Clarification: This article has been updated to correct Tim Smith's affiliation with AppNexus.
- Adopting containers is one matter, but organizations looking to implement container orchestration systems like Kubernetes may have to make accommodations to infrastructure and applications. AppNexus, an online advertising company, is in the middle of this process. The company is working with a composable data center architecture startup to get disks out of servers and hang them off of a network, according to Timothy Smith, SVP and GM of global technical infrastructure and operations, in an interview with CIO Dive. This disaggregated storage (or composable infrastructure) ensures disks aren't "hostage" to a server or siloed off.
- The company needed to solve the storage problem and have a solution that scales horizontally in order to adopt containers and container orchestration software, which is where AppNexus' disk project dovetails with the company's migration to Kubernetes. With Kubernetes, AppNexus can commingle multiple workloads on the same hardware and the software will pick up and spread processing loads automatically through autoscaling.
- "Instead of having to say I've got 1,000 servers dedicated to Hadoop, which are only really maxed out on performance for 6 hours a day, well now I've got 1,000 servers in a pool and they run Hadoop, but they also have other jobs that can soak up the excess capacity when Hadoop isn't using it all," Smith said. A reduction in the number of servers being used translates to a reduction in spending, boosting the bottom line for AppNexus.
Kubernetes swept through the industry last year, and so far in 2018 Google's open source system has steadily racked up more users and applications. But Kubernetes doesn't own the market yet, and Docker Swarm and Red Hat OpenShift are popular alternatives.
Microsoft and Azure also offer container instances to help users get containers in the cloud, but the transition to the technology can be daunting.
Tackling an issue like siloed, underutilized servers demands a comprehensive roadmap from CIOs. Just like moving to the cloud for the first time, moving to containers and Kubernetes can be a long and complicated experience. AppNexus, for example, is not expected to complete its projects until the end of 2019, making the effort a multi-year affair.
Balancing long-term infrastructure and digital transformation needs with present challenges means no easy job for CIOs and other technology leaders. "I plan budgets three years out, and one year out I'm certain of what I'm doing ... two years out I'm fair to middling on being certain and three years out I'm making bets," Smith said.
Multi-year agreements often come with better pricing for a company, putting pressure on IT execs with finite budgets to make longer-term commitments. Figuring out which multi-year project and contract is worth it is a balancing game, but starting at the basics and understanding what options are available on current infrastructure is an important place to start.