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Container Monitoring Comes Up Short for Most Companies

Monday Jan 14th 2019 by Paul Rubens
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You can't manage what you can't monitor, so what does container technology need to help companies feel comfortable running containers in production environments?

Container technology has revolutionized the way many organizations work over the last few years, but it's fair to say that the supporting technologies in areas such as container management, security, and monitoring have lagged behind the core container functionality.

Container monitoring is of particular interest to CA Technologies — the software house that's in the process of being acquired by Broadcom — right now. That's because it has a solution of its own to peddle called CA Application Performance Management. Virtually Speaking

But what's perhaps of more interest is that the company has commissioned some enlightening research on the state of containers in general, and container monitoring in particular, in organizations today.

So what does the research reveal?

First up, it confirms an impression that many observers have held for a while: the majority of organizations (52% of respondents) are just getting started with Docker container technology. By contrast, a quarter are using it for small projects and experimentation (but not for production applications), while just 23% are running containers in production environments.

How Docker Technology Is Being Used Today

Next up, how are organizations using Docker technology? Consistent with the previous findings, 61% are using it for app development and testing and 53% are consolidating workloads on hardware to reduce exiting infrastructure and hardware costs.

Only about one-third (34%) are using it to support a cloud-first policy, while 31% are using it to adopt a micro-services architecture by splitting complex applications into separate units.

A related finding stems from a slightly different question: what is the value of adopting containers? Two of the most frequently discussed benefits are resource efficiency and the ability to move containerized applications from one hardware platform to another.

But it turns out these are not the most important container benefits at all. In fact, 58% of organizations mention enabling continuous integration and delivery, and 57% talk about scalability. By contrast, resource efficiency gets mentioned by 53% of organizations, and portability is important to just 40%.

Key Challenges Remain for Companies in Monitoring Containers

As mentioned earlier, technologies that enable capabilities like container monitoring tend to lag behind the core container technology. So what are the main problems or challenges that companies encounter when they try to monitor their containers?

It turns out that the biggest issue is a gap in skills, 48% of respondents say, rather than a technological problem per se. Having said that, about a quarter say there is a lack of quality monitoring tools available, and 21% say monitoring is just too complex. Interestingly, 12% report getting alert fatigue, while almost a third (30%) say it is still too hard to determine the root cause of issues that are highlighted.

But the statistic that perhaps reveals the most is this one: 35% of organizations are currently not monitoring their containers at all.

So what would motivate organizations to adopt or enhance their Docker container monitoring technology? The prospect of "complete visibility" into their container environments would hook 56%, while analytics would tempt 48%. Other important features include API monitoring (39%) and change analysis (29%).

What's revealing about all of this is that many organizations clearly think the time is not yet right to change how they monitor their containers, suggesting that, in their eyes, the technology may not quite be there yet. Others simply don't have the skills to monitor their containers even if they believed in the software.

The evidence? An overwhelming 57% of respondents said they don't plan on carrying out any monitoring spending for a year or more, while just 7% plan to do so in the near future.

And that may explain why, so far, comparatively few organizations feel they dare risk running containers in a production environment. After all, you can't manage what you can't monitor.


Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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