ElasticBox wants to be Docker for devops

ElasticBox app-stack packaging system aims to fill the space between developers and devops the way Docker did for devops and cloud

It doesn't seem like it was all that long ago when the hot new technology on the block was virtualization. Now it's containerization: taking applications or whole application stacks and making them into portable and automatically deployable commodities. Docker has become the biggest name in that space in a startlingly short amount of time, but now that company has, well, company.

Enter ElasticBox, whose mission is to make it easier for app developers to pull together the components needed for an application stack -- the data layers, middleware, front ends, runtimes, language interpreters, and so on -- into "boxes." The emphasis isn't on deployment to the cloud, but rather building stacks within an organization via devops.

"Unlike the cloud and its APIs," explained Ravi Srivatsav, CEO and co-founder of ElasticBox, "there are no devops platforms, just a mix of tools and technologies -- Chef, Puppet, Docker, Ansible, Salt, and so on. We have to make technology to bring these together."

At first glance, ElasticBox seems a great deal like Docker itself: A containerization solution for applications that integrates with many common public and private cloud solutions, from OpenStack and AWS to vSphere and Azure.

But the way Srivatsav explains it, the difference between the two "is that Docker is filling the space between devops and the cloud, but ElasticBox is filling the space between developers and devops." Docker is itself one of the components that ElasticBox manages (along with many of the other aforementioned automation tools), but Srivatsav sees Docker and ElasticBox as being strongly complementary at this point, rather than ElasticBox superseding Docker.

The real problem ElasticBox is meant to solve is how to make the devops collaboration process into something that can be formalized and repeated so that devops can work with a stack it's comfortable with and IT doesn't have to distract itself from other work (like keeping everything secure and stable) to provide those things. IT and developers don't use as much of a common toolset as they should. "The advantage of ElasticBox," said Srivatsav, "is to have a predictable, repeatable process, and to help create collaboration that today doesn't exist between developers and IT operations."

ElasticBox also helps bridge that gap by providing common processes and policies for what developers have access to via "self-serve IT."

An IT department could set limits on, say, which development teams could deploy their resulting creations to AWS, or how many VMs they could use. Docker is focused more on the packaging of applications for reuse rather than how the different components of that app interrelate as a stack -- or, as Srivatsav puts it, "the deployment [of the app], not the definition."

The roughly three-year-old company has a small user base, but it already lined up some major investment muscle. It's also set up for easy adoption. Individual developers pay nothing for ElasticBox and can freely redistribute their boxed apps (to grow the ElasticBox ecosystem), but enterprises pay per app or per developer.

Most of the automation tools that have sprung up around devops thus far tend to revolve around generic, large-scale automation -- the Puppets and Chefs of the world -- but without a larger glue to hold them all together. ElasticBox clearly has ambitions to be that glue, although it's worth keeping an eye open for competition in the form of another service -- or in the form of a superseding open source technology that gives devops more of what they need.

This story, "ElasticBox wants to be Docker for devops," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. 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 InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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