When I think of Parallels, the first thing that comes to mind is virtual machines. I have used Parallels for years as a means of running a virtualized instance of a Windows operating system from within Mac OS X. In addition to virtual machines, though, Parallels was also doing containers before containers were cool, and announced last week that it will soon include native support for Docker applications as well.
Parallels was working with container technologies years ago with Virtuozzo and the open source OpenVZ platform. The company claims to be the most widely-deployed containers platform in the world, with over one million instances. With the launch of native Docker support, service providers will be able to provide container-based virtual private servers on the Parallels Cloud Server platform to customers that want to build with Docker applications. Parallels
“A challenge customers face today is running Docker images in a virtualized environment based on a hypervisor,” explained James Bottomley, chief technology officer of virtualization for Parallels. “This takes a core benefit of Docker—that the applications run in containers at higher density and performance—and reduces that benefit considerably.”
Bottomley added, “With Parallels solution, the service provider can offer the customer an environment where Docker is running on top of Parallels Cloud Server containers-based virtualization for optimal performance and at high-density.”
Why does this matter? I spoke with Bottomley myself to get more information. He told me that the primary advantage of containers—particularly in the cloud—is they have different elasticity and density capabilities than a hypervisor. It is faster and easier to scale containers than entire virtual machines.
There is a disadvantage as well. Bottomley stressed that container technology requires that all of the containers share the same kernel. So, it’s not possible, for example, to launch a Windows-based container on a Linux kernel, or a Linux-based container on a Mac OS X kernel.
The inclusion of native Docker support in Parallels Cloud Server will be significant for smaller companies. Large enterprises like Microsoft or Amazon have virtually unlimited resources to invest in scalability. They can simply run container apps in separate hypervisor instances, and just continue to add more hypervisor instances to meet demand, but that is a costly and inefficient way to address scalability.
With Docker apps running on Parallels Cloud Server, smaller cloud service providers will have a secure, high-density virtual server environment with the elasticity and scalability to compete with much larger public cloud providers. Bottomley told me that the Parallels solution with Docker containers reduces the physical server overhead by a factor of one-third.
Philbert Shih, managing director, Structure Research agrees there is significant market opportunity for cloud service providers to deliver a cost-effective platform for developing and deploying Docker applications. “The answer lies in building an optimized infrastructure environment that is dense and scales, while being able to maintain high levels of performance and facilitate portability of workloads.”
The Parallels announcement is just the latest in a string of victories for Docker. Microsoft added support for Docker containers on Linux virtual servers in Azure earlier this year, and recently announced a partnership with Docker to bring native container support to the next iteration of Windows Server.
As the container concept gathers mainstream steam, though, Docker also faces increasing competition from rivals like Rocket. Expanding Docker’s sphere of influence with native support on popular, and widely-used platforms will help to cement it as the de facto leader of container apps.
The update to Parallels Cloud Server to introduce native Docker support is expected in the first quarter of 2015.