Docker snaps up Apache Aurora devs for Swarm team

Docker's acquisition of Conductant brings big-scale app management to Docker Swarm -- and Docker's commercial offerings will benefit the most

Docker snaps up Apache Aurora devs for Swarm team

Another day, another Docker acquisition -- this one for enterprises running workloads at scale.

Yesterday, Docker announced it had acquired Conductant, Inc., a three-man team (Bill Farner, David Chung, and John Sirois) that has built systems to scale workloads for outfits like Twitter, Google, and Zynga.

Some of the team's work was released by Twitter to the Apache Foundation as Apache Aurora and Apache Mesos. The latter should be familiar to Docker users; it makes system resources like CPU and memory into abstractions that can be pooled and subdivided to run applications flexibly.

Aurora provides the job scheduling and management for Mesos, but it's also difficult to get running. Small wonder, then, that Mesosphere provides it as a packaged service for convenience.

By itself, Mesos is low-level infrastructure; it needs frameworks like Aurora to give it something to do. As David Messina, VP of marketing for Docker, put it in an email, "Aurora is intended for humans to interact with and perform high-level tasks like 'run 100 instances of my service', while Mesos is a toolkit that programmers interact with to build other systems."

Docker wants to bring the Conductant team's expertise on board to "[incorporate] the best ideas from Aurora into Docker Swarm," and possibly "integrating Aurora as an optional component of the official Docker stack."

So far, the details of how this will happen remain sketchy, most likely because even Docker doesn't know them, and the whole point of bringing in the Conductant team is to explore what's possible and what's worthwhile. But Docker is pushing its first-party orchestration system, Docker Swarm, to be the main recipient of this expertise. 

Swarm's ease of use and familiarity of presentation are appealing, and the addition of Aurora's feature set will likely find a fast audience with Docker's users. But Docker has long been criticized for its emphasis on creating tooling rather than providing standards, denying third parties the chance to be equal players, as Docker's tooling is the first set presented to most people.

Docker makes up for this by allowing individual pieces of its stack to be swapped out. However, the enterprise and commercial products from Docker's stable suggest otherwise. Docker Datacenter, for instance, tightly embeds Swarm as the orchestration system of choice. Docker defends this design by claiming that enterprises care more about a working turnkey solution than about the stack's malleability. 

In that light, it's easy to see why Conductant's work with Aurora will be merged into Swarm. It'll provide Docker's paying customers with access to items they'll likely work with, but how much of it will become available to the rest of the Docker ecosystem is still under wraps.

Messina emphasized that rising tides would lift all Docker boats -- er, containers: "We expect that [Conductant's] vast experience and practical day-to-day knowledge of operations driven development will have an impact across all of our solutions." When and which parts will receive priority is worth watching for.

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