Docker made itself popular with devs. Now it has to make itself essential for biz. But how? Ah ha! Pay-as-you-go enterprise features

Upstart enlists CapGemini to manage Docker Enterprise

Docker CEO Steve Singh, Dockercon 19

Container popularizer Docker on Tuesday opened its DockerCon 19 conference in San Francisco with an amiable video of Docker employees stumbling over obtuse platform lingo.

"I just gave up trying to explain it to my parents," quipped one Docker software engineer.

Yet when CEO Steve Singh arrived on stage, he talked about how Docker is helping usher in a new era in which software becomes the heart of every single company and how it's changing how people build, share and run applications. Docker, he said, is making containers simple and accessible.

"Our goal is to simplify the complexity of technology," he said.

It's a worthy goal, and Docker is making progress but we're not there yet. In a conversation with The Register before the keynote, Fernando Montenegro, a security analyst with 451 Research, recalled a discussion in the movie Moneyball about how the first one through the door always gets bloodied.

That's Docker, which simplified and brought containers to the masses, well, masses of techies and developers – and has the scars to prove it. The company went through layoffs and realignment earlier this year as it redoubled its effort to endear itself to enterprises interested in modern application development.

Docker is grappling with the challenge of making itself essential as companies around the globe embrace containers in production. That movement is part of what Singh and others refer to as "digital transformation," which might also be described an effort to abstract applications away from company-owned IT infrastructure.

It means moving apps to the cloud – public, private or in-between – so that they can be developed faster and managed more effectively. This metamorphosis promises efficiency and cost-savings, though your mileage may vary depending on organizational IT skills among other things.

It also means reimagining the traditional client-server IT paradigm for a time when a lot of computing will be run at the network edge by sensors and IoT devices, a trend Docker intends to participate in through its recently announced partnership with chip architects Arm.

Keep it simple stupid

Because running containerized apps can be complicated, particularly when orchestration systems like Kubernetes come into play, there's an opportunity for Docker to simplify both development and operations. But big cloud providers and enterprise-focused rivals are already moving in that direction with hosted container orchestration services.

Docker intends to be there, too. It will offer Docker Enterprise as a fully managed service, on-premises, or in public or private clouds, through CapGemini.

Docker Enterprise itself has hit version 3.0, a designation that brings several new tools focused on enterprise development.

The new build comes with Docker Desktop Enterprise, a centrally managed developer tool with template-based workflows, standard MSI (Win) and PKG (Mac) distribution files, and various configuration options for easier automation.

The latest Docker Enterprise also includes a tool called Docker Application, a "container of containers," to help make managing containerized apps easier.

And it adds Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS), which provides a way to install, setup and manage containerized apps across hybrid cloud environments. DKS supports the use of Docker Swarm Services as an alternative orchestration system. It's secured, we're told, with "sensible defaults."

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Docker Enterprise 3.0 adds lifecycle automation tools to facilitate cluster upgrades. And it introduces some additional security capabilities, namely Group Managed Service Accounts (gMSA) for Swarm and PKI Certificate-Based Authentication.

Interested parties can sign up at beta.docker.com to participate in the Docker Enterprise 3.0 public beta.

Outside of digital transformation, Docker is also participating in digital preservation, via a service called Modernize Traditional Applications (MTA). The program provides customers with a way to containerize legacy applications – Java and .Net – so they can be managed more efficiently in modern IT environments.

At its conference, Docker made MTA more forward-looking with an option called "Accelerate Greenfield" to help companies develop new containerized apps and deploy them on Docker Enterprise alongside "Brownfield" and "Legacy" apps.

At the conclusion of the keynote, Montenegro said he wasn't sure whether Docker had sufficiently differentiated itself from the competition – e.g. Google Cloud Platform's Anthos – but he said he wanted to look into it more.

Docker has a shot, but it doesn't yet have it easy. ®

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