In theory, moving legacy apps into containers ensures that neither the apps nor the business that depends on them gets left behind. In practice, such lifts-and-shifts are easier said than done. Sometimes, they’re only said and are never done at all.

Today, Docker announced a professional services program to help relieve the heavy lifting of porting legacy applications to containers.

The Docker Modernize Traditional Apps Program, delivered in conjunction with such partners as Microsoft and Hewlett Packard Enterprise, is the first step in converting apps to use modern IT principles. It also shows how Docker and its partners can derive revenue from an open source technology stack apart from selling enterprise editions of a product, providing professional support for it, or hosting for it.

Move on over

Docker claims it takes at most five days to port most applications into a containerized environment, although the company also makes it clear this isn’t the entire process. It’s only the first step, and it can be intimidating to take if a given app is old or undocumented.

, but there are long-term benefits to putting an old-school business app into a container as-is without changing how it works. For one, the , as Microsoft Azure CTO Mark Russinovich pointed out to InfoWorld’s Eric Knorr.

Microsoft’s Taylor Brown, lead program manager for Windows Server and Hyper-V Containers, and Chris Van Wesep, director of product marketing for Enterprise Cloud, spoke in an interview of their experiences with Microsoft customers looking to make that leap. Most of them, Brown said, can make a basic leap for an app in about a week.

Many hands lighten the load

Microsoft sees that many of the apps in question are “custom-built .Net applications, where the person who wrote it left the company five years ago. The thinking around such app is, ‘It runs, let’s not break it.’” Visual Basic 6, VB .Net, C++, and FoxPro apps also pop up often.

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“With the .Net folks,” said Van Wesep, “they want to do it. They just don’t know [what] the path forward has been. It’s an opportunity for us to get back with them and say, ‘There’s a lot of investment that’s been made here recently. Let us show you how you can make use of that.’”

Go modern or go home?

Many of the issues Docker has highlighted with this program are about that exist in numerous organizations—even those that currently use containers.

Most containerized apps these days are newly created, greenfield deployments, rather than ports of existing apps. But even in enterprises where new apps are spun up in containers first, many old apps live on untouched because they work as-is—or because the company has a history of .

Both Docker and Microsoft are hoping what they offer will loosen up inhibitions about such moves. Given the number of apps that remain in VMs and on bare metal, both companies are conscious of the revenue that can be garnered from “commercializing the process of getting customers moved forward,” as Brown put it.

Even with the biggest customers, those are likely to be short-term, one-time events—an adjunct to monetizing containers for enterprises only. The real long-term profits, as before, will come from providing enterprise services that feature containers as headline offerings.