Docker has arrived.
That, at least, was the carefully crafted message in the air at the second annual DockerCon convention this week in San Francisco. The event’s sold-out crowd of 2,000 — with a waiting list of more than 500 — was privy to a battery of packed talks and demos that projected a sense of soaring interest in Docker, the open source toolkit for automating the deployment of applications inside of software containers.
It’s an approach that threatens to overtake virtual machines (VMs) as the dominant mode of server virtualization. Though Linux Containers have been around for nearly a decade, for years they received little interest outside of Google, which in 2006 quietly began working on modifications to the Linux kernel that enable containerized applications to share server resources — an approach that proponents say speeds the production cycle and dramatically improves IT infrastructure efficiency versus VMs.
Outside of Google, developers found Linux Containers cumbersome and impractical in the absence of a cluster management program like Google’s internal “Borg” program, details of which were first made public in April. Docker Inc. was founded in 2010 to tackle that challenge, and its launch two years ago of the eponymous open source Docker toolkit launched a frenzy of semi-competitive cluster management and automation initiatives. Those include open source projects Mesos and Kubernetes, as well as CoreOS Inc. — the startup that is perhaps Docker Inc.’s most direct competitor.
That contest has yet to be settled, but the battlefield is tilting toward Docker. Many of the attendees at DockerCon this year were enterprise infrastructure and operations teams who see their developer counterparts racing toward Docker.
Docker Inc., which has a $150 million VC war chest, has yet to turn a profit, sources at the company say. That made it all the more important for the company to project an air of inevitability at DockerCon, and the stagecraft largely succeeded. Here were the key highlights:
CoreOS CEO Buries the Hatchet
On Monday, Docker Inc. announced that it would contribute 5 percent of its code base to kick off the Open Container Project, a new group under the Linux Foundation that aims to set industry standards around container runtime and image format.
It’s a move that could seal Docker’s dominance in the format wars — making the surprise appearance of CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi at the announcement, where he shook hands with Docker CTO and founder Solomon Hykes, appear to be a shocking coup for both Docker the software and Docker the company.
DockerCon attendees widely considered the handshake a gesture of concession to the Docker format from CoreOS, which has signed on to the Open Container Project. Though past drama between CoreOS and Docker may have been a bit overblown, the on-stage détente was a clear signal that Docker will be setting the agenda on container format.
“Standards wars are an ugly, terrible thing,” Hykes said when he unveiled the new container standards group. “They’re both terrible and boring at the same time, if it’s possible.”
“I think today it’s pretty clear that’s not going to happen.”
The Ecosystem Expands
If Docker Inc.’s ecosystem approach wasn’t clear before, it is now. The company released a new software-defined networking capability called Docker Network, which supports third-party plugins from the likes of Cisco, VMware, and Nuage Networks.
If It’s Good Enough For the Government…
Docker Inc.’s huge customer announcement this week was a deal with the General Services Administration, a U.S. federal procurement agency that controls an annual spend of over $60 billion dollars.
The GSA is the first customer for Docker Trusted Registry, Docker Inc.’s new enterprise product for storing, managing, and securing container images. The agency will use the service as it migrates its own billing and contract management applications to containers — with the additional federal contract opportunities for Docker Inc. unspoken but crystal clear.
As well, IBM has signed on as a channel seller for Docker Trusted Registry, opening up a massive private-sector opportunity for Docker Inc. through IBM’s Bluemix developer platform. Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services will also offer the product through their public clouds.
“Enterprises trust IBM,” as IBM Vice President of Cloud Architecture and Technology Angel Diaz put it bluntly in an an interview with SDxCentral. “They are interested in containers — they want to run on bare metal, and they want to be able to easily move into the public cloud.”
The momentum around Docker is similar to — if not greater than — that of the early days of OpenStack, says Diaz. Although a recent survey from 451 Research found that only 6 percent of enterprise respondents reported using containers in production environments, there is plenty of evidence that a wave of Dockerized applications is rolling toward production.
“I mean, look at how many thousands of developers showed up” at DockerCon, says Diaz. “And remember this is open source data center software we’re talking about. Who would have guessed?”