Selling the C-Suite on Containers

If you’re a programmer or admin, you understand what containers are and why they’re valuable. But how do you convince corporate higher-ups that containers are worth the investment? Keep reading for some tips.

Like any complex technology, containers are difficult for someone without an IT background to understand easily. In some ways, containers can be especially difficult to explain to corporate decision-makers. Spelling out the differences between containers and virtual machines in a non-technical way is very difficult, for example. So is defining what “container” actually means, given that there are different types of container technologies.

Of course, helping the C-Suite understand the value of containers is important. If you want to use containers in your organization, you’ll need to get their buy-in for new infrastructure and software investments.

Explaining Containers to the C-Suite

How do you do that? Here are some tips for shaping the conversation about containers with corporate executives:

  • Emphasize that containers are the next evolutionary step beyond virtual machines. When you pitch containers as an improvement upon the virtual machines that your company is already using, rather than something totally novel, it’s easier for executives to digest the idea.
  • Talk about “containers,” not Docker. Although Docker right now is (arguably) the only production-ready application container platform, executives might worry about vendor lock-in if you talk to them about Docker instead of containers writ large. They’ll be concerned that adopting Docker means wedding their infrastructure to a particular company. (In reality, of course, Docker the company is distinct from Docker the open-source project, but that may be a difficult nuance to convey to people who don’t follow Docker regularly.)
  • Mention that containers can run almost anywhere. Executives wary of platform lock-in will be happy to know that containers can run on-premises or in the cloud. They can now also run on Linux or Windows servers (if you’re using Docker, at least). This environment-agnosticism means flexibility for the business.
  • Describe containers’ appeal to the next generation of developers. If your organization wants to attract top IT talent, it will need to adopt the technologies that the best developers and admins prefer to use. Containers are becoming one of those technologies. Executives who understand this will view containers more favorably.
  • Point out that container software is free. To be sure, migrating to containers will almost certainly come at a financial cost. You may need to hire more staff and invest in commercial management or monitoring software for containers. Still, the underlying container software itself—meaning primarily Docker—is free to download and use. The C-Suite will like this, especially because it distinguishes containers from virtual machine software, which in many cases costs money for enterprise use.

If you approach management in the right way, selling executives on the idea of containers can be easy—even if the decision-makers don’t understand anything about how Docker works on a technical level. The time it takes to craft the right approach will be well worth it, since containers can simplify the software development and delivery process enormously.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with and

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