Two years ago I was one of the Docker skeptics. Not from a technology standpoint—I understand and fully believe in full-stack application development and deployments. But from an adoption perspective, I feared that the early developer uptick would lead to messy and unstable deployments, and alienate even more frustrated Ops teams. But Docker is hitting sysadmins head-on, and has taken the final step to give me the faith. Education.
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Two weeks ago I attended VMWorld to see if there was any DevOps representation this year. To my dismay, other than a handful of companies like Platform9, Embotics, Quali, Red Hat (Check out their CloudFroms datacenter management tool—It’s awesome, and they are not good at promoting it), along with Anisble, PagerDuty, and, of course Docker, there was VERY little. VMWorld has made political attempts to embrace DevOps via VIC (vSphere Integrated Containers) and vRealize, but ultimately their lack of interest is obvious—which has created a vacuum in a specific market where it is now Docker’s job to pave a path. And they will.
Docker has changed. They have gone from being just a toy adopted bottom-up by developers for Dev/Test to something much more serious. In the last two years, Docker has made huge steps to support the enterprise, both with product announcements and strategy. And it is clear that Ops teams matter to them. They want to help them keep up with the demands of development teams, and increase the quality of production.
Here is how they are doing it.
There’s no better way to build confidence then to learn from someone else. And it’s no longer the unicorns that are telling their Docker story. Docker has put case studies front and center in every show and conversation they have. While the ADP story is the dominant one, this is not the most interesting one to me. I’ve been more interested in the implementations by organizations like the GSA and other large regulated enterprises who would not even be on someone’s list of likely adoption candidates.
But now it’s time for Docker to take it further, beyond the stories that empower all organizations to the next step. After all, if a government organization is doing it, it would be rather embarrassing if you are not. Docker is now investing in education, and hand-to-hand combat with enterprises through growth of their sales team, and strong collateral.
The latest proof of this is the launch of their new ebook, Docker for the Virtualization Admin. I normally think of ebooks as short and high-level. But this book does go into a decent depth of explanation—and they are targeting those who are going to be the tipping point for production- ready Docker deployments. SysAdmins.
David Messina, SVP of Marketing at Docker, explains, “We want them to know that containers are not lightweight VMs.” Here are three more great tools for Ops people to get started with Docker.
After some conversations, it’s clear there will be much more. Seeing their backing to support building solutions, not tinker sets, is the final push it took for me to believe in their new enterprise focus, and I have confidence in healthy adoption going forward.
They are not just containers anymore
They have to me much more than containers. They have to provide the platform. Docker is addressing this by building more robust solutions around the technology, such as networking. And of course Docker Data Center.
The enterprise needs a PaaS-level solution to control and manage their containers. They need to take the developer portability and expand it into the entire application lifecycle. They need orchestration that is tailored to containers, and not a kludge of a lot of other tools. The third-party ecosystem is full of them. However, it is logical that the ideal platform will be developed in conjunction with the container technology itself.
They are not done
It’s going to take time. Kubernetes is still a dominant force at the datacenter level. Developers still don’t understand why they should care about containers beyond their laptops. And companies are still starving for a clear path to organization-wide adoption.
The choice to focus on the platform also brings with it a big challenge. Most organizations operate in a best-of-breed or rather “this is my tool” mentality. And it is rare to find an organization that has embraced a unified platform from one technology vendor. But that does not mean it’s not possible. And partnerships like those made with Microsoft, and HPE, which are platforms on the infrastructure side, will help tremendously.
The good news is that we are getting beyond the period of trying to change minds and hearts. For the most part, people understand that modern software development is different, has different demands, and is important. Even if IT Ops is not happy with it, they will have to deal with it. The holdouts are not worth thinking about.
The part of the strategy that I cannot get behind is “the toe in the water by moving your monolithic application.” I know this is the story behind ADP. And I agree that it provides value. It is a nice idea. Real change is usually not that easy. If history has taught us anything, it’s that habits are always looking for a way back in. And if you let organizations take their big application and put it in a slightly better container, they are going to treat it exactly the same way, because it’s convenient. There will not be a big need to move to microservices. VMs, after all, are containers. They come with the weight of a hypervisor, but they could be treated the same. They can be portable, and cool technology like VM Motion will allow you to do a lot with that. But what happened? In their case, all the benefits were lost on the user, and they treat VMs like physical servers. And VMWare just followed what their users wanted. As David Messina explained to me, “VMWare has a machine view of the world. Docker is application-centric.”
I’m not embarrassed about being a Docker curmudgeon, and I wish I could say they were so concerned about my opinion that they’ve made all the changes I wanted them to. But they are doing the right thing. And while some developers are going to feel alienated that their hip tool is more grown up, the adoption of Docker will be better—and thus, people will actually embrace full-stack application development and the modern delivery chain.