Docker containers go commercial, gain Google support

Containerization startup Docker now offers enterprise support and received backing from yet another major cloud industry player this week.

Docker has found a way to make a not-so-new technology relevant in the cloud, and it has its sights set on the enterprise after declaring its containerization ready for prime time this week.

Docker Inc., a startup in San Francisco, now offers commercial-level software and support as it prepares to court the enterprise seriously. The company, founded 15 months ago, also divulged impressive figures on adoption and support from industry leaders, as well as a vote of confidence from Google.

Docker is arguably the fastest growing tech company since Ruby on Rails debuted in December 2005, several industry insiders said. Executives never expected Docker to take off, but they stumbled into a major demand for a product that keeps environments consistent through development, testing and shipping of an application, as well as through data centers, the cloud and on various user devices.

Outside Silicon Valley, most customers have not put Docker containers into full production, but the additional support, training and service may entice enterprises to embrace the technology.

"It's a step in the right direction," said David Linthicum, senior vice president at Cloud Technology Partners, a Boston-based consulting firm. "They've got an impressive level of interest from both the development community as well as the big powerhouse cloud providers."

Docker offers free public repositories to work in collaboration with other developers, and pricing starts at $7 per month for five private repositories and scales up from there. The company has not finalized the cost of its enterprise support, but plans pricing models for flat, on-call support as well as pricing based on the number of host instances on which the Docker engine is deployed.

The company plans to release its support pricing in the next 45 days.

Docker containers catch on

Docker managed to get a great amount of consumer awareness in a short time, according to Paul Burns, an analyst with Neovise, an IT research firm based in Fort Collins, Colorado.

It's setting up so Docker can really permeate the industry without [developers or operations staff] having to do a lot of work.

Paul Burns, analyst, Neovise

"There was a problem that was waiting for the solution," Burns said. "It's really difficult, especially when you're taking applications through the whole lifecycle, to get them to work on different systems consistently."

Many of the major cloud vendors and Linux distributions support Docker, and early adoption has taken off. The company claims the open source software has been downloaded more than 2.75 million times, and there are more than 450 contributors -- 95% of whom don't work for Docker -- and 14,000 "Dockerized" applications. Docker has partnerships with Amazon Web Services, Red Hat, Google, Canonical, IBM, OpenStack, Rackspace and Cloud Foundry.

All that support will translate to Docker being a standard part of a provider's distribution and cloud vendor imaging, Burns said.

"It's setting up so Docker can really permeate the industry without [developers or operations staff] having to do a lot of work," Burns said.

Docker is Linux OS-agnostic. Mac and Windows users will also be able to run Docker, but will have to install a small Linux kernel on their existing infrastructure.

Google backs Docker

The latest industry giant to voice its Docker support is Google.

The company launched several initiatives tied to Docker this week, including support for its images in Google App Engine and introduced an open source container manager called Kubernetes.

 "We look at Docker as being a very strong contributor to the open source community, and we're collaborating to make sure the Docker image becomes the best way to package up an application in an affordable way," said Craig McLuckie, a product manager for Google who works with Docker.

Google has long relied on containers to package and run its products, and each week it launches more than 2 billion container instances. And while Google won't replace any of its containers with Docker's, the company says it will share its knowledge to help support the technology.

The cloud plays a critical role in Docker's rapid rate of adoption, as IT organizations embrace the speed and scalability but find greater need for portability of applications. Moving forward, executives also see a role in a cloud landscape they believe will be heterogeneous, with enterprises utilizing different cloud vendors to meet different needs.

Looking beyond the Docker hype

While there has been a wave of interest in Docker, hype doesn't always translate to continued momentum, Burns said.

"OpenStack hasn't necessarily fully delivered on all that attention and hype," Burns said. "That's something to worry about any time this happens."

Governance and security are still the missing pieces, as there is yet to be proof of high-end, high-performance container systems used by enterprises, Linthicum said. He sees enterprises testing the product for a year or two before fully implementing it into their IT strategy.

"We would be lying to ourselves if we thought the 1.0 version of technology is going to go out there without any errors," Linthicum said.

But because there is nothing new or untested from an architectural perspective, and because of the industry weight behind it, analysts say they don't see any major stumbling blocks for Docker.

Trevor Jones is the news writer for SearchCloudComputing. You can reach him at tjones@techtarget.com.

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