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Cloud market bracing for container technology showdown

While Docker has been the container king in cloud, a new challenger has emerged. Expert David Linthicum analyzes the competition.

The container technology market is no longer a one-horse race, as new competition enters the fray. In one corner, you have Docker -- the container giant that set the already-heated cloud world on fire. In the other corner, you have CoreOS and its new container technology, Rocket. Prior to Rocket's release and thanks to Docker's momentum, most organizations focused on the latter. However, Rocket's debut proves the cloud container market will be both competitive and hype-driven.

The timing of Rocket's launch was interesting, as it came the same week as DockerCon -- Docker's conference in Amsterdam. At its conference, Docker unveiled new features to help developers craft container-based applications on the Docker platform. And it's safe to assume there's more to come from the well-funded and well-supported startup.

Container vendor moves and countermoves

Docker is clearly trying to evolve its container-centric approach into an application-development service. Additionally, Docker wants these services to be systemic to every cloud provider. Major cloud providers including Google, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft are certainly on board.

Unlike virtual machines, containers are lightweight and provide componentized environments for applications that can move between clouds without significant rework. Both cloud providers and enterprises are excited about containers' potential. But despite all the excitement surrounding containers, most enterprise implementations have been limited to proof-of-concepts.

Rocket is being pushed as a Docker runtime alternative. It's designed for server environments with the "most rigorous security and production requirements," according to CoreOS. Rocket is built around the App Container specification, which is an open design for portable containers. Rocket's 0.1.0 prototype is available on GitHub, but that version is more for gathering feedback than production.

In addition to Rocket's arrival, the launch of Docker Swarm is also shaking up the container market. Docker Swarm is a clustering service that allows distributed containers to receive proper resources. Swarm will have a set of clustering APIs to connect with other clustering services, such as Apache Mesos and Amazon's EC2 container service.

Swarm has a similar focus to Kubernetes -- Google's open source container manager. Kubernetes schedules any number of containers across a group of node instances. Recently adopted by Microsoft, Kubernetes is a common choice for enterprises embracing containers.

What to watch in 2015

As we enter 2015, there are three things to watch in the container market: Docker's progression, new startups and new technology.

With the competition heating up, Docker will rapidly progress with new services and larger cloud system integration. The focus will be on scalable, production-ready containers, which places clustering and management front and center.

Second, dozens of new container startups will emerge, as existing vendors also invest in the technology. Most will look to complement existing container offerings, providing management and hosting environments, as well as development tools. Each week, approximately one company looking to enter the container market comes on my radar.

Finally, expect new and existing companies to drive their own container technology. CoreOS claims it has a better mouse trap, which makes this space more interesting. But as competition heats up, the space becomes more confusing and difficult for enterprises to navigate.

About the author:
David "Dave" S. Linthicum is senior vice president of Cloud Technology Partners and an internationally recognized cloud industry expert and thought leader. He is the author or co-author of 13 books on computing, including the best-selling Enterprise Application Integration. Linthicum keynotes at many leading technology conferences on cloud computing, SOA, enterprise application integration and enterprise architecture.

His latest book is Cloud Computing and SOA Convergence in Your Enterprise: A Step-by-Step Guide. His industry experience includes tenures as chief technology officer and CEO of several successful software companies and upper-level management positions in Fortune 100 companies. In addition, he was an associate professor of computer science for eight years and continues to lecture at major technical colleges and universities, including the University of Virginia, Arizona State University and the University of Wisconsin.

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