NEW YORK – Docker, one of the fastest-growing open-software projects ever, has swept through enterprise IT during the last 18 months, making an impact on the way many companies develop applications. Docker allows developers to assemble apps from reusable, “Lego-like” building blocks that can run on any Linux server and other kinds of machines. Proponents say it facilitates greater speed and agile workflows in the age of constantly updated mobile and Web apps.
Companies like Google Inc. were first to use containers, the technology Docker first commercialized and simplified in 2013. Along with Agile and DevOps, containers have caught on in the enterprise as companies look to duplicate Silicon Valley-style software development cycles. “It wasn’t on anyone’s roadmap at the beginning of 2014, but by the end of the year, if you didn’t have a strategy , it was ‘what are you doing?’” Adrian Cockcroft, technology fellow at Battery Venture, and a former cloud architect at Netflix Inc., said in his keynote at the Open Networking User Group conference at Columbia University on May 13.
Because the software lets developers chunk out a program or parts of a program and quickly test and launch incremental features, enterprise app development will change, Docker CEO Ben Golub tells CIO Journal. “If a big monolithic application worked on by 1,000 people can become organically decomposed into 100 small services, worked on by 3-person teams that can change and iterate independently, it’s much faster, cost effective, and more creative,” Mr. Golub said.
Roughly three to four million developers are using the software at companies such as ING Group, Gilt Groupe Inc. and Groupon Inc., Mr. Golub estimates. After initially offereing its software for free, Docker has added paid hosted and on-premises services. Buttressed by a $95 million cash infusion in April, the company is busy building security, networking, monitoring and other tools into the software. CIO Journal caught up with Mr. Golub Monday after he spoke at a customer event hosted by MongoDB Inc. here.
How will container technology change the way companies develop software?
BG: Traditionally, teams of 1,000 developers would build monolithic applications tightly coupled to specific servers. You’d have long, slow release cycles of weeks or months in which developers can’t update software quickly because any change can break the app. With Docker, you can assemble applications as if you’re building something from Legos, where different pieces (called microservices) can be interchanged but are compatible with each other and work across thousands of servers. So a billing module can be a service, which is separate from a reporting module, which is separate from a sign-up module. You can reuse these modules for different applications. And Docker lets you put any app into the digital equivalent of a shipping container, which means you can move it to any server in the cloud or on-premise, any operating environment, and it will run consistently.
How does this play into the emerging models of rapid, continuous deployment and integration, such as Agile and DevOps?
BG: If the application can be moved anywhere without breaking that makes your operations a lot more agile. If a big monolithic application worked on by 1,000 people can become organically decomposed into 100 small services, worked on by 3-person teams that can change and iterate independently, it’s much faster, cost effective, and more creative.
Can you expand on your comment, during your keynote speech, that Docker enables companies to democratize webscale technologies for Big Data applications?
BG: Everybody wants to be agile since they’re all under threat by the Kayaks, LendingTrees and the Ubers of the world that are upending traditional businesses. Companies want to constantly innovate on the analyses they do on their Big Data. Docker makes it possible to move the application to the data rather than move data to the application. It’s hard to move terabytes of data around but a container is so lightweight that it enables me to move my little analysis app to wherever the data happens to be.
What are you doing to make the software easier and more manageable for big companies to use?
BG: Docker has been really easy to adopt for new applications and Big Data applications. But enterprises are saying they want to use Docker with legacy applications, such as those from SAP SE and Oracle Corp. They’ve been asking how they can set policies around which policies go where, or how to monitor their Docker applications. So we need to provide better tooling around security, networking, storage, and monitoring.
What are your annual revenues?
BG: We’re not revealing revenues, but we’re happy with the progress and the growth. We are a two-year-old company and certainly the inflows are less than the outflows at this point.