New federated management features could help Docker bolster its pitch as the multicloud container management platform for the modern enterprise

(GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

SAN FRANCISCO – The container revolution ushered into place by an earlier version of Docker is here to stay. Now in 2018, with a hefty valuation looming over it and a go-to-market CEO running the show, Docker wants to become a trustworthy enterprise vendor by emphasizing its neutrality and flexibility across a collection of cloud computing options.

Docker plans to introduce what it is calling “federated application management” later on Wednesday at DockerCon in San Francisco. The basic concept is to make it easier for Docker Enterprise Edition customers to manage containerized workloads across multiple public clouds, across hybrid cloud strategies that include homegrown data centers, and across multiple operating systems.

“These are features that are coming from (enterprises’) need to scale and broadly adopt Docker across all their different applications, all their different business units, and really leverage it as a central IT standard for applications,” said Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker, in an interview with GeekWire ahead of Docker’s conference.

Scott Johnston, Docker chief product officer, at the 2017 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

At this point, the technical and business case for containerized applications doesn’t really need a champion. It’s one of the primary technical tracks we plan to showcase at the 2018 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit, this coming June 27th in Bellevue, Wash.

Containers allow companies to deploy applications across multiple computing environments without the overhead associated with virtual machines, allowing them to save time and money on their cloud bills given how quickly containers can be spun up and shut down. They also give companies flexibility in moving applications between their own servers and cloud servers run by companies like Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure.

But there are lots of different ways to manage containerized applications. All major cloud vendors offer their own managed container services, and the emergence of Kubernetes as a vital layer in the container story has both simplified and complicated the process of managing containerized applications across multiple environments.

Docker plans to make the case that it is the only vendor that can work with all managed cloud services to offer true multicloud management capabilities, Johnston said. Software development teams that want to manage their own Kubernetes installations might be able to match these capabilities, but doing so is a task that requires a fair amount of knowledge and skill in mid-2018.

An overview of the new federated application management features coming later this year to Docker Enterprise Edition. (Docker Image)

The new federated application management capabilities in Docker Enterprise Edition promises that it will provide that level of control across disparate applications inside an enterprise, be it across multiple data centers or cloud providers, or between testing environments and production environments. Starting later this year, applications built and deployed on Docker Enterprise Edition will be automatically updated across different cloud environments as needed without having to manually reconfigure each version of that application, and companies will be able to set policies across different cloud environments from a central dashboard.

At a higher level, the idea is to make Docker Enterprise Edition a must-buy software product for companies that have already deployed containers, or that are planning to do so in order to modernize their computing infrastructure. Docker is perhaps a classic example of a technical darling built around a popular open-source project that has struggled to turn that acclaim into dollars, despite having raised around $250 million over the last several years.

Docker CEO Steve Singh at the 2017 GeekWire Cloud Tech Summit. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

That’s one of the reasons why veteran enterprise software leader Steve Singh was brought in to run Docker last year, and the company has been gradually shifting its focus toward generating revenue from enterprise customers ever since. Last year at our Cloud Tech Summit Singh told attendees that “the memory of the IT buyer is very long,” suggesting that companies burned by the enterprise software lock-in practices of the last generation will appreciate something that can let them play the new bosses — AWS, Microsoft and Google — off each other for the right to run their cloud workloads.

Docker has been preaching this multicloud approach for some time, but we’re starting to see more evidence that large enterprises are moving toward multicloud operations using containers as the conduit between environments. In the early days of cloud computing, companies tended to grow around a particular vendor’s cloud services, usually AWS, as they experimented with the concept. That’s not likely to be the case as the market continues to grow, with Microsoft and Google now offer many services that are more-or-less on-par with AWS.

Docker also plans to announce Wednesday that Enterprise Edition users will be able to deploy Windows containers to Kubernetes, building on the support for Linux containers on Kubernetes it announced last year. At this time last year, Docker customers were almost exclusively deploying Linux containers, but that ratio has evened out as Windows support has become more widespread, Johnston said.

And developers that use Docker Desktop to build and deploy containerized applications are getting a new version of the software that allows newbie Docker users to use drag-and-drop interfaces and pick from among a pre-determined set of application templates to get up and running. “We’re going to expand to that next population of developers that want to use Docker but don’t have the time to go learn the command-line jujitsu” that hardcore Docker developers use, Johnston said.

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