Docker Moves to Native SDN With New Platform Additions

Docker's multi-host SDN is now available as native platform functionality to ensure that multi-container distributed applications can communicate across IP networks.

SAN FRANCISCO – Docker added software-defined, multi-host networking capabilities to its open-source container IT with new features that include swappable plugin architecture and enhancements for its three orchestration tools.

The San Francisco-based startup made the announcement June 22, Day 2 of its annual user conference, Dockercon, at the Marriott Marquis. The conference, which sold out and has attracted a record number of attendees estimated at 2,000, continues through June 23.

The new SDN features, designed to strengthen the portability of multi-container-based, distributed applications, are a result of Docker's acquisition of SocketPlane three months ago. The idea is to make it easier and more efficient for software developers to build applications from multiple containers.

Docker originated as an open-source project that automates the deployment of distributed applications inside software containers by providing an additional layer of abstraction and automation of operating-system-level virtualization on Linux.

SocketPlane emerged from stealth mode in October 2014 as a provider of Docker-enabled SDN technology. SocketPlane founder Madhu Venugopal had previously been at Cisco and has been an active participant in the Linux Foundation-led OpenDaylight SDN project.

Docker's multi-host SDN is now available as native platform functionality to ensure that multi-container distributed applications can communicate across IP networks while being portable across any network infrastructure. Portability is probably the key descriptor of everything Docker does.

Tying Docker's SDN functionality directly with pre-existing standards–DNS (domain name system) and VXLAN (virtual extensible LAN)–ensures interoperability for both multi-container applications and ‘Dockerized’ apps and legacy applications. Use of DNS ensures that ‘Dockerized’ services will be able to communicate without modification.

This SDN capability should be an attractive feature for devops teams because it provides a new level of consistency in how applications are networked. A development team can define the topology of its distributed application, while the networking team can, at a later stage, apply the networking policies necessary to run an application with the highest level of availability and security in production.

Then, even with all these sophisticated policies in place, an operations team will have the freedom of choice – without reconfiguring the ‘Dockerized’ application – to move the application from their private data center to any cloud.

"By bringing SDN directly to the application itself and into the hands of the developers, Docker is driving multi-container application portability throughout the application development lifecycle," Docker CTO and Chief Architect Solomon Hykes said.

The new dynamic plugin architecture provides direct platform extensibility for hundreds of technology partners and for thousands of developers who have created their own Docker tooling, Docker said. The new architecture offers an SDK (software development kit) model.

Docker's three orchestration tools–Docker Machine, Docker Compose and Docker Swarm–all received new enhancements, with the most important area of functionality tied to the new multi-host networking capability.

Docker Compose defines the containers that comprise a distributed application and how they are connected together. Through integration with Docker Swarm, the multi-container application can be immediately networked across multiple hosts and can communicate seamlessly across a cluster of machines with a single command.

Docker Swarm, the company's native clustering solution, now has working integration with Mesos, a project that was previously announced as a joint collaboration with Mesosphere at DockerCon EU in December 2014.

For the record, Docker is the lead commercial sponsor behind the popular open-source Docker application container virtualization IT that competes directly with the virtual machines championed by VMware for the last 15 years.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...