Advanced Computing in the Age of AI|Friday, August 7, 2020
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Docker Scales Containers With Networking Deal 

Software-defined networking and application container technology are being combined in an acquisition announced this week by Docker Inc.

The San Francisco-based corporate entity sponsoring the open platform for distributed cloud applications said Wednesday (March 4) it will acquire SDN startup SocketPlane to help drive networking collaboration about Docker containers. Founded in Fall 2014, SocketPlane has been working on development of a Docker open APIs for networking since last fall.

The startup's small cadre of industry veterans previously worked at Cisco Systems, Dell, Red Hat, HP and OpenDaylight. Madhu Venugopal served as SocketPlane's CEO. The startup's focus was on "driving DevOps Defined Networking by enabling distributed security, application services and orchestration for Docker and Linux containers."

SocketPlane, Menlo Park, Calif., listed LightSpeed Venture Partners as an investor.

The startup previously worked on open standards for SDN, including OpenStack, OpenDaylight, Open vSwitch as well as Open Virtual Network. More recently, it has focused on open design sprints around Docker networking that led to initial Docker networking API efforts.

Docker said the SocketPlane team would specifically focus on collaborating with the growing Docker partner community to develop a set of networking APIs to meet the requirements of application developers along with network and system administrators.

The goal is to "complete application portability at every step of the application lifecycle," Docker said in announcing the SocketPlane acquisition.

The networking component of the distributed applications stack is growing in importance with the growth of multiple container and multiple host applications, stressed Solomon Hykes, chief architect of the Docker Project. "We felt we needed to support those efforts with a dedicated team" like SocketPlane's, which has broad experience in most open source SDN efforts.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed. However, Docker did say the new team joined this week and will work out of its San Francisco headquarters.

As the Docker ecosystem continues to grow, small companies working on various aspects of the container infrastructure have been collaborating on areas like networking, operating systems and other software platforms needed for Docker container orchestration. “Cross-host networking is an important requirement for Docker, and is fundamental to the vision for distributed applications,” Sheng Liang, CEO of one of those developers, Rancher Labs.

Ranchers Labs is developing a platform based on open-source software for operating Docker in production. Liang said his company has worked with both Docker and SocketPlane on integrating its OS designed to run Docker containers at scale in production.

Another Docker partner, Weaveworks, said demand for networking APIs is increasing among Docker users, including those in production. Hence, networking extensions are needed, and a "network API is now a resourced priority for Docker," Weaveworks said in a statement.

As the Docker ecosystem grows, other more straightforward approaches for moving application containers to production are also emerging. Since launching its alternative to Docker containers in December, San Francisco-based CoreOS added new features to Rocket container such as default cryptographic signing and upgrades designed to check the status of a container and the application within.

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