As Docker containers graduate to serious production networks, as opposed to being used by free-wheeling developer teams on test networks, enterprises have begun demanding production-grade management tools. Docker Inc. itself acknowledged this with its partnership announcements in December.
Rancher is an open source container management platform — a command console for handling varied container deployments. It’s designed to be turnkey, with setup taking minutes; containers are placed and managed through a simple graphical interface.
One difference between version 1.0 and the original Rancher releases is the support for multiple orchestration tools. Rancher Labs developed its own, called Cattle, but it added support for Docker Inc.’s Swarm in 2015 and announced the pending support of Google’s Kubernetes a few weeks ago.
The support of multiple container environments could help Rancher stand out against Tectonic and DCOS, container platforms from ContainerX and Mesosphere, respectively. “The difference is that those companies, they really believe in one scheduler,” says Shannon Williams, a Rancher Labs founder.
Support for multiple container types, such as rkt from CoreOS, might take longer to emerge, because Rancher Labs hasn’t felt much pull to support them. “The big thing we’re trying to figure out right now is whether there’s any demand,” Williams says.
Rancher got its start in September 2014, when the startup’s founders posted an alpha version of their code. For promotion, they set up a modest booth at the Amazon Re:Invent conference that November.
“We didn’t do any press. We got a little booth at Re:Invent, and before we knew it, our alpha got 150 or 200 participants,” Williams says. The nine-month beta test had 2,500 companies participating.
The interest came from the fact that Rancher offered “all these concepts that existed in cloud” but hadn’t been available for containers, he says. Rancher can set up load balancing and DNS service for containers, for example.