Get On Board: Docker's Channel Maturity Unlocks The Container Tech Opportunity

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Nebulaworks CEO Chris Ciborowski knew from the moment he saw Docker’s application container engine three years ago that it would forever change enterprise IT economics.

Others thought the phenomenon would prove a fl ash in the pan, or that the technology would only be relevant to a subset of developers looking to shuttle software between computing environments. But Ciborowski was certain Docker would change the way enterprises consume IT in as explosive a manner as VMware had done more than a decade earlier with its server virtualization technology.

For starters, Docker offered customers the promise of reducing, or altogether avoiding, the so-called VMware tax—licensing fees that had become a staple for enterprises implementing virtualization to get a handle on server sprawl.

[Related: Container Tech: Get On Board!]

Many of those enterprises were looking to contain their virtual machine sprawl, and using the open-source, Linux-based technology to displace VMs could yield hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of dollars in savings per year, depending on the scale of the deployment.

“We felt [containers] were absolutely game-changing in the way people were going to be consuming technology,” said Ciborowski. And Docker “was going to be the de facto standard.” The big bet on Docker is paying off handsomely for the Irvine, Calif., company. Nebulaworks’ business doubled this year, and Ciborowski expects growth to accelerate with broader market adoption.

It’s the kind of success that’s inviting comparisons to the advent of VMware’s pioneering technology, which fostered thriving new practices while driving others out of business.

In a recent engagement for a manufacturer, Nebulaworks leveraged application containers to reduce by a factor of 11 the number of VMs run on the customer’s public cloud provider (though some VM instances were larger), Ciborowski said.

Containers enable those order-of-magnitude efficiency gains—and dramatic reductions in cloud bills and virtualization licensing fees—by making it safe and secure to squeeze several production applications onto a single instance of an OS that can be running on bare metal or a virtual machine (versus running for each application a VM with its own OS).

A popular analogy is to think of VMs as houses, each with its own self-contained plumbing and electricity, and containers as apartments that use the shared infrastructure of the entire building.

ThoughtWorks, a solution provider with more than two decades in business and a global practice, also rushed to gain Docker proficiency upon encountering the technology.

“I don’t think people can sit on their hands right now, given the amount of mainstream industry attention on containers,” said Mike Mason, a technology activist in the Office of the CTO of the Chicago-based company.

ThoughtWorks is fielding almost three times more demand for Docker container implementations than it can actually service, and is working to scale its practice accordingly, he said. “We know we need to have the expertise. All signs point to it being hugely important, and even if it does get superseded, it will be here for five-plus years,” Mason told CRN.

The CEO of one VMware service provider, who did not want to be identified, told CRN Docker proficiency may well be the hottest skill set on the planet.

“If you are a solution provider with Docker expertise, you can reduce the licensing cost for an enterprise by three or four times or more,” he said. “VMware created the problem with their VMware licensing tax. If a partner can allow a company to pay for one VM rather than five VMs by using a container, that is a big savings. Setting up these containers requires a good amount of expertise and value that the partner is providing.”

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