Docker Adds Container Networking, Deployment Options - InformationWeek

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Docker Adds Container Networking, Deployment Options

Docker gives its container platform a DevOps flavor with multi-host networking and the ability to deploy into the cloud.

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The Docker container platform can now supply software-defined networking (SDN) to an application that gets deployed as multiple containers on multiple hosts. The SDN capability ensures that the distributed containers can communicate with each other and remain connected, even if some are moved.

In addition, the Docker platform has enhanced its three core orchestration tools, Docker Compose, Machine, and Swarm, adding intelligence and features to the ways they deal with multi-container applications.

The announcement of these moves by Docker Inc., the company that founded the Docker project and has now contributed its code to the Open Container Project as part of the Linux Foundation, came on the opening day of DockerCon, the annual user conference for Docker customers and developers.

(Image: Maksim Koval/iStockphoto)

(Image: Maksim Koval/iStockphoto)

Docker started out as a convenient packaging system for new code, tapping into common features of different Linux distributions sharing the same kernel. By recognizing that fact, Docker containers started to occupy the niche between development and operations, providing a convenient way for code to be handed off from developers, to test and quality assurance, to production. By including the parts of Linux needed by the application from outside the kernel, the package was easy to pick up and run in a variety of environments.

[Want to learn more about how Docker and Rocket supplier CoreOS reached agreement on a common specification? See Docker, CoreOS Bury The Hatchet For Container Spec.]

On the opening day of DockerCon 2015, however, it became clear that Docker Inc. was shooting for considerably more than a packaging system for its popular container-formatting system. CEO Ben Golub, in an opening keynote, said Docker has started "to change thinking about the data center." Through containers, parts of the data center can be distributed out into business units, where a server can serve both as "compute power and radiators" in climates where the heat dissipation is a plus.

But mainly, he said, Docker is expanding its reach with features that make it an easier unit to manage in the data center, especially when an application is composed of multiple containers.

Solomon Hykes, who founded the Docker project in his mother's basement in Paris while running DotCloud in 2011, said Docker's ability to assign logical units of the network to containers -- its SDN overlay of existing IP networks -- amounted to a big step forward for container operations. Docker container networking has previously been a sticking point. If the container host failed, or the Docker daemon in the background stalled, the containers disappeared and could only be restored with new IP addresses. That restoration that left them invisible to the systems they had previously been connected to.

"Earlier this year we went looking for help," he said. Docker announced it would acquire SDN startup SocketPlane in March, "and three months later ... we've reinvented networking for Docker. We've built in some features we think you're going to love," Hykes told DockerCon attendees Monday morning in San Francisco.

SocketPlane's approach creates a virtual network by using Open vSwitch, a software switch that can be embedded in a virtual machine or container, to build Virtual Extension LAN or VXLAN tunnels. The IETF has approved VXLAN as a standard. It was created by VMware, Arista, and Cisco in 2013. The tunnels are logical units of existing IP networks and can be used to connect containers. Each container gets an IP address that stays with the container regardless of where it migrates.

Docker's networking enhancement also relies on a Domain Name System in the data center, another open standard. With DNS and VXLAN, Docker has been able to supply "multi-host networking out of the box" for Docker containers and to allow the deployment of complex, microservice applications as a set of containers.

"Assemble virtual networks on any topology. Any network available on one machine is available to any other machine," Hykes told the general session. The networking is available on existing networks without rewriting applications or adding new networks specifically for containers. The VXLAN-based approach allows microservices to be placed on any node of a Docker Swarm, its container-cluster-building software, and be touch with other microservices that are part of the same application.

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive ... View Full Bio

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Charlie Babcock
Charlie Babcock,
User Rank: Author
6/23/2015 | 2:51:42 PM
Bridging the gulf
Docker is still oriented toward developers but most of these announcements are oriented toward making Dockerized apps ready for production and ongoing operations. It's bridging the gulf between developers and ops.
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