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Docker Founder: 'We've been Given a Mandate To Build Something'

Investors are so bullish about how Docker is poised to play a major role in the future of enterprise IT infrastructure and software development that they filled its coffers with $95 million in D Series funding. Docker, regarded as the leading provider of containers for enterprise developers to build service oriented, scalable and portable software, took the huge cash infusion even though the provider of containers hasn't used up last fall's most recent infusion of $40 million.

The company's meteoric rise in just two years has quickly garnered support by enterprise IT heavyweights including Amazon Web Services, Google, Microsoft, VMware and IBM. Not only does Docker aspire to make operating systems and virtual machines much less relevant but it wants to make it possible for developers to build software without regard to the OS or public cloud provider, with the ability to scale with or without a virtual machine. The company claims that the Docker platform shrinks software development times from weeks to minutes and drives 20x improvements in computing resource efficiency.

Docker says it has logged 300 million downloads of instances for its Docker Hub hosted offering and 15 large Fortune 50 companies are now testing its forthcoming Docker Hub Enterprise offering. More than 1,200 open source developers have contributed to the Docker platform, according to the company. David Messina, Docker's VP of marketing, said on a conference call with journalists that the company plans to use the proceeds of the $95 million to expand the orchestration, networking storage and security features of the Docker platform and build on the APIs that enable extensions to platforms from partners like Amazon, Microsoft and IBM.

"I think we've been given a mandate to build something and clearly there's a community of people who are very excited about what we've built so far," said Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes, speaking during the conference call. "The expectations are extremely high, almost impossibly high. Our goal is to build a universal tool. Very specifically we're trying to solve fundamental problems that affect all applications, and although at any given time the implementation is limited in its scope. For example most obviously you can only run applications in Docker if they can run in Linux, but over time we're working to expand that scope, and the most dramatic example is our partnership with Microsoft."

Docker's partnership with Microsoft, launched in May and extended in October, is significant. The next version of Windows Server, code-named "v.Next," will ship with native support for containers and with a ported version of Docker that will support Windows container technology, Hykes noted. Microsoft last week said it will release the next technical preview of Windows Server next month.

"As a developer in an enterprise, you'll be able to develop, build and test applications using Docker's standard tooling and interfaces for both Linux and Windows environments," Hykes said. The notion of using Docker containers is that developers can build applications for .NET, Java and modern programming languages that are portable and scan scale without requiring huge investments in virtualization. 

More Lightweight and Faster than a VM

"The first thing that happens when people play with containers in their development projects is it looks like a VM but faster and more lightweight and consuming less memory. And those are all true," Hykes said. "Several years before Docker existed, a common, wisdom among [IT pros and developers] was a container was just that: smaller, more lightweight, a faster VM. The fundamental difference between Docker and other lower-level container tools is simply we disagree. We think containers and VMs are fundamentally different. They operate at different levels of the stack and as a result they are not mutually exclusive. You can use containers with VMs, you can use containers without VMs, directly on bare metal, and we're seeing organizations do both."

Currently most customers aren't using Docker containers to replace virtual machines, Hykes said, emphasizing the notion that containers are designed to ensure existing infrastructure and applications don't require change.

"Typically what we've seen is the way developers reason about containers is not as a possible replacement for VMs, but as an additional layer on top of their infrastructure, which allows them to pick and choose the best infrastructure for each job. [This] means it now becomes easier for an organization to use VMs where VMs make sense, to use bare metal when bare metal makes sense and, of course, to pick and choose between multiple physical machine providers and virtual machine providers and then layer on top of all these different parts of their infrastructure. On top of which they can express their applications. So the bottom line is containers are for applications and VMs are for machines."

To the point regarding the type of applications Docker containers are best suited, Hykes said they can be applied to any type. "Docker can be applied to any sort of application. Over time, I think we're seeing more and more practitioners grow comfortable with the technology, comfortable with the best practices and evolve from the original pilot project, which is typically a non-vital project and gradually trust Docker with projects of larger and larger magnitude."

Messina said the appeal of Docker Server and the forthcoming Docker Hub played a key role in Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust joining the parade of investors funding this new round. The two companies have used Docker for various development efforts and now these organizations are standardizing on Docker in their application lifecycle infrastructure," Messina said.

Insight Venture Partners led the round with new investments from Coatue, Goldman Sachs and Northern Trust. Also participating in the round were previous investors Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Trinity Ventures and Jerry Yang's AME Cloud Ventures.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 04/14/2015 at 1:38 PM


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