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AWS container services set for next steps

AWS' container line-up doesn't differ much from the competition today, but expect the cloud provider to expand its offerings and integrate with serverless platforms such as Lambda.

Despite the range of AWS container services already available, expect even more in the months ahead, as the cloud...

provider seeks to capitalize on customer demand and keep pace with the rest of the market.

AWS' container strategy is competitive across the board, but it's far from alone. Enterprises are still early in their adoption of this technology, but all the major vendors appear to be on the same path toward containers as a service, said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC.

"A lot of what cloud providers are building are more foundational elements -- you have to start with a base," he said.

Most cloud vendors' container services revolve around Kubernetes, which has become the de facto industry standard to manage containers. AWS started with its own proprietary, managed container orchestration service in Elastic Container Service (Amazon ECS), and later added Kubernetes support, due to its popularity and momentum, in the form of Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes.

AWS container services also include Fargate, which provides another way to run the technology. Organizations can use this service for Amazon ECS to deploy and manage containers, while AWS handles the underlying infrastructure; users don't need to provision, configure or scale clusters of virtual machines.

AWS continues to add tools to consume and manage containers, and the Fargate and Kubernetes additions bring AWS in line with the serverless consumption models from Microsoft and Google, said Dave Bartoletti, a Forrester analyst.

It's the cloud that matters, not the container

While there are small differences between these providers' offerings, AWS container services aren't all that unique, Chen said. For example, Microsoft has Azure Container Instances, which also let users more easily deploy containers without having to manage the underlying infrastructure. Still, there are disparities between these providers' underlying services and infrastructure.

Cloud providers' investments in virtual infrastructure matter, as does the location and capability of the physical infrastructure and the quality of the other cloud-native tools that integrate with these container services, Chen added. 

"If someone is choosing a cloud provider for containers, ECS and Fargate are a part of that, but all the other things in the cloud are relevant, including offerings like AI and machine learning, and it may be the key differentiator for why you choose them as a cloud provider," Chen said.

Next up: Containers meet functions

Some analysts have doubts about the growth in simplified container services, such as Fargate, and their lack of customization.

"It shrinks the model of the setup to the point where people can quickly get started, but the real question is whether people will still want that later on," said Edwin Yuen, an analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group. "Fargate is a balance between what people want for power of configuration, for instance, versus the burden of setup and maintenance."

Containers appear to be the exception to the typical adoption cycle for a new technology, where the move to an as-a-service model usually happens much later, Yuen added. Ultimately, though, many users may eventually grow beyond the capabilities of Fargate and similar services.

But perhaps expanded container capabilities aren't too far off. Watch for AWS container services that make it easier to operate large, globally distributed Kubernetes clusters, Bartoletti said. In 2019, expect more around the operational side of Kubernetes -- how to provision, secure, monitor and optimize growing, multi-cloud Kubernetes clusters.

"We expect every leading public cloud provider and cloud-native, on-prem PaaS provider to release new features to help companies manage all these new containerized workloads," he said.

From there, these vendors will likely expand these container and Kubernetes platforms to support functions as a service -- an area AWS pioneered with Lambda, Bartoletti said. In 2019, developers should be able to build apps using functions and run functions on premises, in the public cloud and on top of Kubernetes, he added.

This was last published in October 2018

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