Docker Expands Enterprise Focus as Container Ecosystem Matures

NEWS ANALYSIS: Docker discusses initiatives at its DockerCon conference that that will help enterprises implement containers as the open source technology evolves and matures.

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AUSTIN, Texas—At DockerCon here this week, Docker and its ecosystem partners laid the groundwork for the next phase of container-based computing.

In doing so, Docker exemplified what founder and CTO Solomon Hykes said is the best attribute to good development tools: "They get out of the way" of the developer.

That's exactly what Docker is doing with its latest initiatives discussed here, including application modernization, the open source Moby Project and the recent open sourcing of Docker's key run-time component, containerd.

Docker has always been in a challenging position with Docker as an open source technology, much the same way Sun Microsystems was with the Java language and Netscape was after the early success of its web browser. It's hard to be a company and a technology standard at the same time.

Docker has taken care of the standards piece with the “democratization,” as some attendees put it, of containerd. The open source community, under the leadership of the Open Container Initiative and the Linux Foundation, will maintain the code, which is due to reach 1.0 version status within a matter of weeks.

The Moby Project takes care of the rest. All of the core pieces of Docker are released as open source technology under the project, which comprises a "Lego set" of components, as Hykes called it, with a framework for assembling them and a reference implementation. Users and vendors can create their own container systems from all or some of the pieces.

That enables Docker to sell its branded, certified and supported Containers-as-a-Service stack, the Docker Enterprise Edition (EE), which CEO Ben Golub says is getting great uptake among large companies, including 400 of the global 2000 biggest corporations.

"We know we can't serve all of the important [open source] communities with one solution, one project, one product, one brand," said Docker CEO Ben Golub, during a briefing with reporters. "There are a bunch of components that are all available and packaged up as open source projects. We them assemble them under the Moby name and people are free to take it and modify it, but you can't call it Docker."

A Thriving Ecosystem Evolves

While Docker attempts to sharpen its focus toward the enterprise, the ecosystem around Docker is flourishing, and is being led by some odd bedfellows, including Microsoft and Oracle.

Oracle announced that it has certified container-based versions of its flagship products and put them into the Docker Store, free to use for testing and development purposes. Products include Oracle Database, MySQL, WebLogic, and Java 8 Standard Edition. The company also plans to put most if not all of its legacy software into containers.

Microsoft, for its part, is a contributor and a user of Docker. The company talked up Hyper V virtual machines that can run Linux containers on Windows Server.

Microsoft has also been using Docker tools to convert several of its internal business and operations software into containers.

Microsoft has already converted 10 applications using Docker's Image2Docker tool, which "containerizes" legacy VM-based applications and runs them on Docker EE in the Azure cloud. Other enterprise customers, who spoke at the conference, including Northern Trust and MetLife, have had success with similar projects.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...