It’s been quite a big year for Docker, perhaps the the hottest enterprise tech startup around.
“I think Docker has gone really quickly from being a great idea to a great technology, and from great technology to a great ecosystem and, you know, from being a great ecosystem to really being a great movement,” as Docker chief executive Ben Golub put it in an interview with VentureBeat this week.
But maybe you can’t remember everything that’s happened with it this year. Or maybe you’ve never heard about Docker until you started reading this article. Either way, you’re in luck. Read on for a handy roundup of the biggest Docker stories of 2014 — and a little background on the Docker technology that got all this started in the first place.
One of the most widely used operating systems for servers in corporate data centers, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, shipped with support for Linux containers such as Docker in June. The Linux heavyweight had perceived that its customers might be interested in trying out the technology.
First, in June, Google shared its Kubernetes container-management tool with the world under an open-source license. Then, in July, some major software companies, including IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, said they would back Kubernetes. Docker itself said it would support Kubernetes, as did startups CoreOS, Mesosphere, and SaltStack. Clearly, a standard was emerging, and important vendors were expressing interest in agreeing on it.
Docker liked how Orchard had built a solid cloud service for running applications in Docker containers. But arguably the more important win in the acquisition, announced in July, was the Docker-based Fig open-source project that the Orchard team was behind. Almost entirely written in Python, Fig can help developers more easily generate environments for building applications. And indeed Fig was “the progenitor” of a recently announced Docker service called Docker Compose, Golub said this week.
Docker said in August that CloudControl, a Berlin-based company that runs a PaaS for the European market, had bought dotCloud, which served as the starting point for Docker the company and Docker the technology. From that point, Docker the company could focus on its containers and tools for using them.
At its VMworld user conference in San Francisco in August, VMware, the company that became a major software provider for enterprises by focusing originally on hypervisor software for running virtual machines, said it would support Docker’s technology, despite the fact that Docker containers can serve as an alternative to virtual machines. VMware chief executive Pat Gelsinger said onstage that it’s working with Docker to make Docker’s containers “enterprise ready.” Golub wants lots of enterprises to use Docker containers, so even though the statement might have come off as a barb against Golub’s company, he went along with it.
Just nine months after announcing a $15 million funding round, Docker in September came through with still another round, and its valuation had swiftly multiplied by four. And Docker didn’t even need the money. “I think you always want to raise money before you need it,” Golub explained at the time. If anything, the money has helped Docker focus on building technology that it can focus on selling in the coming year or so.
In October Microsoft said it’s working with Docker to make containers work in the next version of Windows Server, Microsoft’s server operating system. This is interesting because Docker containers are based on Linux code, ultimately, and the Linux operating system has become common for servers not running Windows. But Microsoft has increasingly sought to release its technology under open-source licenses. Its effort to open-source the .NET framework is a prime example, and the Docker integration in Windows Server aligns with that spirit as well.
In November, Google came out with a service for running applications in Docker containers on its burgeoning public cloud. Developers can take application components from the Docker Hub and start using them right on the Google Cloud Platform. Google is perceived as one of the top three cloud-infrastructure providers, and Google intends to be perceived as the best company to be entrusted with running applications in Docker containers.
Amazon Web Services, the leading infrastructure-as-a-service cloud provider, was not to be outdone by Google in November. At its re:Invent conference in Las Vegas, Amazon cloud executives announced a preview for its own service for managing containers on its cloud. Amazon pretty much had to do this, lest developers wishing to build new applications Docker style considered looking elsewhere because Amazon didn’t until that point have an official Docker-compatible container service for scheduling the deployment of containers on EC2 instances, or slices of physical servers.
This month, Docker went beyond providing software for managing software in containers. It came out with the kind of thing big companies will want if they want to run their most precious technological tools in containers. CoreOS, a San Francisco startup that sells an operating system that deploys applications in containers, upstaged Docker in a sense by announcing a new container format and a runtime to go along with it — right before the Docker team hopped on a plane to fly to Amsterdam, where it would announce its big news at a user conference. Golub and Docker founder Solomon Hykes responded quickly and arguably too emotionally. “In retrospect, what we should do is say competition is a good thing and a reflection of success,” Golub said. The release of the new container alternative does signal that containers as a general approach will be going places, and maybe that’s the larger point. Which is probably good for Docker anyway.
And Docker could use the extra attention. It has a bunch of things to accomplish next year — like further expanding the community of open-source users and hardening the technology for extensive consumption at pretty much any big company.
“And as a company, of course, you know, we will be also focusing on revenue and commercial products,” Golub said. “So, a lot.”