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Docker targets cloud-native developers with tools, services

With cloud-native development being key to application modernization and digital transformation efforts, Docker has refocused its strategy to empower developers with tools.

Docker hopes its new strategy to focus on eliminating complexity for cloud-native developers can spark a second love affair with the coding community.

Docker wants to make developers' jobs easier in three primary areas: building applications, the tool chain and open source, said Scott Johnston, Docker's CEO.

"This is a chance to focus 100% on our developer community," he said, noting that the developer landscape has changed significantly since Docker introduced its container strategy to the world in March 2013 to the delight of many developers. Docker sold off its enterprise business and restructured after its container orchestration product, Swarm, ran into stiff competition from Kubernetes.

 "The world of microservices has gotten a lot more complex," Johnston said. "There are now not just one or two containers, but tens, maybe hundreds of containers [involved with] any given application." In addition, cloud-native applications that make up these complex, multi-app systems can each be written in multiple languages such as Java, JavaScript, Ruby, Python and others, which complicates things even more for developers, he said.

Docker is planning to take three steps to appeal to cloud-native developers. The first two involve positioning Docker Desktop as the front end for the developer experience and stronger partnerships with the Docker ecosystem. Third, the company will make its Docker Hub repository service the core for integrations, configuration and management of the components that constitute developers' apps and microservices, said Justin Graham, vice president of products at Docker, in a blog post.

Docker Desktop will get more tools to help onboard new developers, teach them how to work with containers and foster better communication among teams, he added.

These new features and others to come will be delivered through Docker Hub to the Docker Command Line Interface and Docker Desktop UI. Docker Hub also will be the central place for developers to manage all the application components they create as part of app development, including containers and serverless functions.

"Docker Hub is a great place to kind of help simplify and automate and stitch together a lot of these stages into much better user experience," Johnston said.

The company will also make Docker Hub the central point for organizations in the Docker ecosystem to partner with Docker.

Meanwhile, Docker Desktop features a set of tools called Docker Template, which present the developer with preconfigured application patterns to help developers create apps faster.

In addition, Docker will help companies to safely implement open source components into their systems.

"Open source is being sought after by enterprises now, but they're often confused or perplexed by how they best integrate these technologies into their applications," Johnston said.

Docker will help these organizations by providing assistance around licensing open source software, as well as managing updates and patches, he said.

Can Docker execute?

Docker sold its enterprise business to Mirantis last November. After that, some observers questioned what the company would do next. This new strategy addresses those concerns and indicates that Docker is in for the long haul, Johnston said.

"I think a year from now, you'll see us have many more partner integrations as part of the tool chain," he said. "Right now, Docker is known for containers. But you'll see the Docker experience broaden beyond just containers to include serverless functions, hosted cloud services, and basically any other primitives as part of a cloud-native application."

Yet industry analysts said Docker needs to do more than simply issue a new strategy, the company has to execute and prove itself.

Much depends on execution, of course, but there are still holes in the developer experience and Docker's focus there is appropriate.
Stephen O'GradyAnalyst, RedMonk

"Much depends on execution, of course, but there are still holes in the developer experience and Docker's focus there is appropriate," said Stephen O'Grady, an analyst at RedMonk in Portland, Maine. "The 'code to cloud' experience is better than it was, but still involves a number of moving pieces. Focusing on streamlining that process is a worthy goal."

Docker raised $35 million in funding in November, money that it can tap to foster this pivot toward the needs of cloud-native developers. But beyond new tools, Docker needs to help this class of coders work faster.

"Docker's opportunity lies in assisting developers [to] accelerate productivity with an open source framework," said Larry Carvalho, an analyst at IDC. "The challenge is in showing unique value, as well as accelerating adoption of a supported platform so new revenue can be obtained. Good brand recognition and $35 million in funding will help, but execution is key."

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