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Containers likely to disrupt Java Virtual Machine usage, survey says

[Note: this article by Joe McKendrick appeared originally on ZDNet.com]

For years, Java Virtual Machine (Java VM) has been the "container" technology of choice for dropping the exact same version of an application (as Java bytecode) onto multiple platforms and operating systems. But lately, there's been a new container in town -- called, appropriately enough, containers.

Interest in containers is going mainstream in enterprises. In a recent survey of 2,151 Java VM developers and IT professionals from Lightbend, 22% said they are already running containers in production. Another 31% report they are playing around with containers on their local machines, while 20% are starting to evaluate containers. Only six percent said they are not interested in containers.

(For details on the Lightbend survey's findings related to microservices and DevOps, see my previous post here.)

Not only are containers rapidly gaining traction within enterprises, but most developers agree that containers are likely to supplant Java VMs. A majority of developers, 57%, said containers will definitely disrupt the Java VM landscape, while 32% were not quite sure yet. There is still a skeptical segment as well -- only 11% thought containers were "mostly hype."

Java developers are less inclined, however, to be embracing containers at this point. The survey finds container adoption among Scala developers is higher than with the Java crew. Close to one-third, 31%, of respondents whose production applications are written primarily in Scala run containers in production -- compared to 21% for Java.

Of course, not all that glitters is containers. Java VMs still have important features to which containers are still catching up -- especially security. Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols offers a great comparison between VMs and containers in this article published last year.

In most cases, containers are being employed to launch and support new apps, versus any legacy modernization efforts, the Lightbend survey also finds. Six in ten are primarily targeting brand new applications to be containerized, while 40% are targeting existing applications for containerization.

In addition, the survey found a strong correlation between containers and microservices adoption. Forty-one percent of respondents running microservices in production are also running containers in production, compared to 22% of total respondents running containers in production, a 54% difference.

It's also no surprise, then, that container orchestration is the next great frontier. The Lightbend survey's authors are calling this a "land grab." Docker SWARM leads with 37% of overall respondents, with 28% employing Google Kubernetes, and 14% on Mesos / Marathon or Mesosphere DC/OS.

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