At its user conference in Amsterdam today, the executives of hot startup Docker are pulling the covers off new features to maintain and run applications packaged up in the container technology Docker released in an open-source license last year.

Docker containers are an alternative or a supplement to widely used virtualization technology, which can run applications inside of virtual machines on a single physical server. Unlike virtual machines, Docker containers each avoid running their own guest operating systems and can enjoy efficiency gains over virtual machines as a result.

Now, less than three months after announcing a new $40 million funding round, Docker is revealing tools that companies can use — and pay for — to handle serious applications encapsulated in Docker containers. And first up is Docker Hub Enterprise, a new enterprise-friendly storehouse for keeping Docker-style applications.

“As those [Docker-based] applications become true business differentiators, [businesses] need to have [those apps] behind their firewall, aligned with workflows that have to be set up in a place with security and governance, to make sure that all I’s are dotted and T’s are crossed in that regard in the application life cycle,” David Messina, Docker’s vice president of enterprise marketing, told VentureBeat in an interview.

Consider it Docker’s next step on the path to becoming a formidable software company, not just a startup whose open-source project a few developers have tried out.

Docker Hub Enterprise will become available in an early-access program in February. It comes several months after Docker came out with a hosted service for privately storing applications packaged up in Docker containers.

Also coming next year is a new set of orchestration features to help admins running Docker applications:

  • Docker Machine will ease the process of deploying containers on various infrastructures with the Docker Engine runtime software. “It’s really about developer experience and accelerating portability — that part of the story,” Messina said.
  • Docker Swarm will provide cluster-management and container-scheduling capabilities to run Docker containers on multiple servers. It also looks out for issues with underlying server infrastructure and can move containers to different servers when necessary.
  • Docker Compose lets developers declare in a configuration file all the elements — inside containers — that an application should consist of. “This is all about accelerating the creation of distributed applications,” Messina said.

Also today, Docker and IBM issued a joint statement that included the announcement of the beta release of the IBM Containers service for running containerized applications on the IBM public cloud. Cloud providers like Joyent and Amazon Web Services have announced similar services in recent weeks.

Under its new strategic partnership with Docker, IBM will also start selling the Docker Hub Enterprise alongside other products, according to a statement.

The news from Docker comes a few days after CoreOS announced new App Container technology that amounts to an alternative to Docker containers, as well as a new runtime for the new App Containers. Developers and cloud industry observers have since gone back and forth discussing the new technologies ahead of the Docker conference this week.

The comments have not always been positive, particularly among some Docker executives. But if anything, all the banter suggests that a container market is forming. Today’s announcements suggest that Docker wants to be the leader of that market.


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