New Docker Open-Source Projects Promote Wide Developer Collaboration

Docker released two new open-source projects this week that help developers use and find specific components to add to their containerized software applications. The upshot of these in-the-trenches advances is that these new projects broaden the palette of options for solution providers helping enterprises modernize their IT infrastructure.

The first project, dubbed The Moby Project, is a workflow tool that helps developers assemble container-based systems that are comprised of component libraries, frameworks and reference blueprints. Developers can work with even non-Docker components to help one another avoid "reinventing the wheel" when it comes to building specialized applications, according to Solomon Hykes, Docker's founder and CTO.

The second project, called Linux Kit, helps developers quickly build a secure, lean, portable Linux subsystem. This follows a trend where developers are using just parts of the OS, allowing them to build embedded applications more easily.

[Related: Q&A: Docker CEO Ben Golub On Transforming Enterprise IT -- And The Channel]

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Usually, a Linux OS distribution comes as a complete package, with tools, services and features bundled with the OS. With the Linux Kit users would be able to build a Linux subsystem using only the services and features they need for the application or service they're supporting.

"Instead of starting from a traditional Linux distribution and trying to shrink it down and make it optimized for containers, we've started [Linux Kit] from nothing and added the bare minimum kernel, the bare minimum system libraries and container runtime and that's it," said Hykes during his keynote at DockerCon in Austin, Texas. "Everything else is optional because everything else is a container."

Docker joins a wider community of companies looking to put their own stamp on Linux. As previously reported in CRN, CoreOS was the first company to strip down Linux to make it more efficient for use in distributed systems that were built with Docker containers. Later, Rancher Labs released what it called the world's lightest Linux distribution for servers by small footprint by eliminating Linux system libraries and utilities outside the kernel.

"Increasingly our enterprise customers are seeing that the container is the platform, and they look at the Linux OS as a feature set that they'd like the platform to have," said Scott Johnston, Docker's COO. "Partners interested in selling Docker Enterprise Edition and Docker Datacenter and Linux Kit is our way to collaborate with the community to make our OS better, but also make others better."

The volume of open-source software has helped speed up how quickly software development problems are solved. The competitive battle lines have shifted, too. Not all technology companies in the data center would declare that they're at odds with other players, but they are all competing for a finite amount of enterprise IT spending that shrinks each year as systems and technologies become more efficient.

"This is not a Kubernetes versus Docker war," said Chris Ciborowski, CEO of Nebulaworks, a container-focused solution provider based in Southern California. "They're really competing against Pivotal, VMware, Red Hat and larger organizations that own the data center. To monetize and grab market share, you've got to have a Linux distribution. So how do you put a new skin on it to make it seem new and innovative?"

Ciborowski added: "If you're using their Linux distribution, it removes another set of questions that are a barrier for adoption, and you can potentially shift that opportunity cost from one part of the data center to the other."

During the keynote session at DockerCon, Linux Kit was used as part of a demo that showed a software developing building a specialized operating system, running in containers, on multiple computing environments – Mac, Windows and bare metal. That was part of a demo showing how The Moby Project gave that developer a shortcut to pulling together Docker and non-Docker components quickly to create an application.

These new projects do open the door for solution providers to become more involved with container tech development. That's a good thing, too, because often the problems solved and shared via open source by innovative technology companies like Docker and Google may not line up squarely with what an enterprise needs to do in their businesses.

"The question I always ask is how much of these things are technologies looking for a problem to solve, versus a problem that needs a technology to solve it," Ciborowski said.