In the middle of October DockerCon Europe 2017 took place in Copenhagen, Denmark, and ELASTX was there to visit our Nordic neighbor and check out the latest from the company that many are putting as synonymous with containers themselves.
Being the container company is of course exactly where Docker likes to be positioned and the overall message at the conference was quite clear - Docker has moved forward and wants everyone onboard with their container technology, not only the techies and startups. The main mantra repeated throughout the keynote sessions was heavily focused on larger companies, and the enterprise vibes were especially strong when phrased as Docker’s new concept MTA - Modernize Traditional Apps.
The idea behind this acronym is that you don’t need to commit to a large scale rewrite of your application before you can take advantage of containers. Putting your traditional application inside a container, ideally with no changes at all, will still allow you to take advantage of much of the more efficient resource usage, orchestration and management options that the container ecosystem offers. Further improvements and modernization can then be undertaken as an incremental approach, hopefully made easier by the natural isolation provided by containers.
For those who have been using Docker for a while this approach might come off as sounding pretty simplistic, and might even have been one of the first things that an intrepid dockerizer tried when starting out. Nonetheless the message seems to have resonated well with enterprise users, and Docker could proudly show off impressive numbers in terms of more efficient resource usage and simplified operation procedures among some of their case study customers, many of which weren’t your typical early adopters. Hearing how this approach has the official blessing of Docker themselves might also make containers come off as even more approachable for those who have yet remained cautious about taking the plunge.
Another reason put forward was that containerizing could help you in avoiding vendor lock-in and running your applications on several providers if necessary, for a variety of reasons such as performance, geolocation or legal requirements. All core features that we at ELASTX can get behind.
A lot of the spotlight was on Docker’s own all-in-one solution Docker Enterprise Edition (EE), which certainly looks to be a very complete and capable option for those wishing to go all in on vanilla Docker. It offers everything you need to run and monitor a container cluster on a wide variety of infrastructure. A lot of focus was put especially on security features and how access control, encryption and vulnerability scanning of images is all built in and made very easy to deploy, in order to achieve a secure container pipeline and let both sysadmins and security departments sleep just a little bit better at night.
Founder Solomon Hykes however reiterated that the company’s intention remains to never hinder you in adopting any new technology, and the option fully remains to assemble a similar solution using any number of third party or open source components you like. Especially exciting for those going this route is perhaps that Kubernetes will be included as a first class citizen going forward, integrating just as seamlessly as the native Swarm option. This will be a plain Kubernetes installation without any Docker specific requirements so that you can take full advantage of all the existing work done around this popular orchestrator. This should also greatly help everyone wishing to adopt a local development and testing workflow as close as possible to their production environment.
Windows containers also saw some new exciting developments, especially with the Linux Containers on Windows approach being developed in-house by Microsoft. With clever usage of technologies such as Hyper-V, linuxkit and good old ext4 filesystems this looks to be a very compelling option for those in need of running mixed Windows and Linux workloads. It will allow you to view and control all your containers from a single client, no matter what flavor they might be, and will enable access to features such as sharing volumes and files between Windows and Linux based containers. This is all still very much in beta but can already be tried out in the latest Windows 10 and Server builds and will definitely be an option to keep an eye on for such use cases.
The conference also had a track dedicated to talks on culture and softer values, with many excellent speakers showing that containers continue to interest people within the wider DevOps movement as well.
Overall there were perhaps not as many large and disruptive changes announced as some might have grown accustomed to during the first few years of Docker’s lifetime, but at the same time this feels fully intentional and the main focus going forward is clearly to stabilize and increase adoption of container technologies in companies of all sizes. The ecosystem is starting to look quite mature, with many good practices starting to materialize, and investing in containers continues to look like a solid bet going forward.