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DigitalOcean Adds Docker-Optimized Hosts

DigitalOcean partners with CoreOS to host servers geared to run Docker containers.
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DigitalOcean on Friday began offering CoreOS to serve as a host operating system for Docker containers. CoreOS is a light footprint version of Linux designed to efficiently run applications in the Docker format. Its availability is likely to enhance DigitalOcean's appeal to its currently active 160,000 developer accounts.

The addition of CoreOS is an example of how some developer-oriented cloud services are gaining a foothold in the marketplace, despite Amazon Web Services' overwhelming dominance. AWS' EC2 compute service got its start among developers, not IT managers. A new generation of developers oriented toward Go, Node.js, Ruby, and PHP has come along, and in some cases, they're opting for the $5 a month servers available from providers like DigitalOcean and other low cost service providers.

Commissioning a droplet, DigitalOcean's name for a virtual server, "will be the easiest and most affordable way to create a Docker container," with the addition of CoreOS hosts, Mitch Wainer, DigitalOcean co-founder and CMO, said in an interview.

DigitalOcean previously offered a one-click option for initializing a Docker container. Now it can be started on a CoreOS server, whose version of Linux uses 120 MBs of memory compared to the several hundred MBs needed by most distributions. Once running, a customer's droplet will use 40% less memory on a CoreOS host than other Linux hosts, Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS, said in an interview.

[Want to see who is backing Digital Ocean's rapid expansion? Read DigitalOcean Gets $37.1 Million For Cloud Expansion.]

"Red Hat Enterprise Linux has a lot of features in it and legacy code" to keep it compatible with earlier versions, said Polvi. CoreOS is "lean and mean and fully optimized to run Docker containers," he added.

Red Hat is working on its own version of a container-optimized host system, through the Atomic host project announced at the Red Hat Summit in San Francisco in mid-April. No date has been set for its release.

DigitalOcean, with data centers in New York, San Francisco, London, Amsterdam, and Singapore, was a pioneer in making SSDs standard equipment on its host servers. It boasts that a customer's newly provisioned, KVM virtual machine will be up and running in 55 seconds or less. CenturyLink, Rackspace, and Amazon have beefed up virtual servers equipped with solid state memory in recent months as well.

In addition to activating a single container, DigtialOcean and CoreOS are partnering to ensure that developers may launch groups of containers on virtual server clusters. CoreOS has built in the open source utility "fleet," a distributed system for initializing processes. With fleet, it's possible to activate a group of containers at the same time.

It's also integrated the etcd key value store system that it developed to capture and share configuration information across a group of servers. Each node in a cluster runs an etcd client that automatically detects the master node of its partition and allows rapid recovery in the event of a node failure. The key value store makes it easier to create a container cluster, said Polvi. With etcd, a server in a cluster knows as it's activated, for example, where the load balancers in the cluster are located.

DigitalOcean features developer friendly features that have attracted large numbers of Ruby developers in particular. It was already tuned in to developer interest in Docker. The addition of CoreOS on its hosts "is a match made in heaven," claimed Polvi.

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