Before You Implement Containers, Read These 5 Questions

Before You Implement Containers, Read These 5 Questions

The reign of virtual machines is ending.

As IT research firm Gartner put it in 2016, the virtualization market is mature. That’s a polite way to say that innovation is slowing down. You probably aren’t going to see significant improvements.

Instead of maintaining the status quo, go ahead and move on to the next opportunity. For example, you can save money on your hardware costs, and container technology provided by Docker, Microsoft, and other companies is the best way to go. Saving money on hardware costs is only part of the story; you can also improve system reliability by keeping your operating system configuration consistent.

Does that mean you should cancel your virtual machine services today? No you shouldn’t, as that would hurt your business. Instead, lay the foundation for a smooth transition to containers by using these self-assessment questions.

Your Pre-container Readiness Checklist

As you work through this checklist, reflect on your answers. Do you feel confident and satisfied with your findings? If not, you need to do some further preparation to before you start using containers at scale.

  1. Do you have a business case for containers?

You may have started to use containers as a side project. At that scale, no business case may be necessary. If you see good results from a test project, or you operate in a more process-driven company, you’ll need to prepare a business case for containers. To support your research process, make sure you read these past articles: Get the Edge in the War for Technical Talent with Containers and Improve Developer Productivity Using Containers.

In addition to financial ROI, your business case for containers should include other benefits. For instance, take note of the value of giving your technical professionals an opportunity to grow.

  1. What are your staff capabilities for container management?

When you adopt container technology, it has implications for your staff. Think about your employees who’ve earned certifications in virtual machine products. If that technology is abandoned, they may feel concerned about job security. In that case, those individuals may actively resist or feel discouraged when containers are introduced.

The solution to this challenge lies in providing access to training. Additionally, managers need to be patient as the staff adapts to containers. Some of your established virtual machine processes and integrations may no longer work. In a large organization, consider hiring a container technology trainer for a few weeks.

  1. What’s your project management plan to implement containers?

Implementing container technology at scale is a major project. Asking your lead developer to take on this project and hoping for the best isn’t going to cut it.

Instead, we recommend selecting a professional with project management experience and credentials. Regarding credentials, look for certifications such as the PMP from the Project Management Institute. For experience, there are a few ways to look at this point. On one hand, you want somebody who has technical credibility with developers. On the other hand, you need someone who knows how to build a plan and work toward a schedule.

You may not be able to find a dream candidate who checks every box. When in doubt, choose someone with strong leadership skills and a willingness to learn about containers. If he or she is brand new to containers, suggest that your new project manager read Containers 101: An Introduction to Improving Your Technical Performance before starting to plan the project.

  1. Who else will support your container strategy at your organization?

Once you have your staff interested in containers and a project manager to lead them, are you ready to launch? Not quite yet. Even if you’re the CIO, simply ordering people to start using containers will deliver subpar results.

Instead, you need to put in the time to recruit allies to support your container project. Your supporters might include the finance department, especially if they have a cost optimization goal this year. If you offer a software product, product managers may support containers because it’ll help them to scale up quicker.

  1. Are you ready to apply identity management and security processes to your containers?

If you’ve completed the first four questions in this self-assessment, congratulations! You’re nearly ready to shut down your virtual machines. However, you must check one more critical step. It’s essential that you think through identity management, as it tends to be a weak link in cybersecurity.

To determine if you can extend your identity management process to containers, review these points:

  • Identity management policy: Before you develop procedures or systems, you need an overarching policy. Review identity management standards to inform your approach. Referencing established standards helps you to leverage the wisdom of other organizations with more experience in identity management.
  • Identify high-risk systems and roles for identity management: Here’s the awkward truth: you can’t always apply full identity management controls to every part of your infrastructure. If that’s your situation, focus your efforts on high-risk users (e.g., your IT managers and developers who require access to production environments).
  • Use software solutions to implement identity management: For identity management to have true value, it must be implemented consistently. Most employees don’t think about identity management often. Instead of trying to lecture them into compliance, use a software solution instead.

What’s Next?

After you select your container technology, such as Docker, the job of replacing virtual machines isn’t done. You need to complete a self-assessment check as outlined above. If you want identity management to be truly comprehensive, consider Identity Anywhere.

Thanks to pay-per-user pricing, you only pay for what you use. That means you can focus your initial implementation on high-risk users such as those in leadership and technology roles. Later on, you can add more users as your identity management program matures. You also have the option to choose between a hosted solution and a cloud solution.

Written by Nelson Cicchitto