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Cisco launches open tech for containerized applications

Cisco has launched an open source project, called Contiv, to build technology that automates the use of security, storage and networking in cloud-based containerized applications.

Cisco has introduced an open source project aimed at automating the use of policies to assign network, storage, security and compute resources to containerized applications in the cloud.

Project Contiv, launched this month, outlines Cisco's approach to deploying operational infrastructure policies for container-based applications increasingly found in public and private clouds.

Most containerized applications are built using open source technology called Docker. The containers isolate applications from each other on a shared Linux operating system (OS). Google, Microsoft and Amazon Web Services are among the cloud providers that use Docker.

The self-contained applications are easier to move, create and destroy than applications running on virtual machines (VMs). Also, 10 times as many containers can run on a Linux OS than applications on a Linux-equipped VM, according to Cisco.

The attributes of containers make them conducive to cloud environments that demand application portability and density. Enterprise data centers are expected to become more cloud-like in time. Driving adoption is the desire to connect to public clouds that provide access to business applications on a subscription basis.

Cisco sells its Unified Computing System server as an all-in-one cloud product for enterprises. The vendor, along with rivals Hewlett Packard Enterprise and IBM, is going after a cloud IT infrastructure market that will reach almost $33 billion this year, a 24% increase over 2014, according to IDC, based in Framingham, Mass.

What Contiv does

Contiv defines policies that align the composition of microservices to an application's purpose. Each microservice has a specific task and uses a relatively simple, well-defined interface to communicate with other modular services.

Contiv would define policies for setting security for a containerized application's inbound and outbound traffic. The technology would also handle the integration of Layer 4-7 services, such as load balancers, firewalls and encryption.

Other defined policies would include physical infrastructure, such as bandwidth limits or guarantees per container, and storage as it relates to volume allocation and snapshotting. Compute policies would relate to performance requirements and service-level agreements.

Cisco has launched two Contiv projects. Contiv Networking would be a container plug-in for policy-controlled infrastructure and security. It would also provide the necessary integration to communicate with noncontainer workloads.

Contiv Volume is a Docker plug-in that uses open source software called Ceph to provide persistent, distributed storage.

Adoption of Contiv

While it's too soon to predict Contiv's impact on the container market, "Cisco has the knowledge and expertise needed to make Contiv a successful project," said Scott Johnston, senior vice president of product management at San-Francisco-based startup Docker. The company makes Docker technology available without charge, and generates income through support and services.

Docker has not joined Project Contiv. But the technology is expected to be useful as a "flexible SDN [software-defined networking] option for organizations that want to transition to microservices while preserving their existing infrastructure investments," Johnston said.

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