Docker Raising New Funding as Container Competition Grows

A new SEC filing indicates that the container vendor is looking to raise new funding as the company faces an increasingly competitive landscape.

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Container vendor Docker Inc. is in the process of raising a $75 million round of funding, as the company aims to grow its business and compete effectively against a growing array of container and microservices vendors.

On Oct. 6, Docker Inc. filed a disclosure with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, revealing a few details about the in-progress funding round. The total offering amount for the equity funding round is listed in the SEC filing as $75 million, of which approximately $62 million has been sold.

Of note in the SEC filing is a section in which companies are asked to indicate the revenue range for a filing company. Rather than report a revenue figure, Docker's CFO Mike Gupta checked the box "decline to disclose."

Docker's last round of funding was its Series D, which was publicly announced in April 2015 and brought in $95 million. Docker had previously raised $15 million in a January 2014 Series B round and an additional $40 million in its September 2014 Series C. With the new in-progress $75 million round, total funding for the company will top $225 million.

Docker as a company has undergone tremendous changes in recent years as it has helped to spark the container and microservices DevOps revolution. When it was created in 2008, the company was known as dotCloud. In March 2013, founder Solomon Hykes officially started the Docker project within dotCloud. Because of the early rapid traction of the container technology, dotCloud rebranded itself as Docker Inc. in October 2013. In August 2014, Docker sold its dotCloud platform-as-a-service (PaaS) assets, focusing full-time on the container market.

Although adoption of the open-source Docker Engine for container applications has been rapid, it's not clear if Docker's revenue have grown as quickly. On May 2, Docker replaced Ben Golub as CEO with Steve Singh, in a move to help grow the business.

"I want to make sure we scale our business with everything from investment to distribution, marketing, customer support and product development," Singh told eWEEK when he became CEO.

While Docker helped to launch the modern container model, rivals continue to emerge. In addition, the core open-source Docker Engine technology itself has faced challenges as other vendors have called for the development process to be more open.

CoreOS was among the first vendors to emerge as a competitor to Docker, launching its own container engine called rkt (pronounced "rocket") and helping to lead efforts at the Linux Foundation to create container standards. The Open Container Initiative (OCI) was the first such container standards effort and got started in June 2015. It took two years for the OCI standards to come together, with the 1.0 milestone only becoming generally available on July 19.

Going a step beyond the OCI and its runtime specification is the containerd project at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Containerd is an OCI-complaint container runtime project that is now the basis for the Docker Engine. CoreOS' rkt engine is also being hosted at the CNCF. 

The overall model in which Docker is built has also evolved, from being a more monolithic approach to an open model across a set of connected efforts, known as the Moby Project, which was first announced at DockerCon 17 in April.

Kubernetes

While the open-source Docker Engine and now containerd are basic building blocks of using containers for application virtualization, companies also require orchestration and management for deployments. That's the space where the open-source Kubernetes platform fits into the market.

Kubernetes was first developed by Google and is now managed as a CNCF project with multiple stakeholders. Red Hat, which was among the first backers of the open-source Docker project, has aggressively pursued a Kubernetes strategy with its own OpenShift project. During Red Hat's second-quarter fiscal 2018 earnings call on Sept. 25, CEO Jim Whitehurst said he expects OpenShift to become his company's second largest revenue generator, after Red Hat Enterprise Linux. 

Docker has its own orchestration technology known as Swarm, which is competitive with Kubernetes. From a commercial perspective, Docker Enterprise Edition bundles a commercially supported version of Swarm along with other management tools to help organizations deploy container application at scale. Docker has also built commercial partnerships with Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Cisco and Microsoft to help get its technology in the hands of enterprise users and, more importantly, to generate revenue to support the business.

There is little question that containers are being used by enterprises today, and that usage will continue to grow for the foreseeable future. What is a question, however, is which technologies will be used. With the disaggregation of the Docker Engine and OCI standardization, there is the potential that other non-Docker container engines will become popular. Kubernetes already has a lot of momentum behind it and has been embraced by many organizations.

Docker still has first mover advantage, and the majority of all container deployments today are using the Docker Engine at the core. Although rivals are making money in the container market, there is a lot of money to be made, as organizations transform legacy monolithic applications and embrace a more agile cloud-native, DevOps model with containers. 

At its DockerCon EU conference, which runs Oct. 16-19 in Copenhagen, Denmark, it's likely that Docker Inc. will reiterate its core open-source values and announce new capabilities. As Docker faces an increasingly competitive landscape and is raising new money, the company and its leadership will also need to articulately detail the path forward for both container success and its own.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.