451 Research: Docker backs popular containerization with production-ready version, commercial support

InsightaaS perspective: 451 Research is one of the world’s leading sources of insight into cutting edge technologies, including areas that are important to InsightaaS and our principals, such as cloud, collaboration, analytics, and sustainable IT. As regular visitors to this site are aware, InsightaaS.com works with 451 Research to bring occasional thought leadership pieces to our readers.

Today's report is an excellent example of why and how 451 matters to its clients, and the industry as a whole. Docker has been prominent in IT circles lately; just a week ago, leading IT journalist Charlie Babcock (Information Week) noted that "Docker containers, backed by an unlikely group of allies, are suddenly the talk of the cloud community." Babcock went on to wonder what this means to existing IT investment strategies.

This report by 451 Research senior analyst Jay Lyman helps to illuminate Docker — what the company is, how it is positioned, what it does/can do (and for whom), and where its products are applied. It closes with a SWOT analysis that prospective customers and developers can use to calibrate their own positions.

By Jay Lyman of 451 Research

Jay Lyman, senior analyst, 451 Research
Jay Lyman, senior analyst, 451 Research

Docker, the company, is doing its best to keep up with Docker, the containerization technology — which is finding traction among enterprise organizations seeking to improve the way they create, package, deploy and manage applications.

At its first event, Docker Con in San Francisco, the company announced some major milestones: a Docker 1.0 version deemed production-ready, commercial support in the form of hosted services and Docker Hub, and a registry of more than 14,000 'Dockerized' applications that are available to all users as building blocks and blueprints for their own applications. Docker is also working with key partners, including Red Hat and Amazon, to keep the community and business around Docker as vibrant as the amount of buzz it gets.

Context

Docker made several announcements at its inaugural DockerCon this week, including a production-ready version Docker 1.0 and commercial support, which includes the Docker Hub registry of applications already created with Docker that can be used to build other applications. The conference, which drew more than 600 people and had a large waiting list, marks the growth of the PaaS provider that has turned Docker vendor.

Docker reports that 200 customers, including large enterprises in retail, healthcare and other key verticals, are in its pipeline for commercial support. The company, which has doubled employees to 42 since starting the year with 21, also touts the 450 contributors to the Docker project. Docker has raised a total of $25m in venture capital, with investment from AME Cloud Ventures, Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Insight Venture Partners, Trinity Ventures and Y Combinator, as well as individual investors including Ash Patel and Jerry Yang.

In 2013, Docker transitioned from public PaaS and its former name dotCloud, as it began focusing primarily on the Docker technology and community. The company says it expects to begin building up its revenue by the second half of 2014.

Products

Having invested in and grown the Docker technology and community, Docker is now rolling out the first version of the application packaging and shipping software officially approved for production use, Docker 1.0. The company says that while plenty of users have been using Docker in production, Docker 1.0 marks the first time it recommends and backs up production use, including quality, stability, documentation and available training.

Docker says that many of its larger enterprise customers, and others that run at massive scale, are anxious to have a certified, supported version of Docker. Much of the production-ready version centers on improvements in quality bugs, issues with documentation and other smoothing around the edges, according to Docker.

Docker also unveiled Docker Hub, a registry of more than 14,000 Docker applications that can be used as building blocks for other applications. Among the most popular of these Docker Hub applications are some of the basic components of today's Web, mobile and enterprise applications, including CentOS and Ubuntu Linux, MySQL database, NoSQL databases such as MongoDB and Redis, Web servers such as Nginx and others such as WordPress.

Docker Hub consists of the public registry of 14,000 applications, but customers may also have on-site, private registries, and a growing category of Docker Hub applications will be curated content that is certified by Docker for compatibility, security and other factors. Docker is also providing Docker Hub hosted services for collaboration and workflow.

Technology

Docker reports that while many Docker applications are Web and mobile applications, it is starting to see more complex, multi-tiered applications in Docker containers among its customers, including SAP applications and Oracle databases. In step with Docker's pivot away from public PaaS and toward private PaaS for enterprise customers, there is growing interest in private and hybrid cloud strategy and use, according to survey research from ChangeWave (a division of 451 Research).

Docker says its technology is useful to any organization that is pushing changes constantly, which is what we see in agile IT, and as devops implementations join developers and IT operations teams for greater speed, efficiency, quality and responsiveness. Docker allows teams to simply verify an application on a developer laptop, and push the Docker container to automated testing and then through to production.

Our conversations with vendors and users also highlights that Docker containers provide some delineation of responsibility among developers and IT operations teams, whereby issues inside the container go to developers, and issues outside the container fall to IT operations people.

Partners

Docker says its third-party projects and partnerships include operating systems, PaaS, continuous integration platforms, hosting services and more. To help provide support, Docker is working with a network of 10 systems integrators that will help the company reach other geographies and markets, including midsized organizations.

Docker also has a number of key partnerships with large vendors, although it says commercial and revenue-sharing relationships are just beginning to take shape. Among the company's key partners are Atlassian, Google, IBM and Rackspace, as well as Red Hat, which integrates and supports Docker in its latest RHEL 7 Linux and its OpenShift PaaS.

Docker reports its software, designed to run the same on bare metal, VMs or clouds, is used on a mix of infrastructures including Red Hat environments, VMware environments, Rackspace, Amazon, Softlayer, Canonical's Ubuntu and OpenStack.

Competition

Docker is often viewed as a way to replace VMs to move applications among different infrastructure, so the company's competition comes primarily from other virtualization providers such as VMware, Citrix and Microsoft. Devops and continuous delivery vendors also represent competition, including some that support Docker open source technology. This includes Automic, BitRock, CliQr Technologies, Cloudmunch, CloudVelocity, DTO Solutions, ElasticBox, Electric Cloud, fluid Operations, IBM's UrbanCode, OutSystems, Plutora, QualiSystems, Ravello Systems, Skytap, Stackify, UShareSoft, XebiaLabs and ZeroTurnaround.

Among developers, other approaches — including non-Docker use of Linux virtualization, and Dogestry (an alternative registry for Go and other programming languages) — are Docker alternatives. Use of the open source Docker software without paid support also represents some degree of competitive pressure, although it grows the pool of potential paying users.

SWOT Analysis

Strengths

Weaknesses

Docker continues to emerge as a de facto standard for packaging applications that are distributed over various infrastructure, particularly the cloud. The open source technology is widely used without commercial support or revenue-sharing from other vendors that leverage Docker.

Opportunities

Threats

Docker's production-ready version means the company is ready to extend its technology beyond Web and mobile applications to large enterprise uses. Continued use of Docker without paid support, or by other vendors (including potential rivals) without revenue sharing, make monetization more of a challenge.

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