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.
Smaller players are also making their mark around Docker and Kubernetes—the orchestration and scheduling project from Google that has surpassed Docker’s own Swarm as the go-to manager of container clusters.
Rancher Labs, for instance, announced it is integrating Docker EE Basic edition (which includes the core Docker runtime, orchestration, networking and security components) into its Rancher product. Rancher is a front-end for Docker and a number of related tools and services, including Kubernetes and Mesos. Rancher also introduced Project Longhorn, a block storage system for container clusters.
Mirantis, better known for its role in the OpenStack community, released the Mirantis Cloud Platform, a bundle that includes OpenStack and Mirantis’ own distribution of Kubernetes, as well as software-defined storage and networking components.
The key piece, however, is a new deployment and lifecycle management component called DriveTrain, which picks up where OpenStack by itself leaves off. “This is a meaningful departure from how we were doing things before,” said Boris Renski, co-founder and CMO of Mirantis, in an interview with eWEEK. “The operations and ‘Day 2’ things were an afterthought so we completely reengineered the lifecycle component.”
Filling the Technology Gaps
As the ecosystem around Docker and open source container projects mature, other basic infrastructure pieces will begin to emerge. “There will be a lot more conversation around storage,” said Abby Kearns, Executive Director of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, in an interview.
“When we think about all of these organizations that are developing code and being multi-cloud, and the portability of application workloads, one of the things we don’t actually talk about is ‘where’s the data?’ “
Despite the success stories told here at DockerCon, container adoption is still in its earliest days. Even as Docker matures, new models and tools around microservices are emerging that threaten to disrupt a still nascent industry and could leave users late to the party confused about which direction to take.
“Technology is evolving exponentially, but user adoption and use of that technology at scale in production is trailing pretty far behind. There’s a huge gap between where the tech is and where the users really are,” Kearns said.
“One of the things we should continue to do is as a community is be cognizant of that, not just in the capabilities of technology, but how do we do a better job of enabling those users who are still trying to figure out these technologies and what they mean for their organizations.”
Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.