Docker at 4: The Container Revolution Continues

NEWS ANALYSIS: Four years ago, few had heard about Docker. Now it's one of the leading technologies helping to enable DevOps and microservices deployments around the world.

Docker containers

The open-source Docker container project held events around the globe last week as it celebrated its fourth birthday. Docker is more popular than ever as the standard bearer for the container microservices DevOps movement, though Docker Inc. as a company now faces more challenges than ever before as well.

Three years ago, I wrote about the first anniversary of Docker, predicting significant growth in 2014. As it turned out, I was right about the growth, though I was wrong about Docker Inc. Back in 2014, I had predicted that Docker Inc. would likely be acquired, but to date that hasn't happened—though there has been no shortage of speculation over the last three years.

Docker Inc. and the open-source container ecosystem that Docker helped create have evolved significantly since 2014, and over the course of the project's four-year existence. This past year has arguably been the most significant yet for Docker Inc., both as a business and an open-source project.

On the business front, Docker Inc. now has more partnerships and integrations than ever before. The very first time I heard of Docker was in September 2013, when I first met Docker founder Solomon Hykes at the Linuxcon New Orleans event. At the time, few had heard of the nascent Docker technology, but Red Hat's Fedora Linux community was already working to support it.

Now in 2017, Docker Inc. has go-to-market and sales partnerships with the biggest companies in IT, including Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) as part of a deal first announced in June 2016 that bundles Docker with all shipping HPE servers. Docker also has a robust partnership with Microsoft that was announced in September 2016 and a partnership with Cisco announced in March 2017. Docker had previously announced a partnership with IBM back in December 2014.

The scope of Docker's commercial aspiration has also been expanding. While originally Docker just provided support for its open-source tools, the company now has a robust Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) offering that includes multiple types of data center capabilities. Docker EE was formally announced earlier this month as a new enterprise-supported product that includes an ecosystem of certified applications and platforms. Docker EE in many respects is the culmination of four years of growth by Docker toward a stable, fully supported enterprise model for Docker Inc.'s commercial products.

One core area where Docker expanded significantly in the last year is with orchestration and Docker Swarm, a technology first announced in December 2014. In June 2016, the so-called Swarm-mode was first directly integrated into the Docker Engine with the Docker 1.12 release, providing a new approach for container orchestration.

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner

Sean Michael Kerner is an Internet consultant, strategist, and contributor to several leading IT business web sites.