Google plunges in to Docker management

Google adds Docker support to App Engine and open-sources management tool for Docker images running outside of Google Cloud Platform

Docker 1.0's release couldn't have been more eventful, with new services making use of the fast-evolving application packaging ecosystem and the latest version of Red Hat Enterprise Linux becoming more Docker-centric.

Add another major name to that list: Google, per its announcements yesterday. Not only is Google adding support for Docker images to Google App Engine, the company has open-sourced a container management tool for Docker that is theoretically capable of running outside of Google's cloud services.

Google already supports Docker containers via its Compute Engine virtual machines, though that technology is quite young (the open preview for Docker support on Compute Engine was announced only a few weeks ago). Now, App Engine developers can create and deploy Docker images from their apps inside the Managed VMs feature of Google Cloud Platform. Existing Docker images can also be obtained and deployed this way.

But Google's other Docker-related announcement may have farther-reaching implications. Google's Kubernetes (Greek for "pilot," and the same word from which "cybernetic" is derived) is a management tool for deploying Docker containers into clusters of machines and for determining which nodes in the cluster would offer the best fit, based on their existing workloads.

Kubernetes also provides ways for containers to learn about each others' presence in the cluster and pass messages back and forth. It has been designed to alleviate some of the Docker container networking issues, which have typically only been solved with manual tweaks like port mapping.

Like Docker, the Kubernetes project has been written in Go, Google's language for building distributed applications. This could mean that Docker containers become more self-managing and self-balancing across a cluster, as the management functions provided could be added back to Docker itself over time.

A third Go-based open source addition to Google's container management toolset is cAdvisor, which gathers information about containers running on a cluster and tracks that data over time. Aside from Docker, cAdvisor also supports Google's own lmctfy format.

While Kubernetes can theoretically run outside of Google Compute Engine, that isn't possible yet. The current incarnation of the software was developed for Compute Engine and assumes the presence of certain components; some work would have to be done to make it useful in other cloud environments. That said, the project is open source (under the Apache 2.0 license), and in theory, such changes would come naturally from the developers who put it to use.

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Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.