In an era in which the channel is navigating tectonic technological shifts, solution providers have been closely watching two rapidly emerging technologies associated with almost every significant IT infrastructure disruption of recent years.
Application containers and the Internet of Things both were thrust into the limelight about three years ago — after Docker introduced its groundbreaking Linux container runtime, and industry standards began to emerge for the networked devices that make "smart" our homes, cars, workplaces, hospitals, civic infrastructure and factories.
Precedents for both technologies had been around for decades, and while the near-simultaneousness of their mainstream breakouts was largely coincidental, IoT and container tech have since become intricately connected with each other and with all the other major trends in enterprise computing: cloud, mobility, big data and security.
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"Containers are not just the foundation for IoT applications," said Sushil Kumar, CMO of Robin Systems, a container-focused software developer based in San Jose, Calif. "They are a key enabler."
Those game-changing technologies, especially when coupled together, are widely expected to have even more long-term consequences for how applications are developed, deployed and maintained throughout their life cycle, creating tremendous business opportunities and very real risks for solution providers.
IT pros were quick to recognize that the independently emerging technologies fed nicely into each other, achieving a synergy that had implications across the IT landscape, Kumar told CRN.
"Two key characteristics of IoT applications are enormous scale and extreme data-centricity," Kumar said.
Such applications -- collecting from remote devices, storing and analyzing what can amount to hundreds of petabytes of data -- must be capable of scaling well beyond standard web applications, he said.
And application containers, for which Docker has largely become a de facto standard, enable modern microservices architectures that naturally accommodate such scale, according to David Messina, senior vice president of marketing at Docker, San Francisco.
Containers also are inherently optimized for running applications on endpoint IoT devices in the field, which have limited resources and typically can't support "heavy" operating systems, Messina told CRN.