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What Is Docker Today?


When Docker came into existence, it transformed the industry by making it easier to use containers. 2020 is a totally different world. So what is Docker, the company, today? We talked to Justin Graham, VP of Products at Docker to discuss just that.


Swapnil Bhartiya: If you look at Docker’s evolution over the years… I mean, when Docker came into existence, you guys were solving a specific problem with containers, and that kind of literally transformed the industry, but in today’s world, if you just fast forward, there are so many different things happening. The service mesh is there, microservices, edge-computing. So, I just want to understand, what does all of that mean for Docker today, and what is Docker today?

Justin Graham: Our journey to this point that we’re in today sort of culminated in November when we refocused the company on developer tools and developer workflow. The specific place where we are hearing from our customers that they need help is at the place where source code management stops and production runtime of containerized applications begin. In between, in that middle portion, we hear from our customers that there’s a lot of different options, a lot of different choices, a lot of different things to stitch together, and in many cases, they’re writing a lot of their own custom code to accomplish that, and they are asking and saying, “Hey, can Docker help here in some way?” So, that’s where we’re going to focus.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Since you kind of shed some weight and you sold Docker Enterprise to Mirantis, what value is still there at Docker from the project’s perspective and for the product’s perspective so that we can understand how developers can leverage these technologies?

Justin Graham: I think one of the great things we realized in that process was that the Docker prior to November of ’19 was really two companies operating under one roof, an enterprise company selling an enterprise container platform runtime and developer tools and workflow company selling that through Docker Hub. So, with the sale of Docker Enterprise to Mirantis, the refocused Docker that’s moving forward still has ownership of three core areas.

The first is Docker Desktop, which includes the packaging of a number of primitives like the Docker CLI, the Docker Engine and Docker Compose.

The second is Docker Hub, which is public and private repositories, verified content and images as well as some team management and representation features in integrations with companies like Atlassian, Bitbucket and GitHub.

Then, the third is our open source projects, which are primarily driven through those prior two products. So, I mentioned the Docker Engine and Compose before, but things like Notary, Docker Registry and other open-source projects that we give back to the community in order to move everyone forward. So, all those three things are what the refocused Docker has and is continuing to move forward, millions of users using those things and actual millions of dollars of revenue being generated as well.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Right. Let’s go back to the first question that we talked about. A lot of technologies are coming, there are a lot of paradigms coming in DevOps, DevSecOps. So much is happening in the industry. What are some of the core pain points that you see developers still face today that you want to address?

Justin Graham: Really good question, and I think we sort of, as we’ve been listening and doing our research, we can sort of couch this into a few cohorts, right? So, let’s take cohort one, which is a development team that may be working for a smaller company or a startup that may not have a lot of resources like a separate infrastructure team or a separate operations team or a separate test team. The developers are responsible for everything from writing the code to packaging it, getting it tested and deployed and run. Those developers and those development teams are really needing help in setting up all of those pipelines and managing all those integrations and the construction of those pipelines from source code management to public cloud deployment in a very efficient, easy, simple way.

Then, I think if you sort of roll it forward all the way to potentially development teams that are part of a larger organization at a larger company, they have a different set of issues, which has to do with the consistency of what you code or what you’re testing. Is it really what you’re coding and testing? What happened, if you make an update, where all of the downstream dependencies of those updates to your code or to a package in a very complex environment? So, all of that complexity regardless of the level of maturity exists within that, that middle of what we call code to cloud, which is where we’re going to be placing our focus.

Swapnil Bhartiya: Since we are in a totally different phase, we’re in 2020, and Docker is also kind of changing its strategy and focus, so I’m also curious to know, beyond technology, I also want to understand how important is the ecosystem for Docker, and how do you plan to engage with a lot of partners, a lot of players, a lot of competitors in the market to just kind of move this whole movement even further?

Justin Graham: Yeah, really good question. So, I’ll start with first just the ethos and philosophy, right? We very much want to align ourselves with the success of our customers and those being developers and development teams, so as developers and development teams win, we win. So, part of that ethos and delivering on our ethos is understanding that we obviously can’t build everything here, right? So, we are inviting conversations on partnerships and integrations and sort of starting with the two that we already have, which is with Atlassian, Bitbucket and GitHub for webhooks and triggers. We think that there’s the opportunity for many, many more partnerships across security, CI, CD, and other areas because our goal is to help the developer get that wholly stitched together, robust set of pipelines from code to cloud in the way that most benefits them.

We see Docker as a great nexus to start there given Docker Hub as a registry and Docker Desktop and the CLI as great interfaces, but there’s plenty of value to be driven through partnerships in potentially across both those areas. So, we are inviting any and all conversations for partnerships and integrations in that perspective. That’s going to be core to our ethos in how we operate moving forward.

Swapnil Bhartiya: What is Docker doing so that their customer base or ecosystem doesn’t lose confidence in Docker?

Justin Graham: Yeah, it’s a really good question. I think the first is you’re not going to see us doing a lot of responding to sentiments and things publicly more, so we’re going to do through action, starting with listening to our current customers. Well, one of the things that we’re doing to sort of invite that transparency and trust is launching a public roadmap through a blog I’m writing on March 10th, which serves two purposes.

One is it invites our customers and the community to be involved in how we deliver them value. What’s most needed? Where are the biggest gaps? What are the highest priorities? We’re taking that feedback directly. Then, second is we’re being transparent. What are we working on? What are we investigating? What are we writing the code on, so that our customers can see what we’re working on and then comment and provide feedback on that? So, I think the combination of both of those things, obviously rooted in listening and working backward from our customers, is the approach we’re going to take.

Back on the partnerships piece, we are inviting those conversations at all three stages of that workflow, right, so on the source code end of the workflow, on the middle part of the code to cloud workflow, as well as the runtime workflow. So, we would love to have any and all those conversations. I think lastly, we want developers and development teams to consume on their terms. So, the business model that we’re putting forth is monthly subscriptions that are very SaaS-like that many developers and development teams should be used to with other development tools or workflow tools that they use. So, our business model will be SaaS subscriptions in that respect.T