How Docker Inc. Is Building a Foundation for a Profitable Business

VIDEO: Docker Inc. CEO Ben Golub discusses his company's commercial aspirations and how it is turning pilot projects into serious revenue.

Docker Inc., the lead commercial sponsor behind the open-source Docker container application virtualization technology, is not yet profitable, but it will be sooner rather than later, according to CEO Ben Golub.

In a video interview at the DockerCon EU conference in Barcelona, Spain, Golub details the commercial model behind Docker and why it's not a "unicorn," or a company with a billion dollar valuation that isn't likely to ever make money. Rather, Docker has a model that it is growing and it is building out a path toward a sustainable, profitable business for the long term.

The core Docker engine technology is all open-source and freely available without cost. Docker Inc. provides a number of commercial support services and has enterprise tools, which is where the company makes its money. To date, Docker Inc. has raised $150 million, with the most recent round being a Series D for $95 million in April.

"Customers today are buying Docker Trusted Registry with support," Golub explained.

Docker Trusted Registry was formally announced in September as an evolution of the Docker Hub Enterprise product. With Docker Trusted Registry, enterprises get the technology needed to deploy a repository for trusted and secured Docker application images. Golub explained that customers are buying Docker Trusted Registry and integrating it with enterprise continuous integration and deployment systems. He added that customers are now looking to move beyond that to the deployment phase, which is where the recently acquired Tutum deployment technology will help as well as the Docker Universal Control Plane, which was announced at DockerCon EU.

In terms of how customers come to Docker Inc., Golub said that it's largely in-bound calls. Customers first use Docker for pilot projects, and as they move those projects into production and as enterprise support is needed, they tend to call Docker Inc.

"We structured Docker's revenue model to be subscription-based [according to] the number of engines that people are deploying," Golub said. "In a lot of cases, customers that land with a pilot in Q2 or Q3 are now moving to full-scale production."

In terms of types of applications that enterprises are using with Docker, Golub said that most will start with new greenfield applications for pilot projects. But once enterprises get used to the Docker model, legacy applications also migrate over to Docker, he said.

"We have people that are deploying SAP and Oracle with Docker," Golub said. "We don't force people to choose any particular infrastructure; you can run Docker on VMware, Red Hat and Amazon, and I think part of what has made us successful is we haven't forced people to do a rip and replace."

Working with other vendors, including VMware, is also a key premise behind Docker Inc.'s business model. Golub said that lots of Docker Inc.'s customers have a significant investment in VMware.

Docker Inc.'s initial focus was all about adoption and building up a vibrant community, Golub said. As adoption has grown with pilot deployment, the opportunity for revenue growth is now becoming real.

"A lot of those pilots are now turning into serious revenue, which is nice," Golub said. "While we're certainly not profitable yet, I think what we're building is the foundation for a profitable business."

Watch the full video interview with Ben Golub below:

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.