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2014 Roundup: Networking, Virtualization and Cloud

2014 has been a year of immense movement in the networking, virtualization and cloud space. DevOps, infrastructure-as-code, containerisation, configuration management, lightweight Linux, hybrid cloud; all of these concepts carry a certain gravitas right now and will do even more so as we enter 2015. Let’s take a look at the major developments over the past year, and what this could mean heading into the immediate future.

DevOps continues to transform software development and systems programming, with the rise of configuration management tools such as Ansible and SaltStack, and the expansion of incumbent config management tools, Chef and Puppet (Puppet looks set to release version 4.0 some time early next year, and announced its new Puppet Server project at PuppetConf recently). Hashicorp, prolific in the DevOps space (creator of Vagrant) has intriguingly unified all five of its open source projects under the umbrella of an all-in-one DevOps tool they have anointed Atlas. With the emergence of DevOps-oriented technologies geared towards transforming infrastructure into code and automating literally everything, developers and engineers have begun to approach projects from a broader perspective, speaking the new universal language of the DevOps engineer.

Up in the clouds, the arena of competition among vendors has centred on the drive to develop hybrid solutions which will enable enterprises to take advantage of the heft behind open source platforms such as OpenStack, while combining public and private cloud environments. We’ve seen this with Red Hat’s tuning of its own enterprise version of OpenStack for hybrid setups, and most recently with the announcement that Microsoft and Accenture are re-energising their alliance by combining their cloud technologies to provide a comprehensive super-stack platform which comprises Windows Azure, Server, System Center and the Accenture Cloud Platform. Big plays indeed.

If there is a superstar this year, it has to be Docker. It has been the arranging metaphor for the development of a myriad of exciting new technologies, conceptual re-thinking, as well as a flurry of development announcements on both open source and enterprise fronts. The eventual release of Docker 1.0 was greeted to fanfare and rapture at DockerCon this June, after about a year of development and buzz, and surrounding the release has been a parallel drive to iterate on the lessons learned to create complimentary technologies and platforms.

It has then been largely due to Docker that we’ve started to see the emergence of new Linux operating system architectures which are lightweight, and purpose built for massively scaled distributed computing, such as CoreOS, and Red Hat’s prototype, Project Atomic. Both leverage Docker containers. The team behind CoreOS are even looking to rival Docker, with their prototype container runtime, Rocket, which promises to deliver an alternative approach to containerisation that they argue returns to the simplicity of the original manifesto for Docker containers as a composable, modular building block with a carefully designed specification. Google open sourced its Docker container orchestration tool Kubernetes, and  even Windows has jumped quickly on to the Docker train, with the development of a compatible Docker client for the next release of Windows Server.

A year ago, Mitchell Hashimoto coined the term ‘FutureOps’ for a vision of ‘immutable infrastructures’, servers pre-built with images which replace the need for continual configuration and replacement, enable lightning fast server deployments, and that provision automatic recovery mechanisms capable of detecting and anticipating server failures. Considered the height of idealism to some who would argue that systems can never be immutable, whether this is an achievable reality or not, the changes and developments of the last year would seem to inch closer to making it happen. Docker is part of this big picture, whatever shape that may take – 2014 was the year it made big waves, the magnitude of which will undoubtedly continue into 2015 and beyond.


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