When Docker announced the Moby Project earlier this week, it wasn’t entirely clear why it mattered—or even what it was. It sounded like Docker was trying to share its internal processes for building Docker from components donated to the community.
But Docker’s GitHub site has since been reworked as the Moby Project, and the point is clearer. Moby is to Docker what Fedora Project is to Red Hat: a separate brand, explicitly designated as a community project, that serves as a collection point and proving ground for the open source pieces that go into the commercial edition of the product.
The Fedora connection
Both Fedora and Moby furnish proving grounds or staging areas for future innovations contributed from the community. New technologies, either inside or outside Red Hat, can be staged in one of Fedora’s various editions to see how suitable it’ll be for a desktop, server, or cloud use case. Likewise with Moby, container components created by third parties and released as open source might in time find their way into Docker.
Moby was originally pitched as a “framework.” The About Moby section of the project site states, “Moby is an open framework created by Docker to assemble specialized container systems without reinventing the wheel.”
The crux lies is the next sentence: “Going forward, Docker will be assembled using Moby.” In other words, Docker (the commercial product) will be put together using pieces and plans from Moby (the community project). In the same way, much of what goes into Red Hat Enterprise Linux is garnered from Fedora.
The parallels between Moby and Fedora aren’t precise. RHEL isn’t created from Fedora, but many pieces of Fedora find their way into RHEL over time as customer demand and Red Hat’s vision dictate. Likewise, future additions to Docker could come from pieces and concepts shared in Moby, whether originating with Docker or third parties.
Deepen the divide
The Moby move is another example of Docker putting more distance between the open source and enterprise sides of its efforts. That has been in motion for a while, like when key Docker components were donated to community-led groups. But with Moby, the division has explicit branding.
There’s a growing need to see community development work on upstream components, and Docker’s work on its downstream (ultimately commercial) products, in different lights.
Moby could end up emulating Fedora even more in time if it spins out functionally dedicated subprojects. Fedora has desktop, server, and cloud editions; Moby could eventually offer plans for building community-supported versions of enterprise-ready container infrastructure—similar to how CentOS is community-built from RHEL’s source code but offered without official Red Hat support. That’s more likely to come from outside Docker than from within, and such innovations seem to be the main purpose for Moby.