ContainerX bears some similarity to Rancher Labs‘ platform and to VMware‘s Photon project, in that it’s providing the infrastructure to go underneath Docker containers. Each aims to be the containers’ conduit to necessary services such as storage, DNS, or firewalls.
Such a conduit is vital if Linux containers are going to catch on in production deployments. That’s why ContainerX, Rancher, and probably others are hoping to make a splash at DockerCon Europe, which began Monday in Barcelona.
ContainerX claims to have a novel approach to infrastructure. The company’s software hooks containers to pools of resources, storage being an easily visualized example. In that sense, it’s doing for containers what VMware’s virtualization did for data center applications.
The first version of ContainerX’s platform is outfitted for Docker containers. It includes Swarm orchestration, libnetwork networking (which includes work from Socketplane, which Docker Inc. acquired), and ContainerX’s own storage module.
Future versions of the platform will allow for a wider variety of components, such as storage modules from software-defined storage vendors. Windows containers will make an appearance as well, in a version due to launch in the first quarter, says Kiran Kamity, ContainerX’s CEO and one of its founders.
Added to all that is Elastic Container Clusters, the feature that handles that VMware-like pooling of resources. In fact, it works just like the distributed resource scheduler that Pradeep Padala, another ContainerX founder and the startup’s CTO, worked on while at VMware.
One way to look at this is that ContainerX piles all hosts into one big cluster that connects to multiple resource pools. By contrast, a typical Docker implementation assigns hosts to specific clusters, each with its own resource pool.
One advantage to this pooling is that resources can be automatically reallocated among clusters. If a high-priority job needs more CPU power or more memory, ContainerX can automatically shift those resources away from lower-priority tasks.
This resource allocation is what separates ContainerX’s methods from Rancher Labs’. “Our end goals are sort of similar. The way we go about it is different,” CEO Kamity tells us.
Rancher Labs is “following more of the OpenStack route” by producing an open source platform and trying to flesh out an infrastructure stack, he says. ContainerX is taking a more directly commercial direction, aiming to help enterprises deploy containers in production and in large numbers – hence the push to bring ContainerX to the Windows container market.
Container startups grow up quickly, and ContainerX is no exception. The 10-person company unofficially started about a year ago but didn’t incorporate until the first quarter of 2015. Its venture funding, an undisclosed amount, comes from General Catalyst, Greylock Partners, and Caffeinated Capital.
ContainerX’s heritage is on the traditional infrastructure side. One of Kamity’s previous startups, RingCube, specialized in virtual desktop infrastructure and was acquired into Citrix. At RingCube, he worked on container-like structures in Windows long before Linux containers got hot. “All the work Microsoft is trying to do with Windows containers, we did with XP and Windows 7 back in the day,” he says.