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Cloud containers and security are still on IT pros' minds

Containers and cloud security remain two of the hottest topics in IT. Here's a look at what could be on the horizon for both.

Cloud containers are all the rage for a number of reasons. Container technology, like Docker, can increase application portability and allow organizations to more efficiently use IT resources. As a result, container adoption continues to grow in the enterprise.

"The whole container [market] is exploding within cloud," says David Linthicum, SVP of Cloud Technology partners, a cloud consulting firm in Boston, during a recent podcast. But, despite their benefits, developers are still waiting for new technology to fix some of the challenges associated with containers -- such as storage.

Meanwhile, large technology companies, such as Oracle, are snatching up container-related startups to get ahead in the market and solve such problems.

In his podcast, Linthicum talks with Eric Han, director of product management at Portworx, a container storage startup based in Redwood City, Calif., to delve deeper into containers and other cloud topics.

What are the challenges today when it comes to storage and cloud containers?

Cloud containers continue to become more popular, but one of the challenges organizations face is managing container environments -- including the storage within them. Organizations deploying containers tend to generate lots of storage, and rely on lengthy, manual processes to manage those environments. Software-defined storage and other next-generation storage technologies, however, could help address some of those challenges.

"Kubernetes, Mesos or Docker Swarm -- all these actually create a different interface for the user. And customers really want to be managing at the application level [and] at the application container level, and if you can marry the two and have a storage layer that works well with container schedulers … you really have the benefits of taking out a lot of the manual steps … and creating a much better experience for the administrator," Han says , who was formerly a product manager at Google for Kubernetes and Google Container Engine.

Storage is just one example of the many changes associated with container deployment, Linthicum says. "[If] you're in for containers, you're in for lots of different changes that come about. And if you're trying to be as efficient as you can, ultimately it's a lot of retooling [and] a lot of new technology you need to layer in there." [2:20 – 7:02]

Was Oracle's recent acquisition of StackEngine a good move?

Some people wonder why Oracle acquired StackEngine, an early startup in the container market -- but this move isn't abnormal. "[Startups] are getting taken out just before they even get the products in 1.1 version," Linthicum says. "So they're out there, they've got customers and suddenly they're just snapped up by some of the big companies."

Kubernetes, Mesos or Docker Swarm -- all these actually create a different interface for the user.
Eric Handirector of product management, Portworx

Oracle is trying to get ahead in the world of cloud containers, and Han thinks it was a "smart move" to acquire a company like StackEngine "who has been thinking about [containers] day in and day out, and has had to live and die by it."

In general, Linthicum believes cloud startups should be allowed to "live in a free world" to prevent large companies from stifling innovation.

But such acquisitions often benefit the technology itself, which further benefits customers; it's just a matter of finding that healthy balance, Han says. "You want to be able to reap the rewards of buying something innovative … but, at the same time, you want [startups] to mature and get full fruition," Han says. [7:40-16:37]

Is the cloud less secure than traditional IT systems?

With recent data breaches, security has been one of the hottest IT topics. With security on everyone's minds, organizations are wary about cloud and whether it is more reliable than traditional IT systems.

But, in many cases, the cloud is not at fault for a data breach, Linthicum says. "Everybody's afraid that [if] they put their information in the cloud, that it is going to be hacked, [but] it seems to be the more vulnerable systems are the traditional systems inside the traditional data centers," Linthicum says.

One of the reasons the cloud is more secure than on-premises systems is that cloud providers often use more advanced security technology when building their cloud environments, Linthicum adds. "The more proactive security mechanisms use identity-based security, they're more governed, [and] we can monitor the ports coming into the clouds to spot activities that may indicate fraud."

Moving forward, security will likely be a big focus for vendors, Han says.

"This is also an area where startups will start to innovate more, especially when I talk about services and service accounts. I think the identity access management patterns of Active Directory and what people used to do may not fit. And I think there's going to be new things coming out, maybe 2016, maybe 2017," he says. [16:38-24:03]

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