Docker's new releases: One for devs, one for ops

Docker's new versioning and release channels aim to please both devs who want to live dangerously and ops folks who prefer dependability

Docker's new releases: One for devs, one for ops
Credit: keywest3

The next Docker update will be more than a bump in version number. It'll make over versioning and address long-standing complaints about the side effects of Docker's rapid development.

From now on, Docker will have two basic editions: EE (Enterprise Edition), and the open source CE (Community Edition). The former allows enterprise users to run supported Docker environments in public cloud environments and on their own certified infrastructure; the latter is for those who want to do it all themselves.

Pick your path

The biggest change for both editions involves keeping them current and providing software revisions to users -- or rather, how dev and ops will get revisions.

For CE users, updates will come from two channels: a monthly Edge release channel for developers who want to play with the most up-to-date features and a quarterly release channel for operations folks. Meanwhile, EE users will receive only the quarterly releases, each of which is supported for one year. Hotfixes will also be backported as needed.

The new changes aim to combine the best of both worlds. Those who want to move fast and break things can use the Edge releases, akin to the Canary or unstable build channel for Google Chrome. Those who want to concentrate on building can stick with the quarterly releases.

EE itself isn't a single product, but is offered in three SKUs: EE Basic, the core containers-as-a-service product with Docker Certified components like plugins and ISV containers; EE Standard, which also includes all the functionality of the Docker Datacenter product; and EE Advanced, which adds "image security scanning and continuous vulnerability monitoring."

The costs of progress

Users have long complained that the pace of changes in Docker have made it tough to keep up, to assemble a reliable infrastructure, or to cope with features that on closer inspection weren't ready for prime time.

One proposed idea was to create a more conservative fork of the product. Docker took steps in that direction by enabling key core pieces to be spun off and provided with separate open source governance.

That idea might be a solution in the long run, and the company is still working on it. But it would take time for Docker to find an appropriate organization to host the software -- during which Docker's commercial aspirations would continue to march on. By reworking of its product lines to be friendlier to production, Docker deals with the problem more immediately, and it doesn't come at the cost of Docker's focus on a commercial product.

In another possible boon, Docker could split its product lines and allow its desktop offerings to be developed in a similar manner. Bugs in Docker for Mac have gone unfixed for long stretches, so perhaps a formal stable channel for the desktop versions of Docker will prevent such issues in the future.