First look: Joyent Triton puts cloud computing on a bare-metal diet

Joyent’s Docker-driven container compute instances are superthin, superfast, and supercheap

It's been more than a year since Docker began taking over the mind of every devops team in the world with the seductive promise of a special mechanism for bundling software in a lightweight collection of only the essential files. The emphasis here is on "lightweight" and "essential" because this service is redefining how light "light" can be.

Now Joyent is one of the first companies to bring Docker to the cloud marketplace by offering a service called Triton, which lets users start up a Docker container instead of a VM. In the past, Joyent ran a heavier service that started up the Docker container inside of a separate virtual machine, but now the company has put together a mechanism that juggles the containers directly on the metal. Joyent suggests that the code will run faster (generally) and the overhead will be smaller (most of the time). It certainly shows how amazing Docker can be.

The advantages of Triton come largely (but not entirely) from the clever idea embedded in Docker itself. Instead of shipping an entire VM filled with every single last bit of the operating system and the software, Docker packages up only the new files you've added to or changed from the base distro. Then it tars these up in a so-called container and arranges for a bunch of these containers to run at the same time without bumping into one another. You can put your files in your container at /home/root and I can put my files in my container at /home/root and they won't interfere with each other.

It's easy to see how seductive this might be. While starting up servers in the cloud is much simpler than filling out the purchase orders to install one in your own back office, it's still a bit of work to configure. Docker promises to make it even easier to package up your code because you ship a relatively tiny container of only the essential files from your development machine. The cloud fills in the rest.

Tiny slices of fast compute

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