ReadWritePredict is a look ahead at the technology trends and companies that will shape the coming year.
You might be sick of hearing about Docker, at least if you move in certain circles. And yet 2015 promises to be awash in … even more Docker. Maybe you wanted something else under your Christmas tree, but all Santa seems to have this year is Docker, Docker and more Docker.
And for good reason.
Docker makes developers’ lives easier. Among other benefits, Docker makes it incredibly easy to package and distribute software, the “thankless scut work” that can consume 90% of enterprise IT budgets, according to IDC’s Al Gillen.
As enterprises look for ways to streamline development, Docker will continue to play an increasingly important role. So while you may have wished for world peace or even mobile phone service that consistently works, instead you’re getting Docker. Consider yourself blessed.
Getting Out Of DLL Hell
As mentioned, Docker provides a better way to package and distribute software. But its benefits extend beyond this seemingly pedestrian function. Docker also offers a standard API (see our API explainer) and lifecycle model for applications, while providing lightweight resource isolation.
While such benefits may seem arcane, an easy way to understand Docker’s allure is simply to go back to DLL Hell, as MongoDB vice president Jared Rosoff recently reminded me. Windows developers will remember trying to install software that depended on a particular library, while another piece of software relied on a different version of that same library.
Pre-Docker, developers cursed the heavens and descended into DLL Hell. Post-Docker, all application dependencies can be encapsulated in a single package. Easy.
The effect of this Docker approach, as Trend Micro’s Mark Nunnikhoven told me, is to deliver a “smoother transition from development to production.” Or as Docker creator Solomon Hykes tells Businessweek, “This is about the mass commoditization of the production of software. Docker can have the same impact on software that shipping containers had on world trade.”
Is It Getting Hot In Here?
Not surprisingly, developers love this. Really, really love it.
So much so that they’ve downloaded Docker 77 million times already. In just the second half of 2014, the number of Dockerized applications in the Docker repository jumped from 14,000 to well over 35,000. More than 13,000 Docker-related projects exploded on GitHub.
Much of this Docker love comes from startups, which have embraced it wholeheartedly, as Leo Polovets’ analysis shows. He looked at which technologies are hot with startups and found Docker as an increasingly important component:
Ryan Williams uncovered the same trend by looking at HackerNews hiring trends. In fact, Docker is one of the fastest-rising technologies on the whoishiring discussion thread, which Williams tracks, climbing 13 places to 42nd place in December, up from 55th overall in September.
But Docker isn’t just a startup toy.
Microsoft, VMware, IBM and Amazon and more have all climbed on the Docker train as they attempt to deliver Docker’s promise of significantly improved development to large enterprises. Rumor has it that all of the big financial services companies are already using Docker, too.
And yet as important as Docker was to enterprises in 2014, this coming year it will become even bigger.
Docker Shifts Into Overdrive
One simple answer as to “why?” is simply “developers.” As noted, developers become more important every day. Whatever makes developers more productive, therefore, is an unalloyed good.
Red Hat developer Nick Coghlan puts it this way:
@mjasay Dev & staging replicas become dramatically cheaper, continuous integration far more capable, reducing risks of faster cycle times.
— Nick Coghlan (@ncoghlan_dev) December 23, 2014
Or, as former Netflix cloud chief (and current Battery Ventures technology advisor) Adrian Cockcroft argues, as more companies embrace a microservices approach to IT deployment similar to Netflix’s model, Docker becomes essential. As enterprises try to move faster, Docker-enabled microservices allows separate teams to follow “separate release plans” with each “deploy[ing] independent of each other.”
This makes developers dramatically more productive.
But developer productivity is more than merely making it easier to move apps from development to production, as important as that is. By delivering true application portability, Docker also promises to make it easier to move applications between clouds, whether that’s a matter of moving an application from an internal data center to Amazon’s public cloud, or whether it’s a matter of moving an app from Amazon Web Services to Microsoft Azure.
Such portability gives enterprises so much more power to control their own application destiny, it’s reason enough to embrace Docker en masse.
In tandem, while Docker’s containerized approach won’t obviate the need for virtualization (due to weaker security mechanisms and the need to share the underlying OS), it will free enterprises from expensive, clunky VMs for a wide range of uses.
For example, the traditional approach to running multiple jobs on a single server would be to carve them up into VMs and dedicate each VM to a single job. This approach is problematic because VMs must crawl to a start as they must boot a complete OS, taking minutes to do so. This same need to boot the entire OS also makes VMs resource intensive.
Containers do much of the same work—but much, much faster, since starting a container is like kickstarting a process.
Docker: The Gift That Keeps On Giving
As Docker CEO Ben Golub said recently, “If we can liberate developers from all that mundane activity, if we can free the application from the infrastructure, great things are going to happen for everybody.” While it’s not yet clear that Docker, the company, will be able to make money from Docker, the open-source project, it’s now all but certain that enterprises will be able to save gargantuan piles of money by embracing Docker.
Which is why Docker, hot as it was in 2014, will be even hotter in 2015. Through improved portability and better virtualization performance, Docker promises to be on every enterprise’s shopping list as we go into 2015.
Lead photo by wirralwater