Docker raises Arm to make itself handier for IoT edge data pushing

Container biz cuddles with chip whiz in quest for kismet

Container wunderkind Docker and chip architecture scribblers Arm on Wednesday said they are working together to help make containerized apps comfortable on Arm hardware.

Initially, the plan is to create a cloud-based development environment for writing and delivering applications to cloud, edge and IoT devices. The companies contend that doing so will let businesses build apps more rapidly and more securely, and perhaps lead to new services.

For Docker at least, it's a more forward-looking initiative than hospice care for aging Windows apps, lucrative though that may be.

"The collaboration between the two organizations, we think, has major ramifications across the board, " said David Messina, EVP of strategic alliances for Docker in a phone interview with The Register.

"For developers, what this means for them is an opportunity to do what they've done with x86 now seamlessly with Arm. And then for enterprises, many of our customers see the edge as an important part of their digital transformation strategies."

Docker and Arm argue that all the IoT data hitting corporate networks from sensors, meters and other instrumentation is slowing network speeds, making centralized data processing problematic. With a container-based development scheme, the idea is that much of this back-and-forth can be avoided by efficient containerization and handled at the edge without too many calls back to the mothership.

The network efficiency, explained Messina, comes from updates that push the application delta (changes) instead of every bit of code. And with edge devices, there's a lot more machine learning and data analysis happening locally.

Thanks to recently introduced cloud kit like AWS EC2 A1 instances, based on AWS' Graviton processors and their 64-bit Arm Neoverse cores, there's even a cloud corral to run such stuff. Messina hinted that other cloud providers might be brought into the loop in the future.

The Arm-in-a-box venture intends to provide Docker Enterprise Engine tuned for Amazon's Arm-based cloud offering, under the belief that containerized apps on Arm, supported by Docker, allow significant savings over x86 compute stuff.

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The focus of the partnership at first will be delivering a suitable developer environment by integrating Arm capabilities into Docker Desktop and creating an extension to the Arm Neoverse platform.

"Docker and Arm have collaborated on emulation technology that allows Docker developers on Mac and Windows to do commands like docker run and docker build on an x86 machine, but feel like that's Arm without cross-compiling, said Messina, adding that the company intends to provide a preview for developers at its DockerCon event next week. "Also, we've implement a set of new commands that allow the developer to do what we call a multi-architecture image."

After that, Docker wants to tackle product lifecycle management, making its development environment applicable to other compute environments and consolidating edge workloads.

Docker has been re-aligning itself recently, laying people off and hiring others, in an attempt to become profitable by the end of next year.

"The benefit from a commercial aspect to Docker is it drives new opportunities for us," said Messina. ®

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