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How Docker built a whale from a single container

News from Dockercon Europe highlights expanding complexity of the Docker infrastructure.

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Credit: iStockphoto

Few tech companies are as hot right now as Docker. It seems everyone has gone goo-goo over containers. The funny thing is the idea of Linux containers is not really new, nor was Docker the first to use them. But there is no doubt that, true to its logo, Docker has built a whale from a container.

This past week, the company held its first Dockercon in Europe. From what I have heard, it was a standing-room-only crowd and the buzz was pretty loud. Docker put out three different releases on news at Dockercon. 

I will look at each of them, but taken together, the message is clear – Docker has become much more than a container. It is now about running dozens, if not hundreds or even thousands, of Docker containers at once, across a multi-home, multi-platform environment. How do you interact with these containers with third-party tools and components? Orchestrating multiple Docker containers and the apps contained in them is now possible.

A telling piece of news at Dockercon was the announcement of the Docker/IBM partnership. You want to show you have gone enterprise and big time, there is no better way of showing it than saying you work with Big Blue. I had heard rumors of IBM working on Docker and with Docker for months. It now looks like IBM will offer IBM containers based on Docker as part of its Blue Mix PaaS/DevOps platform. IBM containers will be available both on-premises and in the IBM SoftLayer Cloud.

The next piece of news this past week dealt with Docker orchestration. By using open APIs, it is possible to interact with Docker containers and the apps they contain across homogenous environments. In fact, Brian Cantrill, CTO of Joyent, blogged that these APIs are really Docker’s secret sauce, and were actually what attracted him to Docker in the first place. The orchestration piece is broken into three separate products: Docker Machine, Docker Swarm, and Docker Composer.

Docker also announced a commercial product called Docker Hub Enterprise. This is based on the earlier Docker Hub technology the company announced last summer. It allows enterprises to host their own Docker repositories in-house. For security- and compliance-conscious organizations, this should let them join in the Docker fun as well.

All of this massive infrastructure improvement to support a little Linux container. Well, not everyone is happy with the path Docker is taking. Some think Docker has gotten away from it roots, which is that it is all about the container. The folks at CoreOS, a popular Linux distro used in the cloud, announced their own competing technology this week called Rocket.

More than just announcing a competing product, CoreOS really threw down the gauntlet, calling Docker out for its shortcomings for all to see. This was especially surprising given that the CoreOS co-founder and CTO is on the Docker governance board (for now, anyway).

Will Rocket succeed in offering a viable alternative to Docker, or will it be a Captain Ahab, chasing a whale that can’t be beat? Time will tell. But Docker’s momentum can’t be denied.

The real question for me is whether all of this will translate into revenue for Docker. The company has raised a lot of venture money, as well as the expectations for its business. Will the revenue match the buzz? That is the question.

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