Guest Blog Post: Docker’s Jigsaw Puzzle Challenge by StackEngine CEO Bob Quillin

The following blog post is republished from the StackEngine blog by StackEngine CEO Bob Quillin, with permission. Cloud Computing Today had the pleasure of speaking with Bob Quillin about the contemporary interest in container technology and the concomitant pressures the industry faces with respect to container management in the context of the piece he authored below.

Container Days Austin, CoreOS, & Google

The unprecedented success of the first Container Days Austin (CDATX) and the latest series of product announcements from Google, CoreOS, and Rancher (plus soon to be others for sure) highlight two competing trends in the Container community today. Every POC (proof of concept), lab trial, and testbed evaluating Docker and containers has to fight through these issues:

  1. Mass Confusion: too many puzzle pieces

    For most organizations, especially enterprises, there are simply too many puzzle pieces to fit together. From where to start, to which app to convert, rewrite, or start anew, which distro to run, container platform to evaluate, or service discovery to use, not to mention networking, storage, build process integration, deployment, scheduling, orchestration, and so on – the process is just too complex. The sessions at CDATX ran the gamut up and down the container stack with attendees working diligently to put the puzzle together themselve

  2. Intense Interest: strong belief that this puzzle is the one

    Containerization arrives at a time in the market when virtualization has laid the groundwork for the next infrastructure revolution. IT, DevOps, and development teams are ready to take the next step to achieve greater capex (capital expenditure) cost savings and opex (operational expense) efficiency through automation. Furthermore, the DevOps movement has now crossed over to mainstream IT, and containers and Docker are the killer app for DevOps. Interest is beyond belief, and the senior practitioners who dominated CDATX attendance were on a clear mission to understand and learn.

It’s not surprising that the Docker market has too many jigsaw puzzle pieces to put together. This has been a developer-driven, open-source centric market built on the concept of pluggable components that developers compose together into a production application. That’s a hard problem to solve – so hard that many folks have just decided to jump to a PaaS-like approach. And if the market doesn’t start to pre-assemble the pieces for customers, we’ll likely see more and more move to a PaaS model that hides this underlying complexity from the end user. While there is nothing wrong with the PaaS model, the big opportunity for a new breed of solution combines the ease of developer deployment of a PaaS with the infrastructure control of an IaaS like Amazon AWS.

Puzzles or Portraits?

So how are we all responding to these challenges? There are several movements afoot that attack this problem:

  1. The Free Market Approach: create more puzzle pieces

    If you don’t like the Docker platform or available Linux distros, then build your own that’s smaller, skinnier, more secure, more enterprise-ready, more performant, more whatever it is you think the ecosystem is missing. While this approach may not help Docker customers to simplify the puzzle, it’s not realistic to think that Docker can or will solve all the problems out there on its own. We’ll likely see a variety of fixes, flavors, and options offered by emerging startups and established vendors alike.

  2. The Top-Down Approach: pre-assemble the puzzle with your own pieces

    While the whole puzzle can’t yet be assembled, vendors like CoreOS and Google (with their latest Tectonic initiative) and Docker itself see the need to begin to vertically integrate parts of the stack – to make it easier and more commercially viable. That is, if the ecosystem is becoming too fragmented (with too many puzzle pieces) then vendors may try to take the situation into their own hands and simplify. The question again here is, does the customer win?

  3. The Agile Market Approach: start with a picture – add pieces as you go

    StackEngine firmly believes that we need better pieces to the puzzle to make everything enterprise-grade and production ready, from Docker to containers to the associated compute, networking, and storage optimizations. That push should never end. But enterprises and organizations committed to DevOps methodologies need to apply agile methods throughout. They require an end-to-end solution where they can pay less attention to assembling the puzzle pieces and more to cutting licensing costs, deploying apps more reliably, quickly and frequently, with the freedom to plug-in new jigsaw puzzle pieces as they go and as they choose.

If you want to be part of the discussion on where and how this industry will move forward, keep an eye out for the next Container Days unconference, where you can come ready to learn more about this emerging puzzle and/or lead the conversation. Container Days is coming to Boston with Container Days Boston on June 5-6 and plans are in the works to head to Silicon Valley next. They are just getting organized and are looking for sponsors. Also, more cities are in the works and let us know if we can help get things off the ground! Finally, Container Days Austin 2016 is already in planning mode so check out Docker Austin in the meantime to get plugged in.