Docker and Kubernetes are currently viewed as the one-two punch for container vendors selecting application and orchestration platforms, but vendors are keeping an open mind as the container ecosystem continues to mature.
Containers are still a somewhat new phenomenon for most enterprises. But analysts have noted the those enterprises with at least some component standardization are helping to boost the market. At the moment, Docker and Kubernetes have garnered the most trust.
“Customer infrastructure investments in technologies based upon Docker and Kubernetes look like a relatively safe choice at this stage,” Cowen and Company noted in a recent report. “We believe the market understands this, which gives us further confidence that we are reasonably close to an inflection point with regards to adoption.”
Shannon Williams, co-founder and VP of sales at Rancher Labs, said going with the Docker and Kubernetes combination as the basis for its offerings has allowed the company to take advantage of development scale, easing their deployments.
“Our initial goal was to build a platform that made it easy to deploy applications regardless of the underlying infrastructure platform,” Williams said. “Docker solves how do you package code, and Kubernetes on how to make it simple.”
Rancher recently garnered headlines by scoring a deal with Japanese high-tech and telecommunications giant NTT Group.
The deal calls for Rancher to provide container services to enterprise customers in Japan. The details include Rancher supporting the deployment of multiple Docker clusters; scaling and monitoring of containers and hosts; and configuration and deployment of infrastructure services.
Williams said the NTT deal was a big win for the company as telecom operators have proven to be deployment challenges.
“Every telco is a huge win in my opinion,” Williams said. “It’s just such a fundamental technology challenge. They are so tightly engrained with their customer base that it opens up more channels for us.”
Rancher has raised more than $30 million in funding since its founding in late 2014. Its leadership team previously ran Cloud.com and was the creator of CloudStack.
Keeping Options Open
Williams explained that when the firm first started out, the selection process in terms of container applications and orchestration platforms was not as clear as it is today.
“Two years ago it looked like it might have been Mesos or Swarm, but Kubernetes really has progressed,” Williams said in terms of container orchestration platforms. “People initially want features, but eventually they want more stability and support. That’s why Kubernetes has surpassed Swam and to a lesser extent Mesos.”
Vendors picking the Docker/Kubernetes combination are also dealing with crafting a business model that can take advantage of the open source model.
“Open source is not that new anymore and there are a lot of successes out there,” Williams said. “What is key is customers need to value the platform and feel that what we are offering is important. Once you can get them to see the importance of what you are offering, you can build a business case with them.”
For Rancher, like many platform-as-a-service (PaaS) providers, it’s about selling an enterprise-grade version of support. Williams said it’s a hard business to sell a support system, but that’s where companies can carve out their niche.
Beyond the business challenges, Williams said Rancher is continuing to monitor potential new platform avenues that could alter the competitive landscape. This includes ongoing work in the open source community around new container systems.
“Today it’s Docker, but with everything going on with containerd, the code could be the same Docker code, but it could also be something different,” Williams explained.
Containerd is the core container runtime functionality — the bare-bones software — needed to create a Docker container. The platform earlier this year was adopted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Technical Oversight Committee as an official project to be run by the open source organization.
The same uncertainty is the case for Kubernetes.
According to a survey conducted as part of a recent SDxCentral report on container and cloud orchestration, 64 percent of respondents said they were using Kubernetes; 36 percent said they were using Swarm; and 18 percent said they were using Mesos.
However, analysts continue to caution the market on settling on a standard at this point.
“Based on vendor backing, community, and momentum, it appears Kubernetes is in the lead, but we would reiterate the market continues to use a variety of container management and orchestration software, and we don’t yet see Kubernetes as a de facto standard the way Docker was for containers,” said 451 Research.