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Docker gives developers plenty to be happy about at DockerCon

Tony Bradley Editor-in-Chief, TechSpective.net

DevOps has taken the IT world by storm, and Docker has been a driving force behind DevOps. In only a couple of years, the company has skyrocketed from obscure startup to ubiquitous container platform. This week at DockerCon in San Francisco, the company and its many partners and allies demonstrated just how much momentum container technologies have and unleashed some major initiatives that should make developers ecstatic.

Moves build buzz, builders to build out

Docker had seemingly abandoned its original vision of a container standard, and CoreOS stepped in to continue the mission. Docker and CoreOS have reunited though, along with A-list tech giants, including Microsoft, Google, IBM, HP, and others to work together on container standards through the Open Container Project (OCP).

Jaikumar Vijayan wrote a detailed overview of the OCP initiative. He explains, "Under the OCP, the two companies will contribute code from their respective container technologies to develop a common, open container image format and container runtime. The Linux Foundation will host the project and oversee the development of the specification and runtime environment by the open source community."

[ Also on DockerCon this week: Docker's Open Container Project to deliver the next wave of app dev innovation | Is Docker just the first "killer app" in the container revolution? | How healthy is your Dockerized application? ]

Ben Bernstein, CEO of Twistlock, pointed out that Docker is maturing. With that maturity comes an understanding that in order to continue to succeed and grow it's not enough to just have a great ecosystem—you also have to actively support and nurture it. Sometimes that means making some concessions and playing nicely with others.

Expanding the Docker ecosystem

OCP may be the star of the show, but there's plenty of other news from DockerCon to make developers' lives easier and streamline DevOps and container infrastructure. Software-defined networking (SDN) and plugins are all part of the broader platform aimed at delivering what Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes called "happy hacking" in the closing of his keynote.

These events are always an opportunity to brag about metrics and milestones, and the numbers showcasing ecosystem adoption for Docker are simply stunning. Al Hilwa, program director of software development research for IDC notes, "Docker the company itself took a significant step forward in monetizing its technology. What Docker is now calling Trusted Registry is being made available just as adoption is beginning to reach mainstream organizations." So in all, there's a lot to be happy about for the ecosystem.

Colin Campbell, director of patterns and practices at Chef—an icon of DevOps in its own right—shared his thoughts on DockerCon. "We're excited to see the industry move to containers that provide new, efficient runtime environments for scalable apps. Containers and the environments that host them are additional elements—alongside other applications, core business services, operating systems and infrastructure—that companies have to build, manage and deploy."

What a difference a year makes

DockerCon illustrated how well Docker is doing when it comes to creating a robust developer platform for distributed applications. The conference is a showcase for how happy developers are with the platform and technologies Docker has developed.

"They've become one of the big powers in cloud development and the traditional large enterprise firms are clearly taking notice," says Rob Enderle, principal analyst with Enderle Group. "Now a force to be reckoned with, DockerCon exemplifies just how far this firm has come and how much developers like what the firm has brought to the table this year."

There are two things that make DockerCon 2015 unique from last year. One is the massive mainstream momentum that Docker and container technologies in general have achieved in the last year. The other is the recognition by Docker and other players in the industry that containers are bigger than just Docker. DockerCon 2015 was an acknowledgment that containers have reached a critical mass, having quickly evolved from niche technology to industry standard.

Docker Experimental is great for those hackers who want to sit on the bleeding edge and work with the latest features. This also helps separate the production runtime from the runtime we're all using to build third-party solutions on top of Docker, such as plugins. On the plugin front there were some great demos for various storage plugins—such as Flocker—that make it easier for data to persist across containers.

From run to sprint with spun-out runC

One of the other major announcements from Docker this week was the news that it's spinning out runC as a standalone tool. Docker developed runC as a unified, low-level component capable of providing the abstraction necessary for shipping and running distributed applications across varied hardware and OS configurations.

A blog post from Docker describes it: "runC is a lightweight, portable container runtime. It includes all the plumbing code used by Docker to interact with system features related to containers."

Docker says runC is designed for security and scalability, with no dependencies anchoring it to the rest of the Docker platform. It needs only the container runtime. The goal of runC meshes with the broader goal of the OCP to make standard containers available across all environments.

Faster forward with container standardization

"Developers should be tremendously happy with the direction Docker is heading," says Matt Baldwin, head architect at ProfitBricks. "The focus of DockerCon 2015 was about using Docker in production. From tools such as Notary to separating components out like Docker Network, organizations are now being given the confidence in Docker they need to begin to roll solutions using it into their production environments."

In some industries a year is a long time. In DevOps, it may as well be a millennium. Just look back on the evolution of Docker from 2013 to 2014, and where we are now in 2015. Now that Docker has matured and the entire IT industry is lending its combined support to developing container technology standards, it's hard to imagine how far we'll have progressed by this time next year.

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