Now that wrangling about standards for software containers is in theory passé, attention is turning to the next big question: How can providers of containers -- especially the big instigators like Docker -- monetize their solutions? And what will they offer for the money?
Docker's answer has been along the lines of the GitHub model: Offer a for-pay version of its products and services for enterprises in ways that can be consumed on-premises and behind the firewall. Today Docker put its commercial solutions into general availability, with IBM -- another big-name proponent of containers -- as a partner in the deal.
Docker's product, called Docker Trusted Registry, is essentially a local repository for Docker containers. Its feature set includes enterprise-grade security and authentication features such as audit logging or role-based access controls -- the latter for, among other things, keeping dev and ops folks from treading on each others' toes.
A private beta test of the Trusted Registry commenced in February and attracted 800 organizations, big and small, by Docker's count. (Among the first of Docker's touted customers for the Trusted Registry is the U.S. government's General Services Administration.)
IBM, already hip-deep in containers of its own, has lined up as the first of Docker's resellers. In addition to being a partner in the container-standards project announced Monday, Big Blue has been busy enriching its Bluemix PaaS with Docker support through its IBM Containers offering. This "enterprise-class Docker" product is pitched as a way to span both local and remote cloud environments.
IBM has been trying to figure out where additional value-adds lie with enterprise containers. One of its container products, Vulnerability Advisor, checks container-deployed software for problems against IBM's heuristics or a set of customer-provided definitions. Other offerings delve into analytics and performance monitoring -- two areas that are relatively under-explored territory for containers in production.
Another area that enterprise-container companies are likely to explore, due to the number of legacy apps running in VMs, is transitional tools, or ways to take existing legacy applications and containerize them without disrupting existing workflow or development. VMware has already begin work in this direction, but is focused on its own customer base and proprietary product line. Clearly, other possibilities lie beyond that for the intrepid.