Docker CEO: Our container goes anywhere

The cloud era is in full swing, and Docker provides an answer to its greatest hazard: platform lock-in. An exclusive interview with Docker CEO Ben Golub

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InfoWorld: Where did the inspiration for the technology come from?

Golub: Container technology is not new. Almost every PaaS out there was using some kind of container technology, but containers were hard to use and they weren't portable between different environments. Solomon Hykes, who founded the company, had this insight: Wow, if we actually make this available to developers and we make it easy to migrate between different environments, this can really revolutionize the world.

It was clear that we would do this as open source. Then we could get it integrated into all the new stacks and have something that can run not only on any Linux server, but also easily integrate with DevOps tools, work inside OpenStack, as well as be adopted by other PaaS vendors and by cloud guys. And lo and behold, that's kind of what's happened.

InfoWorld: How is your container technology different?

Golub: The analogy we like to use is the shipping container. It used to be that anything you ever tried to ship was in some specialized container: Coffee beans were in bags and car parts were in crates, and you had to unload and reload every time you sent from a ship to a train to a truck to a crane. Things would interact badly, like if you were shipping bananas next to animals.

The shipping container revolutionized all that by being a standard size and shape and having hooks and holes in all the same places. Suddenly, anything can go inside it, you seal it up, and the same box goes from the ship to the train to the truck to the crane without being changed. World trade was revolutionized because, suddenly, all these things were the same. The manufacturer doesn't really care whether it's going to go on a boat or a train. He doesn't even have to know in advance because it's inside the container.

So that's kind of what we've done. Basically, you just put the application in the container and run it directly on the host. There's no guest OS. It's very lightweight. It's the same thing that you do with an Android phone and its applications, only now it works in the back office as well.

InfoWorld: To what degree do you feel this disrupts platform lock-in?

Golub: We make it really easy to ... create things and move them around. So people who built a business model based on keeping you locked in through some artificial means will have problems. If you are an infrastructure provider and you provide the best infrastructure with great security and great uptime at a reasonable price, the fact that it's easy for people to move stuff to you using Docker should be a good thing. We lower the walls and people who have the best garden will attract people. Trying to have a walled garden in this era isn't going to work.

InfoWorld: You're not currently a container for every ship.

Golub: We are a container that will work on any Linux server. It doesn't matter whether it's Red Hat or Ubuntu. It doesn't matter whether it's physical or virtual. It doesn't matter if it's Amazon or SoftLayer or Rackspace. It doesn't matter if it's staging, testing, or production. So we're on a lot of ships and trains and trucks and cranes.

InfoWorld: All the Linux distros are falling in line?

Golub: Yeah. Actually, we could work on them before. Now we're getting baked in with them. We'll be shipped with RHEL and shipped with Ubuntu and shipped with Debian; we're shipped with Amazon Linux AMI and we're in OpenStack. That's just a matter of making it easier. Before, people had to download a Docker host.

InfoWorld: Will you stop with Linux?

Golub: There is no fundamental reason why we have to stay in Linux. We can also manage BSD Jails or Solaris Zones, which are sort of the equivalent low-level technology for Solaris, and we have some stuff in the works for .Net as well.

InfoWorld: Really? For .Net?

Golub: It won't be this year, but ...

InfoWorld: That's going to be interesting. A lot of people have been saying there's no equivalent technology for Windows, and they don't think there needs to be one because the software management situation is very different.

Golub: Yeah. People don't tend to really get it. The other thing that I think is important is that it's not just technology. It's also the ecosystem. So, for example, if you go to Docker today you'll find that there's an index with over 9,000 applications that were created in Docker. You'll find solutions, some official and some not official, to work with Chef and Salt and Puppet and Ansible and Jenkins and Travis.

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