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Demands for faster production times, higher quality and more predictable cost management are posing significant challenges for development teams. In-house software development is essential in achieving these and other agency objectives. Exacerbating the demands on development teams is often the need to successfully release new applications, while also updating existing ones.
From a technical aspect, at the center of the challenges for developers, is the need to reliably get software to run as it moves between computing environments. Containerization represents the best way for developers to accomplish this task, with containers driving operational efficiency and competitive advantages.
Containers aren’t a radically new technology, but rather an improvement on the way organizations use virtual machines. For example, according to a recent CIO article, application containers solve the long-standing challenge of moving software between computing locations in a manner that allows them to continue to run successfully. Application containers empower a developer to move software from a staging environment into production, or even from a laptop to a cloud environment. Containers can even support software moving to or from a virtual machine, or into a private or public cloud.
Containers work by compartmentalizing the application, dependencies, program libraries and configuration files into a portable medium. This approach also shrinks files sizes, with most containers building out at only a few megabytes in size. Compared with virtual machines, which often balloon to gigabytes in size, because the VMs must include an operating system, containers are the more efficient and portable choice. And because containers have such a lightweight footprint, organizations can fit more applications on servers, freeing up resources, reducing overhead costs and capital expenditures.
Another, often under-reported, value of containers is their ability to attract better developer talent. Once containers foster greater data portability and ease of use, development and operations teams can merge into a DevOps environment, which is exactly the kind of organization that most developers want to join.
Agencies seeking to modernize their IT infrastructure also benefit from the ability of container technology to activate only when needed, as opposed to a virtual machine, which must either spend minutes booting-up to become useful, or remain active and draining resources in standby mode at all times. Containers by contrast, can completely disappear when they are not being used, yet are available nearly instantaneously whenever called upon.
Federal, state and local government modernization efforts need to consider the potential changes that containers can have within a traditional IT network. Since containers divide applications into modules, organizations can benefit from the flexibility of executing changes directly to modules without having to rebuild the entire application. Also, the lightweight nature of containers means that these modules take up less space and are only active when they are being used. The result for agency IT leaders is unparalleled simplicity and control into every aspect of their IT infrastructure.
Leveraging Containers with Red Hat
Containers are an expression of technology built into the Linux operating system. As the leader in Enterprise Linux, Red Hat is uniquely qualified to help agencies move toward the implementation and use of containers. Red Hat has worked extensively with a series of partners within the open source community to enable containerization in a variety of technologies. One important part of this partnership is the collaboration between Red Hat, Microsoft, Intel and Docker to create the Open Container Initiative (OCI). The OCI produces standards that allow anyone to create container formats in a way that ensures interoperability. In addition, OCI adds a level of needed security, standardization and accessibility through governance to the innovations stemming from containerization.
The OCI, for example, provided a framework for organizations like Kubernetes to advance containerization with their system for container orchestration. This orchestration capabilities facilitate the use of containers in large enterprises and empower IT organizations with the automating deployment, scaling and management of containerized applications.
Since containers are fundamentally part of the Linux operating system, Red Hat adds security to containers by leveraging longstanding technology built into Red Hat Enterprise Linux. As far back as 2004, the National Security Administration worked with Red Hat to develop SELinux, “which focuses on providing an administratively-defined security policy that can control all subjects and objects, basing decisions on all security-relevant information.”
This security-based approach to Red Hat provides unique protection and security for all containers operating within the Red Hat environment. This secure approach was key to Red Hat’s Common Criteria Evaluation Assurance Level 4 Augmented (EAL 4+) certification for Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Through these offerings, including Red Hat JBoss® Enterprise Application Platform, and the Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform, agencies are empowered with tools that transform legacy applications into a more modern platform to better meet agency goals and objectives – while simultaneously improving the overall security footing. In all cases, regardless of the environment, Red Hat’s solutions are flexible and scale with needs.
Red Hat realizes that, as with any large implementation or deployment, the first few steps are often the most daunting. To help at the initial stages of a containerization project, Red Hat founded the Open Innovation Lab. Using the Lab, agencies can field containerization pilot programs where internal IT staff are paired up with Red Hat developers under a scope of pre-defined work. The Red Hat teams provide instruction, advice and training that agency developers can take back to their organizations.
Demands for faster production times, more predictable cost management and better security may pose significant challenges for agency development teams. It’s just some of the many reasons why most agencies are looking to modernize their computing infrastructure. By leveraging containerization technology and partnering with a leader in the field like Red Hat, agencies can successfully jumpstart modernization efforts, while simultaneously empowering their in-house software development teams.