Docker enterprise kit gets cozy with Kubernetes

Enterprise Edition 2.0 focuses on K8s without the ops hires


Container popularizer Docker plans to roll out an update to its enterprise product on Tuesday that has more to do with box juggling than canned code.

Where the Docker software – known as Moby in open source form – provides a way to stuff applications and the surrounding user space into containers that can be moved across servers with reasonable ease, the latest version of the Docker Enterprise Edition attempts to provide companies with a way to control how multiple software containers can co-exist.

Containerized code has proven its appeal to companies because it allows them to run both legacy and recent apps on modern computing infrastructure with trendy tooling.

But for big companies, that requires a lot of containers, so the primary focus tends to be on managing or orchestrating all those virtualized bundles of bits, both on a technical and a policy level.

Kubernetes, developed by Google, has become the de facto industry standard for orchestration. Docker has its own orchestration system, Swarm, which it continues to support. But like its peers, the company has recognized the momentum of Kubernetes and has been wise enough to move with the flow rather than fight it.

As such, Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0 might be more aptly titled Docker EE II: Kubernetes' Revenge.

Revenge is sweet

Docker EE is a container-as-a-service platform. It provides a way to operate containerized apps running on multiple Linux distributions, on Windows systems and on multiple cloud environments – a range of platform diversity the company claims sets Docker EE apart.

"The headline new capability is the ability for customers to seamlessly integrate Kubernetes into their workflows in a way that is secure, manageable and supportive of existing processes and teams," said Scott Johnston, COO of Docker, in a phone interview with The Register.

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This is something akin to Windows-maker Microsoft's reluctant embrace of Linux, though the Redmond-based software giant had many more years to make its way through denial, anger, bargaining and depression before finally settling on acceptance.

Docker, having recognized that the business of containers lies in the management layer rather than in defining box tech spec, is headed in the same direction as the rest of the herd in the mad scramble to capture corporate accounts as business IT realigns around clouds, containers, services, and serverless.

To distinguish itself, Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0 focuses on ease of use.

"Kubernetes, while very powerful, can be a challenging technology to deploy and operate," said Johnston.

Chief among Docker EE 2.0's new capabilities are image mirroring and image caching. The former allows container images to be moved from one container registry to another based on predefined policies. The other extends the registry to a local cache under encryption and access controls, which improves security and performance.

Docker's value, as Johnston sees it, is adding value to Kubernetes through simplicity, security, and manageability.

That's the pitch for Microsoft Azure, Red Hat's OpenShift, and many other enterprise offerings. Maybe it will work for Docker too.

Keep it simple

David Messina, VP of enterprise marketing at Docker, contends that simplifying the admittedly twiddly command line arcana involved in Kubernetes is the key to convincing companies to take the leap.

"What people are seeing with Docker Enterprise Edition is they can take their teams and operations and get up and running without bringing on new staff," he said.

Other products, he said, leave CIOs wondering whether they can hire enough Kubernetes experts.

"Out of the box, we can stand up multiple nodes without the operator becoming a Kubernetes expert," said Johnston. "One of our customers testing this called it 'magical'."

The Register was not informed which company had pilfered Apple's favorite promotional adjective, but we're fairly sure the fruit-themed computer maker will want it back.

We asked whether anyone from another Docker EE customer, Liberty Mutual Insurance, might be available to chat about the implementation experience, ever hopeful that a cherry-picked case-study client, against all odds, might just go off the rails and start venting. ®

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