New Docker-enabled Linux distro wants to rival Red Hat

Self-upgrading, subscription-based Linux distribution built around Docker containerization draws funding from backers for Puppet Labs

CoreOS, a newly minted Linux distribution that uses Docker containers to manage both applications and the system as a whole, has landed $8 million in Series A funding and announced a subscription version of its product -- two moves that nudge it closer to Red Hat territory.

CoreOS Managed Linux, as the new subscription product is called, runs on one's own servers or on supported platforms (Amazon, Google, and Rackspace, among others) and is automatically kept current by CoreOS's engineers. Patches and updates are streamed to each CoreOS machine, and a Web dashboard provides an overview of all machines and allows management of tasks like rolling updates across the cluster. Support plans start at $100 per month for a minimum of 10 servers.

It's a markedly different approach to Linux support than the one provided by Red Hat Enterprise Linux, since much of the actual support -- the patching of systems and so on -- is automated, theoretically requiring a good deal less human intervention.

Small wonder that approach has attracted the interest of venture capitalist outfit Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the same folks who also invested in Puppet Labs. Other funding for CoreOS has also come from "existing investors Sequoia Capital and Fuel Capital," according to CoreOS's press release.

For comparison, Red Hat raised $17 million during its first three rounds of investment in 1998 and 1999. Adjusted for inflation, that puts CoreOS's first round at about $5.5 million -- but it's more than the $2 million (in 1998 dollars) of first round raised for Red Hat by investor Frank Batten Jr.

Aside from CoreOS Managed Linux itself, what else might have touched off investor interest in CoreOS? The most obvious and likely explanation is the way CoreOS uses Docker to take much of the headache out of maintaining and administrating a Linux software stack.

Docker itself has been a startup to watch, and its approach to software containerization and management captured InfoWorld's attention. The company also nabbed $15 million in funding back in January, so products derived from it in a novel way ought to capture the attention of both investors and end-users.

Forrester analyst Charlie Dai has noted that as remarkable as Docker is, "[it] still has a long way to go. It must enable complex enterprise applications in the cloud, much as VMware vApp simplifies the deployment of multitier applications; have more user-friendly graphical user interfaces for easy management; and provide more debugging and tracing features." One of the potential attractions of CoreOS, then, is how it might offer many of those very features in the form of a Linux stack.

This story, "New Docker-enabled Linux distro wants to rival Red Hat," was originally published at Get the first word on what the important tech news really means with the InfoWorld Tech Watch blog. For the latest developments in business technology news, follow on Twitter.

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