5 ways Docker is fixing its networking woes

blueprints

Networking for Docker containers has never been easy, but these five projects offer ideas for improvement

Docker's recent advances have made it the darling of startups and innovators throughout the IT world, but one pain point causes admins and developers alike to bite their nails: networking. Managing the interaction between Docker containers and networks has always been fraught with complications.

To some intrepid developers, that's a challenge and not an obstacle. Here are five of the most significant projects currently in the works to solve Docker networking issues, with the possibility that one or more of them might become part of Docker itself.

Weave

Created by Zett.io, Weave "makes the network fit the application, not the other way round," as the company CEO puts it. With Weave, Docker containers are all part of a virtual network switch no matter where they're running. Services can be selectively exposed across the network to the outside world through firewalls and using encryption for wide-area connections.

The gist: Possibly the best place to start, since it solves most of the really immediate problems in a straightforward way. But other solutions might offer more depending on your ambitions.

Kubernetes

Google's big first leap into the Docker world was an orchestration project, a way to tackle node balancing and many other valuable orchestration-related functions with Docker containers. It also provides, rather deliberately, some solutions to Docker's networking issues, though it goes only so far in that realm.

The gist: A good start as-is, but heavy lifting is still required to get the most out of it.

CoreOS, Flannel

Given that CoreOS is a project meant to architect an entire Linux distribution around Docker, it makes sense for networking to be part of the package. A project named Flannel (previously Rudder) is at the heart of how CoreOS manages container networking, connecting all the containers in a cluster via their own private mesh network. Presto, no more clumsy port mapping!

The gist: Best with CoreOS; requires Kubernetes at least.

Pipework

A solution devised by one of Docker's engineers, Pipework allows containers to be connected "in arbitrarily complex scenarios." It was devised as an interim solution and will probably end up as one.

The gist: It's best as a curiosity or a technology concept in the long run; as its creator admits, "Docker will [eventually] allow complex scenarios, and Pipework should become obsolete."

SocketPlane

Right now SocketPlane's work consists of little more than a press announcement "to bring software defined networking to Docker." The idea is to use the same devops tools used to deploy Docker to manage virtualized networks for containers, and build what amounts to an OpenDaylight/Open vSwitch fabric for Docker. It all sounds promising, but we won't be able to see any product until at least the first quarter of 2015.

The gist: Don't hold your breath until it's out.

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