Docker, the startup that has popularized open-source technology for packaging up applications into containers, is introducing new software-defined networking (SDN) capabilities as a result of its SocketPlane acquisition.

Docker is taking an ecosystem approach here. The new system accepts third-party plugins from SDN vendors like Cisco, Midokura, Nuage Networks, VMware, and Weaveworks.

The core Docker engine project is getting the native SDN and plugin enhancements. Docker’s Compose open-source project will allow users to determine which containers should be connected together for applications. And with Docker’s Swarm open-source project, “the multi-container application can be immediately networked across multiple hosts and can communicate seamlessly across a cluster of machines with a single command,” according to a statement.

(Learn more about the Docker version 1.7 release here.)

The additions and the support for plugins could help make Docker containers look more robust as an alternative to longstanding virtual machine technology. In the past few years, the rise of SDN has resulted in vendors acquiring startups and building new technology into existing offerings. Generally speaking, the appeal of SDN is centralized configuration and simpler network management.

SDN has impacted the OpenStack open-source cloud software as well as virtualization platforms like VMware’s, and now SDN is coming quick and fast to containers. Open-source Linux container software has been around since the 2000s, but Docker has made containers more accessible and increased their adoption. It’s surprising that this shift didn’t happen earlier.

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