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Docker Delivers Kubernetes On Its Enterprise Platform

The container-tech pioneer is embracing a technology that increasingly dominates container orchestration at scale. Docker says it doesn't see Kubernetes and its own orchestrator, Docker Swarm, as competitive solutions.

Docker revealed a comprehensive integration of Kubernetes into its enterprise container platform on Tuesday, a telling move aiming to simplify the adoption of a technology commonly considered a rival to its own.

The new native functionality of Docker Enterprise Edition, Docker's commercial Containers-as-a-Service product, tackles deployment and management of an orchestrator for Docker containers increasingly dominating the market at its layer of the container stack.

Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes announced his company's embrace of Kubernetes in kicking off the DockerCon Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark.

[Related: Docker Delivers Brand New Enterprise Edition]

Docker offers an alternative to Kubernetes in Docker Swarm and had previously done little to support Kubernetes. However, the San Francisco-based startup that reinvigorated application containers never saw the Swarm and Kubernetes orchestration technologies as competitive, Banjot Chanana, Docker's director of product management, told CRN.

"We've been making investments in Swarm. As we've seen the adoption of Kubernetes, it's important to our customer base that we provide them the option to use Kubernetes when it makes sense," Chanana said.

While some components of Enterprise Edition previously could be made to work with Kubernetes, the crucial control plane for managing the lifecycle of containerized applications was incompatible. Docker, however, had participated in the Kubernetes project, and always believed the technologies were complementary, Chanana said.

Docker is now focused on building out the components needed to make Kubernetes an enterprise-grade solution, just as it did with Swarm, he said, including security, high availability, and ease of use through its existing tools and control plane. Those are capabilities Docker uniquely can deliver to ease a lot of the struggles customers face in taking advantage of Kubernetes' advanced container-scheduling capabilities.

The process started by leveraging an installer built for Swarm that can eliminate "one of the discrete pains of standing up Kubernetes today"—a three-word command initiates a Swarm cluster with built-in security benefits; installing Kubernetes has always been a lot trickier, he told CRN.

Enterprise Edition also has added a native Kubernetes distribution conformant with the latest release.


Google used its Borg scheduler for years to run interconnected groups of containers across clusters of compute nodes in its data centers. The Internet giant open sourced a version of that technology as Kubernetes in the summer of 2014, just as Docker was breathing new life into containers as an efficient, portable DevOps solution well-suited for implementing micro-services architectures.

The first production version of Swarm came out in November of 2015.

"We started work on the orchestration side knowing full well that Kubernetes was there," Chanana said.

While Kubernetes was battle-tested at Google and rich in functionality, Docker saw the technology as lacking the simplicity that made customers gravitate to its underlying container engine. Swarm aimed to provide a better user experience to developers and enterprises adopting Docker containers to encapsulate applications but challenged by the complexities of multi-container orchestration at scale.

While Enterprise Edition incorporated Swarm, Docker importantly built the product keeping the orchestration component pluggable, Chanana told CRN. That design methodology made it relatively easy to add Kubernetes integration down the road, he said.

"We found a way to simplify using Kubernetes, and that did take us some time," Chanana said.

The latest Docker release will even make Kubernetes accessible on desktop editions, allowing developers to run single-node environments on their laptops.

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