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: How else do you plan to extend the functionality of Docker?

Golub: We're building solutions that make it easy to link containers together, to migrate containers between different hosts, and to see what's running where. So that's a lot of our long-term business model, sort of providing the vCenter equivalent for Docker. In essence, as an open-source company, we've given away ESX. And the additional value will be in the orchestration and management layer.

InfoWorld: Is there a timeframe for when some of these tools will be available?

Golub: A lot of the very basic things that enable you to link containers together are already out there. The tools that make it possible to orchestrate between different containers in a data center are already there. We are going to be announcing a lot of things at DockerCon on June 9 and 10.

InfoWorld: Has the success of Docker exceeded your expectations?

Golub: It has completely exceeded our expectations. We thought it would take several years to catch on, that developers would like it but it would take a while for sysadmins to embrace it as well, and even longer for more conservative organizations to adopt it. And what has just astounded us is that everything in our multiyear plan has kind of moved up.

We knew developers would love us, and we're just thrilled that they've loved us this much and have piled on this quickly. We're thrilled by the fact that we now have 400 contributors to the project. Our company is 30 people and a turtle. So having that is spectacular. We've been amazed that sysadmins have embraced this almost as enthusiastically as developers. We're in production at lots of places even though we're not yet at Docker 1.0.

InfoWorld: Docker 1.0 is next month, isn't it?

Golub: Either next month or probably at DockerCon.

InfoWorld: What, for you, is the big thing that will signify 1.0?

Golub: There were a few really big things that we wanted to achieve before we got to Docker 1.0. One is that with every release we've been shrinking what's in the core and building a pluggable framework around it. So changes that we want to make or new functionality we want to add, like networking and storage and things like that, can be delivered as plug-ins rather than requiring people to upgrade. At 1.0, we will be at a place where the core doesn't need to change that rapidly.

Secondly, quality and bake time and documentation. People have been using Docker in production since 0.5. But when a more conservative company adopts it, we don't want them to struggle with documentation or with rough edges. And finally, we want to be able to offer commercial support. So when we announce Docker 1.0, we'll be confident that it's a version that can be supported for the long term.

InfoWorld: So in terms of the business, you would say you're in "investment mode" now?

Golub: Certainly there are more dollars leaving every month than are coming in. We do sell some tee shirts, and we actually just launched hosted private registries. So what I will tell you is that the growth rate has been phenomenal -- but starting from zero, growth is pretty easy.

But the business model is fairly straightforward. What we do is very similar to the Red Hat model: providing commercial support. But we also think that there is a natural set of managed services around orchestration, management, and monitoring that makes sense this year. And at some point in 2015 we know enterprises that want those things delivered on premise, and we'll do that as well.

InfoWorld: So manage the services through the cloud?

Golub: Yeah, right. Through a hosted service that we provide to make it easy to publish, to find, to download, to sign and create, to move things between different clouds, to move things that have been on-premise to the cloud. And there are actually a lot of services like New Relic and others that have sort of established this model. Enterprises are willing to have certain management functions provided in the cloud, provided that the data itself is still resident on-premise.

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