Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Docker Attracts Big Fish, Eyes Micro-Service Platform 

Application container specialist Docker Inc. announced its latest and greatest funding round this week totaling $95 million, attracting such heavyweights as financial services giants Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust.

Company executives said the cash infusion, which follows hot on the heels of a September 2014 funding round, would allow it to address the needs of developers and enterprises that are standardizing on Docker technology. Specifically, Docker said it would use the funds to flesh out a "micro-service" architecture enterprises can use to deliver apps.

"We are drinking from the fire hose of data on use cases from the Docker ecosystem," said Solomon Hykes, Docker's founder and CTO. That ecosystem is said to include millions of developers and thousands of enterprises.

The huge funding round announced Tuesday (April 14) and the growing interest of Fortune 50 companies in the startup's technology also raised questions about the open source roots of the Docker container movement. "Each open source project is unique," a company spokesman said in addressing the rapid evolution of two-year-old Docker. "We are tackling the individual challenges of developers."

Docker claims that 4 million developers are using Docker to build, ship and run applications. As the container platform scales up to meet the demands of big enterprise customers like Goldman Sachs, the startup insists that Docker remains true to its mission as an open platform for distributed applications.

The startup also said it would use the funding to expand integration with other technology partners like Amazon Web Services, IBM and Microsoft. The goal is to combine open source development with cloud services in order to push container technology into production environments.

An enterprise version of Docker Hub, a hosted service used to run Docker containers, was rolled out in December 2014. The on-premise version with beefed-up security features is currently in beta testing with Fortune 500 companies. Docker said this week it expects to launch "greater availability" of Docker Hub for enterprises later in the second quarter.

Docker claims more than 300 million instances of the technology have been downloaded so far from Docker Hub. It also cited use cases in which enterprises reported application deployment cycles shrinking from weeks to minutes while the lightweight service reduced computing and storage demands.

Docker said it would devote the latest investment to improving orchestration, networking and storage while building out open APIs. It also said it would seek to develop new plug-ins to augment developers' existing tools.

Ultimately, Hykes asserted, Docker represents the leading open-source platform for packaging and deploying emerging micro-services. Hence, the company said it would focus on what to build next as it designs a micro-service architecture, Hykes added.

The latest funding round was led by Insight Venture Partners, with new investment from Coatue Management along with Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust. Among the existing investors joined the latest funding round was AME Cloud Ventures, headed by Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang.

Along with Goldman Sachs, Docker cited a growing list of enterprise now using Docker containers to development and deploy application. They include the BBC, Groupon, ING, Spotify and Yelp. Investor Goldman Sachs said it has moved "towards a standardized infrastructure for packaging, shipping and running our applications based on Docker’s technology."

Given its high-profile investors and the steady flow of cash pouring into the startup, Docker sought to address concerns that it may be expanding too fast. Acknowledging in a blog post "it doesn't have an imminent need for additional financing," the company stressed that "we are in a period of rapid change." Hence, "Whatever seemingly ambitious goals Docker set at the time of the last [funding] round have been dwarfed by what the Docker ecosystem has delivered in terms of usage, product innovation, partnerships and in mainstream enterprise adoption."

The company said it just hired its 120th full-time employee.

About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).