Hello, containers? This is SOE, your standard operating environment. Remember me? Obviously not, as you’ve led everyone to believe that they can use whatever technology they want whenever they want, without having a negative impact on the ability to build, maintain, and sustain highly automated application fleets. You know better than that, containers—it’s simply not true. You need me—enterprises need me. Let’s get back together.

In the not-so-distant past, everyone had a standard operating environment. SOEs—which typically include the base operating system (kernel and user space programs), custom configuration files, standard applications used within an organization, software updates, and service packs—are designed to increase the security posture of the environment, simplify processes and automate code. Admins implement an SOE as a disk image, kickstart, or virtual machine image for mass deployment within an organization.

SOEs can apply to servers, desktops, laptops, thin clients, mobile devices, and container images. Yes, even container images. In fact, an SOE can reduce the time it takes to deploy, configure, maintain, support, and manage containerized applications.

So, why have containers basically abandoned SOEs?

Lamenting a loss of standards

One school of thought says that standardization gets in the way of innovation and generally slows the development and deployment process. Here’s the thing, though: It’s quite natural for development teams to have standards for code quality, syntax, and even how to set up new development environments on laptops. There’s a saying: Slow is steady, steady is smooth, smooth is fast. You can help developers move fast and well by standardizing on a container base image.

And, while everyone no doubt agrees that standardization increases security, anti-SOE’ers argue that containers are small and thus have a small attack surface. Sure, one container has a small attack surface, but how many organizations use just one container? When the number of containers in your fleet grows to hundreds or thousands, your attack surface grows—in size and complexity—as well.

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