Over the last ten years or so, virtualization has taken over the world of X86-based servers. Creating pools of “virtual” servers on single physical machines slashed capital and operating costs for in-house data centers. It also let newcomers like Amazon Web Services rent out slices of their ginormous compute, storage and network resources to anyone over the Web, slashing computing costs and creating multiple species of cloud computing.
Today’s emerging buzzword is “containers,” which you can think of “virtualization light.” Rather than using a hypervisor to control complete virtual operating systems on the same CPU, containers run only the components of the operating system needed to run an application. That promises to cut costs even further, speed deployment and enhance security by allowing greater isolation among applications.
Docker has the biggest container (if you will) of mind share, with support from big names such as Google, Amazon and Microsoft, but is facing challenges from newer competitors like CoreOS. Even as Docker builds out its own management and orchestration services, partners like Google with Kubernetes and Amazon with its EC2 Container service are building their own “platform” of container tools.
The container movement is a classic emerging market where customers are begging to be educated – and, in the process, let you shape the terms of the conversation. What content do you need to inform them, judge their interest and nurture them for a possible sale?
Step 1: Awareness/education
Assume the reader has never heard of containers and provide a concise, “why should I care” explanation. Compare containers to virtualization, highlighting the benefits (greater reliability, lower overhead) as well as the costs and possible risks (the need for new skills, fast-changing marketplace, unproven vendors.)
Provide a high-level or summary overview of how easy or hard it is to implement containers on various operating systems, such as Microsoft vs. Linux. Show your expertise and thought leadership by “framing” the container conversation. Are they the next big thing? Hopelessly overrated? A raw technology that needs to settle down before committing to it? What unique insights can you provide your prospects based on their size, vertical market, installed technology base, or tolerance for risk?
Offer this ungated (no registration) form and promote it aggressively through social media, paid adwords, and SEO. End it with a link to the second piece, for those ready to look at specific container products and services.
Step 2: Consideration
Drill further into the different flavors of containers from various vendors. Compare Docker’s “platform” approach to CoreOS’ focus on “just the container, m’aam.” Discuss specific implementation scenarios (say, hybrid cloud, or a mix of Microsoft Azure and Rackspace clouds) and what it takes to deploy and manage containers from various vendors on each of them. Discuss in detail whether, when and why containers plus virtualization does or does not provide better security than virtualization alone.
Your aim is to equip the reader to issue an RFP, or at least ask killer questions as they evaluate products. How, for example, does a vendor provide for backup and restore? How does each platform isolate sensitive applications in a multi-tenant environment, where multiple customers share the same hardware, storage and networks? What are the “must-have’s” vs. “nice to haves” to look for management tools? What new skills will the customer need to handle containers?
Again, the more you focus this piece on the needs of your specific prospects the better. Sure, talk about the stuff you happen to do well but focus on being even-handed and knowledgeable. End with a gated tease to your third story, focused on those ready to buy.
Step 3: Evaluation/Implementation
Here’s where you show you’ve thought through the deployment and use of containers so thoroughly the reader absolutely, positively has to consider you. Get wicked tactical and detailed. Tailor this very specifically to your prospects’ specific concerns, such as complexity and cost (if they’re small) to security and compliance (if they’re a bank) to scalability and management (if they’re a cloud provider.)
If in doubt, drum up some lists based on your real-world experience:
- “Top seven mistakes our customers made with containers.”
- “Eight questions to ask about your current environment before choosing a container platform.”
- “Our five favorite open-source container management utilities.”
- “Five easy ways to enhance container security.”
Consider rolling in case studies with specifics of your customers’ before and after environments, the time and cost required to implement containers, and of course the business benefits. Gate this with a request for basic contact info (if you haven’t already) or ask for more detail if you’re into progressive profiling.
If you have a marketing automation platform, you can of course score readers based on which of these pieces they read. Any or all of these can also of course be “re-purposed” into Webinars, videos or podcasts, or split into blog posts and Tweets.
Let me know what you’re doing content wise to promote containers, or what other technologies or services you’d like to see a sample template for.
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