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Docker part 4: Microsoft CAN'T ignore it. Aux armes, citoyens!

Prognostication, Redmond and the Red Wedding

Game of Thrones Season One Blu-ray disc set

It's clear that Docker is here to stay, but we must temper our enthusiasm with pragmatism and a careful analysis of history. There are many pieces on the chessboard to consider, and each of them has a mind of its own.

Docker is simultaneously a big fish (thanks to the hype around it) and a relative minnow compared to the tech titans it proposes to disrupt. Understanding its likely evolution requires understanding the people involved and circumstances under which they labour.

At VMworld 2014 the hype surrounding Docker was tangible. Since VMware held a VMworld and basically forgot to show up, tens of thousands of people were left looking for something to talk about over beers. Everyone oohed and aahed about Data Gravity for about five minutes, then talked non-stop about Docker for days.

Love me!

Understanding the Docker hype means understanding something about Silicon Valley. The storage infrastructure wars are functionally over: server SANs won. Growth in arrays will halt, reverse, and traditional centralised storage will begin its long slide into zombie tech status alongside mainframes.

Along with this goes a huge pile of cheap-to-the-point-of-free cash to be had making startups based on what amounts to "a feature of a good storage product". Vendors are completing their Mergers and Acquisitions (M&A) for this cycle. It'll be years before they've finished extracting the profit from their new acquisitions, and thus years before they go on another inflated buying spree. Big companies tend to want to get value of the millions and billions they spend.

Software as a Service is running into a few walls too. Developers have proven to suck at coding for scale. The public cloud computing isn't as cheap as the marketing droids said it would be. Worst of all, those pesky foreigners care about issues like "data sovereignty", so the precept of unlimited expansion that ensures continual investor funding is being challenged.

Silicon Valley desperately needs something to believe in.

This need for something to believe in goes a long way towards explaining why Docker is a much bigger affair inside than valley than outside it. Entrepreneurs need to know what the next big thing is so that they can string together the right marketing buzzwords and attract venture capital. Venture capitalist need hope in something – anything, really – that promises to prevent the bubble from collapsing, and thus gives them a direction to roll the dice in.

Docker has filled the void in the valley.

Docker is getting a lot of hype within Silicon Valley because Docker is really useful to the sorts of (web based) projects that the Valley does rather a lot of. It is new and shiny but still comfortable and familiar. It drives up utilization of a given server meaning that those increasingly bored – or unemployed – storage nerds now have a new puzzle to solve.

Until very recently, this was the narrative. Docker was getting mad hype within the Silicon Valley because Docker was getting mad hype within Silicon Valley. It is today's Paris Hilton of tech: famous for being famous, but only within certain circles. Outside the echo chamber, everyone else just sort of wondered what the fuss is about. And then Microsoft intervened

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