Docker Gets $40 Million: Full Steam Ahead

Docker will use its third round of funding to double staff, including engineers and a direct sales force pointed at enterprise buyers. The company's enterprise data center momentum keeps growing.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

September 16, 2014

5 Min Read

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Docker announced an additional $40 million in funding Tuesday. It will use the investment to more closely integrate its Linux container system with enterprise data center operations. The amount is more than 2.5 times the $15 million it collected in January and represents a bet by four venture capital firms that Docker is not a momentary phenomenon.

Since receiving that January funding, Docker has doubled its staff from 25 to 50. With the latest injection, it will double its staff again to 100 over the next 12 months, predicted Scott Johnston, Docker senior VP. To reach the enterprise, it will need integration engineering talent, plus for the first time, a direct sales force, Johnston said in an interview. Until now, Docker had built its market through open source code downloads to developers.

"Docker brings a new approach to handling applications that will land on top of the VMware (vCenter and vSphere) infrastructure," said Johnston. Docker will take a "complementary approach to VMware, not a rip and replace approach," he said.

That's because enterprises already have a heavy investment in their VMware management environments and know how to use them. Several or many containers can be put inside a virtual machine and share the VM's operating system, leading to substantial savings, he noted. During VMworld last month, VMware executives repeatedly touted the value of containers, provided they were running inside a virtual machine that shielded any possible trespass on a neighboring application.

[Want to learn more about how VMware sees containers? See VMware: VMs And Containers Better Together.]

In addition, Docker executives say their system needs to integrate with existing monitoring systems. It needs to connect to existing application development and application management tooling, user authentication systems, and enterprise deployment systems. After such needs are satisfied, the firm is likely to use any spare change left over from the $40 million to build a container platform and management system that functions independently as well.

"Docker isn't just about containers and container formats. At DockerCon [developer conference in June], we started talking about Docker as a platform," Johnston noted. That means Docker may become more of a self-managing platform that hosts dozens or hundreds of microservices -- an application function put in its own container -- to make up a composite application. Some microservices will run on the same host; others may run remotely.

Docker also has challenges in moving beyond its natural developer community to provide the containers and container management needed for testing, quality assurance, staging, and production. Its form of application packaging is something of a de facto standard among developers. If it were enhanced, it might become a standardized way of deploying production applications to different environments, Johnston said. "There's a need for more of an enterprise touch, a sales and marketing staff" that knows how to talk to the enterprise, he adds.

In addition to the freely downloadable version, a supported online version of Docker is available on Docker's hub for $7 a month.

During VMworld, Docker CEO Ben Golub lined up with VMware executives' statements that containers running production workloads work better inside virtual machines, where the boundaries of the VM more solidly encapsulate them. Virtual machines separate applications from hardware dependencies; containers move up a layer and separate apps from operating system dependencies. Many containers may share one copy of an operating system on a host, without interfering with one another. Containers have a smaller footprint than virtual machines and are quicker to be called up from hibernation.

Docker was launched as an open source project in March 2013 and quickly caught on with developers. It is built into Red Hat's Open Shift platform-as-a-service. During VMworld, VMware said its Cloud Foundry is committed to adopting the Docker container format. Linux system supplier CoreOS said its container-host system supports Docker use. And Apprenda, a Microsoft-oriented, on-premises PaaS supplier, has said a future version of its system will also support Docker.

A Docker container organizes the files of an application and its dependencies in layers, or a preset order that is recognizable to Docker-supporting environments. Network connections and database setup can be done automatically, provided the container can run on a host with the same Linux kernel as the one where it ran previously. The approach makes applications transportable, something like manufactured goods in standard shipping containers, Golub has explained.

Docker's third round of funding was led by Sequoia Capital. Bill Coughran, a former Google senior VP of engineering, will represent Sequoia on Docker's board. Sequoia was joined by existing investors Benchmark Capital, Greylock Partners, Insight Ventures, Trinity Ventures, and Yahoo founder Jerry Yang. Yang also contributed to the first funding round.

Docker is used by eBay, Baidu, Yelp, Spotify, Yandex, and Cambridge HealthCare. There are 35,000 "Dockerized" applications on the Docker website's hub. It has existing integration partnerships with AWS, Cloud Foundry, Google, IBM, Microsoft, OpenStack, Rackspace, Red Hat OpenShift, and VMware. Interest in Linux containers increased with Google's announcement at Google I/O in June that it has based its Search infrastructure on the efficiencies found in using Linux containers.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

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 Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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