said. Virtualization doesn't let users go directly from one cloud to another, but containers create a path to do it.

HPE's new, closer ties with Docker is part of a broader strategy that includes software-defined everything, virtualization and Docker. The question, Gardner said, is whether these efforts are happening in parallel: "Are they synergistic? Are they octagonal? It is not entirely clear."

Robert Gates covers data centers, data center strategies, server technologies, converged and hyper-converged infrastructure and open source operating systems for SearchDataCenter. Follow him on Twitter @RBGatesTT or email him at [email protected].

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