Docker's new acquisition does containers on the desktop

The company's latest buy, Kitematic, eases the use of Docker on Macs -- and soon Windows

Once again, Docker has set its sights a little wider by acquiring an outside firm. But the acquired company doesn't ease the use of Docker on the server, Docker's typical stomping ground. Rather, it focuses on using Docker on Mac desktops -- and soon Windows.

Kitematic, an open source tool, allows developers to create and deploy Docker containers on Macs using a graphical interface. The user's system is configured to run Docker containers, which can then be pulled from Docker Hub and set up with various automation features, such as automapping of network ports and drive volumes. The completed containers can be run in much the same manner as one might download and launch a VM appliance in VMware Desktop. (Kitematic uses VirtualBox to run a container host.)


Kitematic uses VirtualBox to manage and launch Docker containers on Mac OS X through a convenient GUI. A Windows port is expected soon.

Docker says its interest in the company is about "expand[ing] our efforts in creating tooling that enriches the developer experience." As with Docker's earlier acquisition of Orchard, whose Fig product in turn became Docker Compose, Docker's professed plan with Kitematic is less about the project itself than about spinning in the talent behind the project: "Adding talented people like the Kitematic team to Docker is how we ensure that we keep focused on tackling new challenges for developers as they arise."

Kitematic "remains open source and free," although if Docker follows the same path it did with Orchard, it's likely Kitematic will be rebranded and reworked over time into a more Docker-specific product. This might spark more criticism of the kind previously levied at Docker: that the company is attempting to spread itself too thin and should leave the actual tooling to third parties.

The road map for Kitematic, last changed eight days ago, lists several intriguing items that hint at future directions for both that product and Docker itself together. Windows support, slated for sometime in May of this year, is among the most intriguing. This ought to be possible in the short run, without the need for direct support for the Docker daemon on Windows, since Kitematic currently uses VirtualBox to run a container host. With Microsoft already having helped produce a native Windows port of the Docker client, Windows developers may be able to use it in conjunction with Kitematic to run containers on Windows earlier than expected.


Copyright © 2015 IDG Communications, Inc.