Docker vs. CoreOS: A container battle worth waging

Real-world deployments will eventually settle who wins IT's heart, giving IT a chance to choose the best technology

Docker continues its quest to serve as a common container format, which is particularly handy in the cloud: If we all adopt Docker to build and deploy applications, our applications become portable.

But in December, one of Docker’s supporters, CoreOS, released an open source project called Rocket. The CoreOS team said that Docker was too complex and unwieldy, and maybe too focused on serving the needs of the parent company (also called Docker), thus straying from it original portability mission.

By contrast, CoreOS claims that Rocket is a better container standard that’s also outside the control of any single company. Certainly, allegiance to Rocket from Google, Red Hat, and EMC VMware is a blow to Docker, though they will surely continue to support both standards.

CoreOS's move may be due to wanting a bigger piece of the suddenly hot container market, rather than for selfless reasons.

However, I would not read too much into the philanthropic aspects of this move. The container space caught fire, and could CoreOS get similar funding? Likely, because containers are hot, and they will be hot for some time to come.

There's more to containers than what Docker and Rocket. Google has provided its own innovation around cloud and containers in the last year, and it will continue to do so with the development of Kubernetes and with continued tight integration of containers in its platform. 

As with other hot technologies, the container competition is creating competing standards. Those who use the technology are more likely to sit on the fence until the battles are settled.

Despite the muddying effect of competing standards, I like the fact there are two standards to choose from, at least for the time being. As we implement pilot applications with each standard, the better technology will be quickly identified. Ultimately, IT organizations will decide who wins -- or that Docker and Rocket can coexist.

Moreover, it will be interesting to see how the other public cloud providers approach container standards, which will go a long way toward selecting a winner.

It's interesting times for an interesting technology.