Not even Rocket powered harpoons can rain on our parade!

Screen Shot 2014-12-05 at 15.19.18With DockerCon Europe 2014 taking place this week, we were expecting some news from this community – and indeed the organisers didn’t disappoint, with the announcement of the first commercial offering around the technology, as well as a set of Docker orchestration tools making the headlines. Unfortunately, former allies CoreOS also choose this week to stick a harpoon in the side of the Linux whale, announcing on Monday that it would be launching a rival technology.

More on that later though – let’s start with a look at what’s new with the original container offering du jour.

As Docker has matured, it’s naturally seeking to expand its base out of startups and trendy types into the enterprise sweet spot – and it hopes to do this with the company’s first paid-for offering: Docker Hub Enterprise (DHE). The software is a “turn-key” commercial version of the Docker Hub which promises to throw workflow capabilities to devs and sysadmins managing dynamic lifecycles over the enterprise firewall.  A number of industry heavyweights are already onboard, with IBM, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft confirming that in the future DHE will come bundled in their offerings.

Whilst it’s courting new clients, Docker hasn’t forgotten the needs of its existing users. In response to demand for services to address the demands of their distributed apps “journey”, developers can now make use of Docker Machine, Docker Swarm, and Docker Compose, which are intended  to address different stages of the app lifecycle by coordinating, scheduling, and distributing system resources for app development and automation.

The trifecta of offerings has been designed on “batteries included, but removable” basis, meaning that with the help of Docker’s orchestration APIs, users can pick and mix implementations from ecosystem partners according to use case. They are currently available on alpha release basis, and are expected to go GA around Q2 2015.

All three have been in development for some time now, and are part of an overreaching effort for Docker to evolve into a service for devs working across diverse cloud environments by acting as a container-based-application-development-hub.

Unfortunately, there’s a kicker to all of this. This Monday, CoreOS slammed open the metaphorical saloon doors and fired out Rocket: a prototype rival to the container tech that it claims will fix what it views as ‘terminal’ issues with Docker. CoreOS’ key problem with Docker is that, swept away in the whirlwind of its own momentum, Docker has forsaken the principle of being a  “simple composable building block” to become an “unwieldy” juggernaut of a platform.

CoreOS want something closer to Docker’s original manifesto for what a standard container should be – with a few tweaks and improvements. Although the software is still in prototype, worryingly for Docker, its launch has turned quite a few heads. With Docker pushing out a sackful of extras on top of the original product this week, CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi’s jibes may be a little close to the bone. On top of this, CoreOS also cast some (hotly contested) aspersions on Docker’s security model, and criticised the close enmeshment between Docker’s tools and technologies.

At a mere 20 months old, it’s still early days for Docker, and it would perhaps be more off the mark for it to not to choose to evolve as it grows. Especially at a time when its customer base is beginning to make more diverse demands of the software. In answer to Polvi, Docker CEO Ben Golub has come back swinging, stating that “ the overwhelming majority of users, the vast majority of contributors, and the vast majority of ecosystem vendors want the project to support standard, multi-Docker container distributed applications.”

Taking a “We’re not angry, we’re just disappointed” tone, Golub added that, as a natural part of the open source process that Docker embraces, “technological and philosophical” differences were bound to rear their heads at some stage. Although Golub labels some of Polvi’s rhetoric as “questionable,” inevitably some competition was going to arise.

Docker has amassed a vast number of users in very short amount of time, and as Joyent’s Bryan Cantill notes, with a “robust community and the API-driven ethos of Docker,” in spite of the FUD slingers, there’s no reason to think that this initial blast from Rocket could do anything to significantly sink the container ship.



Commercial and Orchestration Offerings, with a Side of Drama: A Busy Week for Planet Docker

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