The holiday crush is on. You have got to get thousands of your goods from the manufacturing plants in Far East to your distribution centers all over the US. A couple of dozen containers are loaded at the plants and trucked to the seaport where at dockside they are transferred by gigantic cranes onto a waiting container vessel.

The ship leaves port and steams to the West coast where some of the containers go immediately on trucks to your Western distribution centers while the others are loaded on trains destined for Midwest and Eastern cities. Upon arrival they will be placed on local trucks for final delivery to your warehouses’ delivery docks. In all of the thousands of miles traveled your product remained safe and untouched while you took advantage of the optimal type of transport.

This highly efficient system, invented 60 years ago, has come to the world of cloud computing. In 2013 a company called Docker launched the concept that an application could be developed and placed into a virtual container that would enable it to be run on any kind of computing infrastructure that met certain interface standards. The concept was so powerful that just this year the Open Container Project was launched backed by the biggest hardware and cloud players in the industry. Now, through a set of industry standards, any application can run on any infrastructure whether cloud or physical.

What does this mean for your business? The same optimization that containers brought to shipping now comes to the computing world. As your company builds new software applications it can run them on the most cost effective platform. Different providers have different price-performance curves depending on the nature of your application. You can select the one that is best and even change it as circumstances dictate.

Let’s say you need a new mobile app for order tracking – part of your strategy to move your customers to more self-service. You could develop it on one cloud provider and go into production with them. Good news! Your app turns out to be a bit hit and the response is tremendous. Unfortunately, for the kind of demand you are now experiencing, the original cloud provider choice is way too expensive or they don’t have the global reach you need. No problem, identify who might be better through optimization tools that are also available and move it over. Pretty neat, isn’t it – and pretty difficult just a few years ago.

Containers are a good example of the rapid innovation occurring in cloud computing. The concept was launched in 2013 and wide spread adoption and industry standards occurred in 2015. As a leader in your firm, you need to maintain an awareness of all the good things bubbling up from cloud. You – and your competition – have more options than ever.

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