Docker Project Restructures to Improve Scalability, Openness

The popular open-source application container virtualization effort gets an overhaul in a bid to improve project organization.


The open-source Docker application container virtualization project is evolving today, in a bid to improve the project's organization, scalability and openness.

Solomon Hykes launched the open-source Docker project on March 20, 2013, and has sometimes been referred to as the benevolent dictator for life (BDFL) of the project. Docker, however, is not a one-person or even one-company project, as it was in 2013. It now enjoys broader participation and support from developers and vendors, including Red Hat, Microsoft, Amazon, VMware and IBM.

The new structure for the Docker project is defined in the Docker GitHub pull request #9137 that was merged today. The key goals of the effort are to make the project more open and improve scalability. As part of the effort, the project will now boast three core leadership roles: a chief architect, a chief maintainer and a chief operator. Hykes will take on the role of chief architect, with responsibility for steering the general direction of the open-source Docker project.

"The new structure is designed to ensure the scaling of the project, as it exponentially grows in terms of contributors, code contribution and its technology partner ecosystem," Steve Francia, the new chief operator of the Docker project, told eWEEK. "The structure enables this by distributing some of the responsibilities currently held by the project creator (BDFL) to these new positions."

Michael Crosby, who has been active in the project since 2013, is moving from the role of maintainer to chief maintainer. Crosby's job, according to Francia, is to ensure that only quality contributions are merged into the project, as well as to mentor the other maintainers. Francia's role as chief operator is to handle the operations of the project, which includes releases, documentation, communications, growing and mentoring the contributor base.

All three new core positions are held by employees of Docker Inc., the lead commercial sponsor behind the Docker project. Francia said that the structural changes of the project are tied to the operations of the project and don't impact the existing governance model.

"The current responsibilities held by a single Docker employee are moving to three employees, each with one-third the responsibility," he explained. "The Docker Governance Advisory Board (DGAB) is intended to advise the Docker project leadership on issues of governance."

The DGAB is scheduled to meet twice a year and has 15 members. One membership seat is held by Docker creator Hykes, and two spots are reserved for the top core maintainers. There are up to 12 additional membership seats available, including four corporate seats, four individual or small business seats, and four user seats. Francia said the new Docker GitHub PR #9137 project improvements do not impact the DGAB.

"In general, the development and release process for the Docker project is working well," he said. "This new structure enables us to better focus on polishing the processes and making them even better."

Although Francia's view is that all is well in the Docker community, there have been voices of discord in recent months. In December 2014, CoreOS, which had been a leading supporter of Docker, took direct aim at perceived deficiencies in the Docker open-source project. CoreOS went on to launch its own container competitor known as Rocket.

The issue of governance in any open-source community is always a topic of concern. For example, Rackspace initially started the open-source OpenStack cloud project in 2010 and managed its development. With the support of the OpenStack community, the OpenStack Foundation was formed in 2012 to help grow and oversee the project.

In a September 2014 video interview, Hykes shared why he believes a third-party Docker Foundation is not needed. The new project improvements announced today will not impact his position.

"PR #9137 is expressly focused on scaling the project and its operations for the foreseeable future," Francia said.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and 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.