It's entirely likely that someone will stump up to buy Docker, the cloud startup whose container technology is making major waves. That the buyer in question will be Microsoft is less likely, given that far more suitable candidates are out there, according to a Fortune analysis.
A Microsoft acquisition of Docker could bolster its reputation as a cloud environment for running containers -- and keep Google at bay, according to Fortune. But Microsoft has already started down a road that would make such a move redundant.
Adding support for Docker directly to Windows is likely to do far more to make Windows and Azure container-friendly, without the risk entailed in buying the company outright.
Buying Docker as a defensive measure against the advances of other companies -- primarily Google -- doesn't seem likely either. A source quoted by Fortune hinted, "I doubt [Microsoft] wants to bet its future on Google/open source tech that it does not own." But that isn't happening; it's the Azure Service Fabric -- a Microsoft technology -- that's likely to figure large in the company's future.
Assuming Docker is interested in selling (which Business Insider, for one, disputes), which company is a prospective buyer? One good place to look for ideas would be the list of contributors to the Docker project.
Red Hat stands out, not only because of the major contributions it has made to Docker but for how it has rebuilt a significant amount of its product line around Docker. The problem is cash; if Fortune is right in predicting that Docker won't accept less than $3.5 billion, Red Hat doesn't have nearly enough money for such a stunt.
That leaves a few other candidates. Google looms large, if only because it could find the cash to snap up Docker without breaking a sweat. And IBM, which is even more prominent in terms of its contributions to Docker, has made no secret about making Docker a cornerstone of its Bluemix PaaS. Also, IBM is more desperate than Microsoft to reposition itself in a changing market. Even in its embattled state, Big Blue has enough cash to satisfy Docker's asking price almost three times over.
Ultimately, Docker might do best if left to find its own way and build its own business model. With so many bigwigs contributing freely to its project and building services around its technology, it's hard to see how being bought by any one of them would be an improvement -- for either the buyer or the Docker ecosystem as a whole.