IBM Joins Docker's Legacy App Modernization Program

Docker added IBM Wednesday to a roster of heavyweight partners participating in an innovative program driving enterprise adoption of containers for upgrading legacy applications.

Big Blue's services division will join Docker's Modernize Traditional Applications (MTA) program, introduced at DockerCon in April, to deliver proof-of-concept implementations using Docker Enterprise Edition for application management and IBM's hybrid cloud infrastructure. Customers can also infuse artificial intelligence through IBM's Watson platform to their newly containerized applications, Docker COO Scott Johnston told CRN.

The two companies, whose collaboration has run deep in recent years, also made public at the DockerCon Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark a joint offering: Docker Enterprise Edition on IBM Cloud.

[Related: Docker Delivers Kubernetes On Its Enterprise Platform]

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Current MTA partners, including the Microsoft and Accenture alliance Avanade, Cisco, and HPE, are already engaging potential customers through the MTA program, as are a handful of regional implementation partners.

Big Blue is "bringing to the table their own services arm, and IBM cloud as target infrastructure, and IBM Watson as a new service to augment the applications capabilities," Johnston said.

The MTA program was born out of a realization that early Docker adoption was mostly coming from developers of greenfield apps – cloud-native software built from scratch using microservices architectures. But most of the enterprise spend was still pouring into updating legacy applications.

Docker saw an opportunity, Johnston said, in delivering value to those teams by cutting infrastructure costs and improving their agility, portability and security. By using Docker's platform, those enterprises could modernize applications without having to retrain staff, or "blow up source code," he said.

MTA starts with a 30-day engagement. The consultant is typically on site the first five days, working with the customer to modernize a single application.

The process involves containerizing, scanning, digitally signing apps and then putting them under the management of Docker Enterprise Edition on modern infrastructure, he said.

"We've never failed at successfully modernizing these applications in that five-day time frame," Johnston said. And most modernized apps reduce the total cost of ownership by 50 percent, which often prompts organizations to go secure additional funding to support projects for new applications.

"We're seeing customers update and release software up to twice as fast before. Sometimes its 12-year-old software, and we're not touching source code," Johnston said.

MTA gives "revolutionary results with an evolutionary approach," he said, helping organizations incrementally adopt new technology over time.

Now that the program has existed for six months, some high-profile customers have seen first-hand the benefits of container-centric IT.

Among them were MetLife, which modernized a Java application in a single day, then moved on to several other apps across a portfolio of 600 Java applications. The insurer reduced its virtual machine count by 60 percent, core count by 70 percent, and saw an almost 70 percent reduction in its infrastructure costs.

Finnish Railways modernized five technology stacks and achieved overall cost reductions of 50 percent.

Docker has enabled regional systems integrators to deliver MTA, and its VARs to sell an MTA SKU, Johnston said.

Bradley Brodkin, CEO of HighVail, the only Canadian member of Docker's MTA program, told CRN it's the exclusivity of the opportunity that drove his company—one that seeks out technologies in their early-adopter phase—to get involved in the program.

HighVail has seen some of Canada's largest telecoms, insurance companies, and even government agencies express interest in containerizing their applications, and the program is a vehicle to get that process rolling.

"You find an app, roll it over, show them how easy it is to do that, and train the customer to take over," Brodkin said.

The Docker program also spurred another, more unexpected, relationship for HighVail, he said.

"Microsoft is supporting them as part of this journey," he said, and "that opens up a tremendous opportunity for us. We never had a strong relationship with Microsoft, but that's now changing. We see that as a natural progression."

Former .NET users are looking at transformational plans, and "because of the relationship between Docker and Microsoft," they see containerization of legacy apps as a natural path, Brodkin told CRN.