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IAE uses Virtual Containers to Streamline Software Development

IAE uses small, virtual, self-contained systems (called containers) to streamline software feature development.

Developers at the Integrated Award Environment (IAE) inside the United States General Services Administration have adopted virtual containers to help streamline software development.  IAE developers use these virtual containers - which are self-contained virtual systems - throughout development and deployment to better deliver new IAE features.The IAE is the first known deployment of virtual containers in a federal government agency.

Think of using a virtual container as wrapping a piece of software (aka: “a feature”) in a completely self-contained file system housing everything the code needs to run including:

  • Code

  • Runtime

  • System tools

  • System libraries


Traditionally, software development isn’t very self-contained. Each member of a development team had to be running operating systems and applications that were near  mirror images of one another.

In a groundbreaking agile and DevOps environment such as IAE, developers are building new application features (and sometimes they are modifying or updating ones that already exist). They aren’t building an entire application in a two-week sprint. Using containers enables IAE project owners to measure progress versus what’s available.


Navin Vembar, IAE IT director, explained it well by saying, “Using containers forces our developers to think in small, yet complete bite size chunks when developing software.”

Anything you can install on a server, you can install in a container. For example, an IAE developer running a container on a Microsoft Windows-based PC can then send the container to another developer using an OS X-based Mac, knowing that he or she will have zero compatibility or other technical issues. The same container can then be deployed to a Linux server running IAE software in development or production.


Getting past technical compatibility issues in software development is a big win for IAE because we have federal employee and contractor developers working at headquarters, other GSA facilities, commercial office buildings, and even remotely. Our developers can be productive regardless of their location or computer hardware choices.

Security and Containers

Vembar explained that containers help teams identify and update individual components if they identify security or other issues. Because containers aren’t full applications, there’s less for our security tools to scan. Working on a container level for software development is also easier in scope for our developers.


Containers are another tool that helps keep our developers and operations team more agile during the development and testing processes. A more agile development and operations cycle means that IAE can be more responsive to the needs of the federal award management community.

If you have any questions about IAE’s adoption of containers, please email iaeoutreach@gsa.gov.


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The Integrated Award Environment (IAE) is a government-wide initiative administered by GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS). We manage the suite... More

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