Docker's Tools of Mass Innovation: Explosive Growth From Open-Source Containers to Commercial Platform for Modernizing and Managing Apps

TL; DR: From a quiet introduction and nerve-wracking demo to more than 13 billion downloads in just four years, Docker has emerged as an industry-changing phenom that completely altered how organizations and developers look at virtualization. By standardizing containers and making them more efficient, secure, and easy to deploy, the open-source project has evolved into a complete commercial suite of programs to help enterprise organizations seamlessly adopt the new technology. Senior Vice President of Marketing and Community David Messina took us through Docker’s impressive evolution and unparalleled success.

MetLife, which was founded three years after the end of the Civil War, is nearing 150 years in business. According to Assistant Vice President of Solutions Engineering Aaron Ades, the life insurance company still runs code that was written in 1982 for an IBM mainframe.

So why is the company staking some 400 systems on the promise of an emerging technology that has existed for fewer than five years?

“For 150 years, we’ve had to make strategic bets on technology to stay ahead of our competitors,” Aaron said. “We’re making a similar bet on Docker to make us more agile and nimble.”

Launched in 2013, Docker abstracts and automates server resources to create lightweight and independent containers that integrate with all sorts of infrastructure platforms and operating systems. Applications and software elements housed in containers share a single operating system but are isolated from each other and the underlying infrastructure — making them more portable, performant, and secure.

MetLife, which traditionally had “an allergic reaction” to using open-source programs, according to Aaron, instead discovered a simple way to move services to the cloud to handle traffic that spikes 25 times higher during open-enrollment periods. Needing fewer virtual machines to run applications, the company saw consolidation rates of nearly 70% in some cases.

MetLife now displays customer information in a modern user interface compatible across multiple devices and browsers. The data, Aaron said, comes from systems written in different languages, platforms, and even decades.

“It’s like Docker is this time machine that lets us violate the space-time continuum,” he said. “Things that used to be hard, like scaling a service from two to 10 to 100 instances, are now easy.”

Hello Wowlrd: Docker’s Misspelled Debut Didn’t Deter Surge of Success

Docker Founder Solomon Hykes had shown the container system to only small groups of friends and acquaintances before 2013. Wanting to demo the technology to tech-minded strangers, he signed up to give a short presentation at PyCon.

Instead of the 30 attendees he expected, however, the auditorium filled up with about 1,000 people. His five-minute demonstration, unbeknownst to him, was in the conference’s main track. Nerves took over, and he misspelled Hello World.

“It turned out that the technology spoke for itself, and the demo became a catalyst for Docker’s rapid adoption and the success of the ecosystem today,” said David Messina, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Community.

A year and a half later, the company raised $55 million and partnered with Microsoft and Amazon, among other tech giants. By the end of the year, Docker reached 100 million downloads.

Just four months after that, Docker tripled the number of downloads and secured another $95 million in funding.

According to David, Docker currently boasts more than 13 billion downloads — with 390% growth in the past year alone. The annual DockerCon is the fastest growing conference in enterprise software, he said, with 5,500 attendees in 2017 compared with 400 three years before.

How Docker Enterprise Helps Organizations Switch to Containers

With a vibrant open-source community of tens of thousands of contributors, Docker is concentrating on the continued expansion of the commercial platforms helping enterprises modernize and accelerate their software. Docker Enterprise Edition brings performance and cost benefits to organizations running legacy applications up to 30 years old.

Docker Enterprise Edition provides end-to-end assistance with infrastructure and lifecycle management tools.

“While these legacy applications still technically work fine, enterprises know that if they don’t continue to innovate, they’ll stall and lose major competitive advantages in the market.”

In addition to MetLife, hundreds of companies from the Global 2000 have adopted the Docker Enterprise Edition Container-as-a-Service platform. ADP and Visa joined MetLife at DockerCon 2017 to share how containers transformed business operations.

“Companies are adopting container strategies due to the agility, portability, and security Docker provides,” David said. “Whether to optimize operational efficiencies, take advantage of microservices, or modernize legacy applications, CIOs and CTOs are recognizing that container technologies enable their respective businesses to address the complete application lifecycle and modernize their software supply chain.”

Docker Datacenter: Manage and Secure Integrated Containers

An integrated Container-as-a-Service platform, Docker Datacenter promotes an agile and secure end-to-end development experience as part of Docker Enterprise Edition. Enterprise IT teams can scale operations with multi-tenancy and security capabilities, along with full support for the Docker API.

All application resources can be managed from a single online interface, and users can deploy applications and files to production environments in just a few clicks.

Modernize Traditional Applications Program: Containerize Without Touching Code

Moving business-critical legacy applications to modern, cloud-based architecture can be a daunting task that takes years, large investments, and lots of rebuilding.

The Modernize Traditional Applications Program, announced in April 2017, enables companies to containerize applications without touching source code. The initiative includes consulting services, Docker Enterprise Edition, and hybrid cloud infrastructure from partners at Avanade, Cisco, HPE, and Microsoft.

“This means companies can modernize at their own pace while taking advantage of the efficiency, portability, and security that containers can provide,” David said. “From there, it becomes much easier for organizations to break down these applications into microservices when they are ready.”

New CEO’s 3 Main Objectives for Docker’s Future

In May 2017, Docker introduced Steve Singh as the company’s CEO. Steve, who was chairman of Docker’s board at the time, founded and grew the business and travel expense management platform Concur before selling the company to SAP for $8 billion.

Docker has grown to several hundred employees in more than four years of existence.

His experience as an executive is expected to lead Docker to even more success in the enterprise realm. Steve replaced Ben Golub, who joined Docker a month after Solomon’s PyCon presentation and will remain a member of Docker’s board.

According to David, Steve has introduced three aspirations for the company:

  1. Continue to innovate, both in the open-source community and with commercial services to further improve management across an application’s lifecycle.
  2. Serve the growing needs of enterprise customers to run and scale application environments. The company works with about 400 enterprises, mostly gained in the past year.
  3. Build a great company culture that attracts the best talent in the business.

The ability to work on a platform that gives organizations and developers the ability to deploy new features and run business-critical applications more efficiently than ever before inspires a highly motivated and close-knit workforce, David said.

“It’s not often in your career you get to be on the cutting edge of innovation, and that’s exactly what we’re doing at Docker,” he said.

Fueled by Collaboration: Specialized Products Meet Users’ Needs

According to David, Docker works closely with the open-source community and enterprise customers to identify and prioritize new features and releases.

For example, the team created a dozen Docker editions tailored to various platforms and operating systems, including macOS, Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Windows Server.

Orchestration capabilities are included in Docker Enterprise Edition, and the company recently introduced Docker Secrets to manage sensitive data such as passwords, SSH private keys, or an SSL certificate. To further protect applications, Docker Security Scanning provides proactive risk management and compliance profiles.

“All of us at Docker strongly believe the future of container technology is dependent on the success of our ecosystem, which is why collaboration will remain a focal point of our strategy moving forward,” David said.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Laura Stamey

Laura Stamey is a multi-talented communicator with a master's degree in web design and online communication and extensive experience creating web, print, and multimedia products. As a Contributing Editor for HostingAdvice.com, she combines her communication skills with web design experience, a passionate love for WordPress, and a strong desire to continue learning. When she's not addressing user questions via helpful how-to guides, you'll find her connecting with the folks behind companies that are powering the Web — covering their innovative technologies and the teams that engineer them.