Docker's Orchard acquisition part of aggressive roadmap

Docker has acquired London-based Orchard Laboratories as the much-hyped startup sets its sights on the enterprise market with improved orchestration of complex applications. The company says it has an 'aggressive roadmap' for future growth.

Citing an "aggressive roadmap" for continued growth and an eye toward the enterprise market, Docker made its first acquisition this week since rebranding last fall.

The San Francisco start-up purchased London-based Orchard Laboratories, Ltd., a two-person company and early contributor to the Docker open-source project, to improve its multi-container orchestration and composition. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Docker has received a tremendous amount of attention and support over the past year. In June, it began selling a 1.0 commercial version of the product and now wants to bolster its offerings and leverage its hosted services as users look to build more complex applications, according to Ben Golub, Docker CEO.

"Those are areas that we really wanted to include in our capabilities," Golub said.

Fig, Orchard's orchestration tool, allows developers to build and manage multi-container Docker applications by automating some of the coordination between containers, network connections and storage dependencies.

Developers will be a big part of the Docker ecosystem, and this move shows the company's focus on enabling them to use the technology, according to Paul Burns, an analyst with Neovise, LLC, in Fort Collins, Colorado.

Docker still has to work on security and scalability, but the company is on its way to working with more complex enterprise applications and more lucrative enterprise customers.
Jay Lymananalyst, 451 Research

"Docker is not only getting some technology but a team of people that's really focused on building tools that enable developers to use Docker even better," Burns said.

Docker containers are mostly used for Web and mobile applications, but this is another sign of the company's growth and desire to tap into the enterprise market, according to Jay Lyman, an analyst with New York-based 451 Research, LLC.

"They're working to make Docker better at scale and better at more complex, multi-tier, multi-container level," Lyman said.

With the big push into DevOps and the potential risks that come with breaking down inter-department barriers, this acquisition addresses the delineation of duties required to manage multi-container enterprise applications, Lyman said.

Docker still has to improve security and scalability, but the company is working toward handling more complex enterprise applications and gaining more lucrative customers, he added.

Like other open-source backers, Docker will look to rally further support around the technology to monetize its investment through cloud subscriptions or professional services.

"Since they help architect and design all this, what they're going to want to do is build capabilities and solutions on top of the open-source [platform] so they can sell some software and services beyond that," Burns said.

The ground swell of support for the company probably has the venture capital team behind Docker excited and willing to make additional investments, Burns said.

"It's still early days for them," Burns said. "It's not the first step, but it's an important step [toward] building a huge community quickly, so now it seems like they’re ramping up and trying to build their portfolio."

This is the first acquisition for Docker since transitioning from its previous iteration last fall as dotCloud, a platform as a service company.

"We have a very aggressive roadmap," Golub said. "We're hiring great people and also looking at self-motivated teams to help accelerate our growth."

The 50-employee company is not on a shopping spree, but will consider working with active contributors to the Docker community, Golub said. That growth includes more hosted services in the areas of security, providence, scheduling and monitoring.

"These are all areas where we are very open to building, buying or partnering," Golub said.

This acquisition complements the Kubernetes partnership between some of the biggest cloud providers, and other efforts -- fleet and libswarm among them -- to establish a standard open-source interface to deploy and manage Docker containers.

There could be another small acquisition, but Docker may also be putting itself in position to be acquired, Lyman said. He cited Red Hat, another open-source proponent that featured Docker prominently in its RHEL 7 release and uses similar technology in its OpenShift platform as a service product.

Red Hat made a number of acquisitions this year, and Golub has a history with Red Hat, serving as CEO of storage software company Gluster when it sold to Red Hat in 2011.

"They've been willing to open the wallet recently and I think Docker would be a prime candidate for them since it already fits with some of their technology and it's a pretty hot name right now," Lyman said.

Ben Firshman and Aanand Prasad, co-founders of Orchard, will remain in London and maintain Fig. Their continued presence will help the company's goal of expanding its reach into Europe, according to Golub, who said there has been "extreme interest" from financial institutions and governments there.

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

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