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Docker shocker: It's got a commercial product, and is ready to SELL IT

Look, ma, we're a real business now

DockerCon 2015 The themes of Docker's past conferences has been increasing adoption of the container tech, but the theme of this year's DockerCon was moving beyond experimentation and into production deployment.

By extension, it was also about how Docker plans to make money.

The startup is well-heeled, having received enough venture cash in successive funding rounds to reach an estimated valuation of $1bn. CEO Ben Golub has said the firm has more money than it even needs right now. But those backers are going to want to see return on their investments somehow.

Customers already pay Docker to host private image repositories on Docker Hub. But the subscriptions are cheap and the initial plans lacked features that enterprise customers demand, like granular access controls and the ability to integrate with their existing authentication systems.

To that end, Scott Johnston, Docker's senior veep of product management, took the DockerCon stage on Tuesday to announce Docker's first commercial offering for businesses.

Trust us, we're from San Francisco

The first piece of its push is Docker Trusted Registry, a beefed-up, on-premise version of the open source Docker Registry that was first announced with an alpha release at DockerCon Europe in December 2014 (only back then it was being called Docker Hub Enterprise).

Responding to feedback from its alpha customers – which are thought to include Disney, ESPN, and GE, among others – Docker has made it possible to integrate Trusted Registry with LDAP and Active Directory, and it has introduced role-based access control so that developers don't step on operators' toes or vice versa.

And then there's the issue of regulatory compliance. "In large organizations, compliance becomes a very important requirement, a very important feature. And so, logging all events and all accesses by all the users on the platform became very, very important," Johnston said.

Docker doesn't plan to sell Trusted Registry on its own, though. Instead, it will form a part of subscription solutions offerings in a variety of tiers, ranging from an inexpensive starter package for workgroups to large enterprise contracts.

Each subscription includes Docker Engines that have been certified against production operating systems, which currently include Red Hat Enterprise Linux 7.0 and 7.1 and Ubuntu 14.04, with SELinux and AppArmor enabled, respectively. Docker will offer full support for the engines for 12 months after release, including patches and hotfixes.

Subscribers then have the option of managing their containers either by installing Docker Trusted Registry in their own data centers or by choosing to have Docker host their images in a commercial SaaS scenario.

The last piece of the puzzle is commercial support for the whole stack, which is priced based on both the number of Docker Engines supported and the level of support required. Naturally, 24/7 phone support costs more than "when we can get to it" support via email.

Docker will sell these subscriptions directly, but they will also be available through select partner resellers, which currently include Amazon Web Services, IBM, and Microsoft Azure.

You'll need to talk to a sales rep to find out just what your configuration might cost, but Johnston did name one figure. The Starter level subscription – which includes a single Docker Trusted Registry, 10 certified Docker Engines, and email support – can be had for just $150 per month.

Customer Number One: Uncle Sam

Johnston added, however, that Docker already has a first customer that plans to pay significantly more than that – something he said surprised even him.

"As a startup, when you're about two years old and you've got 160 people and a turtle, typically your first commercial customer – especially if you're on-premise software – your first commercial customer tends to be another small company. It tends to be a startup," Johnston said.

But in Docker's case, its first commercial customer is the US General Services Administration (GSA), a procurement agency that's responsible for some $1 trillion in purchases annually for the federal government. All of those transactions, Johnston said, will soon be flowing through Dockerized distributed applications.

"We're going to be watching this one really closely," Johnston said. "Those are our tax dollars. So you might say we all have a vested interest in the success of Customer Number One." ®

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