Docker, not production-ready? Not so, says Docker

Docker, not production-ready? Not so, says Docker
Credit: flickr/Vasile Cotovanu

Docker has taken dev-and-test by storm, but production deployments have awaited more mature security and management. Some customers, however, aren’t so patient

“We have never seen a technology become ubiquitous so quickly [as Docker]," RedMonk analyst James Governor declares. Red Hat CEO Jim Whitehurst has also joined the Docker fray, telling investors that Docker is the “single biggest topic that comes up among ... [Red Hat’s] leading [customers].”

Yes, Docker interest is off the charts. As Apprenda executive Chris Gaun puts it: “Everything else looks tiny in comparison.” Whether or not you’re aware of it, developers have very likely spun up Docker in your organization.

Yet the question remains: When will Docker be used in production? Developers have driven Docker adoption because it streamlines development and vastly simplifies deployment. But the immature nature of security and container management solutions around Docker have kept it largely a dev-and-test affair.

That may be changing. According to a recent O’Reilly Media study, 40 percent of respondents already run Docker in production. Docker has 75-plus paying enterprise customers for its data center product, which was made generally available in February, and almost 6,000 paying customers of Docker Cloud, the company’s hosted service.

It seems safe to assume that Docker isn’t being used to containerize existing enterprise applications. Instead, developers are bringing in Docker for new application deployments, greenfield opportunities that aren’t dependent on yesterday’s infrastructure. As RedMonk analyst Fintan Ryan has said:

Where we are seeing a massive difference with the use of containers is around greenfield projects. These greenfield projects generally have as close to a blank slate as you are going to find in the enterprise, and with them containers are going into production incredibly quickly -- much faster than before.

Indeed, former Appfog CEO Lucas Carlson believes Docker containers are suitable for such cloud-native applications only: “[T]he benefits of containers can only be achieved when the applications run within containers have been built-for-cloud.”

Not everyone agrees with that assessment. On the contrary, Docker CEO Ben Golub told me, “there is ample evidence to show that Docker is being embraced by early majority/pragmatist organizations,” among them Fortune 100 pharmaceutical, retail, health care, manufacturing, and media companies. Some specific customer examples:

  • ADP is moving its core application to a solution based on Docker Data Center and Docker Swarm
  • Goldman Sachs is moving 90 percent of its applications to Docker over the course of the next 12 months
  • The General Services Administration is basing its entire next-generation platform (which tracks $1.7 trillion) on Docker
  • Multiple U.S. Department of Defense agencies are running truly "mission-critical" apps on Docker

Others include a variety of DockerCon speakers from Barclays, ING, Electronic Arts, Fox, and Oxford University Press, all of which talked about how they’re using Docker in production. While there have been concerns about orchestration, security, and networking, Docker Inc. and the surrounding ecosystem have rapidly filled in the gaps, and Docker is poised for enterprise adoption.

Ultimately it doesn’t matter much: Developers are writing the future with Docker containers, whatever the near-term roadblocks to world domination. Yes, Docker may be used to package legacy applications, and management and security will continue to improve as vendors rally around the standard.

Docker’s speedy adoption, however, isn’t about legacy migrations. It’s about building and deploying applications in the cloud, as well as the developers who live there.

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