Where to start with containers and microservices

Lessons from Java and virtualization show the way to microservices adoption

Containers get a lot of headlines and it’s clear why. For the daily lives of developers, containers are revolutionary. Much in the same way that interpreted languages enable greater productivity than compiled ones, containers save developers precious time by allowing them to create a functional environment in seconds instead of tens of minutes with virtual machines. Reducing that cycle time lets developers spend more time coding and less time waiting for something to happen.

Architecturally, the microservices that containers more easily enable are equally groundbreaking. The ability to break a problem into smaller pieces is always beneficial in unexpected ways, and containers offer a way of doing that on a scale not possible before.

However, in an enterprise IT ecosystem, it’s rarely all about developer productivity. Similarly, architectural efficiency, while nice to have, is not always a top priority either. For large IT organizations with lots of brownfield applications and established operational processes, going all in on containers is not as quick and easy as it is for a born-on-the-cloud company with no legacy issues to deal with.

That doesn’t mean that containers don’t have a place in modernizing a huge IT shop. In fact, enterprise IT has seen this movie at least twice before, with two technologies that caused tectonic shifts, and found that mixed architectures were the way to bring in significant change at a pace that reduced risk. Those technologies were Java and virtualization.

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