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Docker management gaps smoothed over with new tool

Docker Datacenter brings together multiple pieces of Docker management under one umbrella. But like everything in the container space, there's still work left to be done.

IT operations pros faced with container management have a new tool to evaluate this week.

Docker Inc. looks to catch IT operations up with developers with a new product, called Docker Datacenter, which stitches together various Docker management utilities to ease container deployment in production.

Docker Datacenter brings together five previously separate products under one Docker management interface: the Universal Control Plane for management; Content Trust for security; Swarm for orchestration; Engine for container runtime; and Trusted Registry. The goal is to bridge the gaps where Docker is used to port apps between dev, test, quality assurance and production environments, and traditional IT operations, where container management isn't yet straightforward.

"We're looking at microservices, and we've stood up Docker with Mono in our testing environment in the last year," said Jeff Lockwood, director of infrastructure and operations for HealthStream Inc., a healthcare assessment and education company based in Nashville, Tenn.

The company tests Docker with Mono because it's a Microsoft .NET shop for software development, and Mono is a workaround that allows .NET code to be used in a Linux environment.

The concept of containers as a service makes sense, according to Lockwood. "You don't want to have to build that capability," he said.

However, that doesn't mean enterprises are ready to put Docker into production.

 "I wouldn't rush into it," Lockwood said. "I am not as concerned on the technology's maturity -- although that is a concern -- as much as the skill sets in the market available to deploy and support it."

Lockwood said he's also waiting for Microsoft's next version of .NET, which will natively support Docker, and is currently in preview.

Even when it is released, however, Lockwood isn't keen on being a guinea pig to do .NET on Docker at scale.

"We openly deploy things in the lab for testing, but I don't feel comfortable putting it out in production, because it doesn't have the footprint yet," he said.

A 'one-stop shop' for Docker management

Consultants to large enterprises said, for those on the bleeding edge, Docker can be a "one-stop shop" for containers, as well as their management.

Companies that are moving forward building loosely coupled microservices-type architectures, they're going to be all over this stuff.
Mike Kavisvice president and principal architect for Cloud Technology Partners

"Companies that are moving forward building loosely coupled microservices-type architectures, they're going to be all over this stuff," said Mike Kavis, vice president and principal architect for Cloud Technology Partners Inc., a cloud consultancy based in Boston.

A vast ecosystem of startups has sprung up since Docker debuted three years ago to fill operational gaps in the deployment of containers. Public cloud providers, such as Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform, also have tried to make hay with services that abstract away many aspects of container management.

But with Docker Datacenter, the container registry lives on premises, and Docker orchestration is controlled from there, which fits the hybrid cloud deployment pattern of more large enterprises than pure public clouds or even private platform as a service, Kavis explained.

"Every vendor I've talked to in this space, they all started in public cloud and they've all ... had to come up with an on-premises solution, because that's just where everyone is today," he said.

There are still ways Docker Datacenter needs to develop this base product, such as adding native live database migration capabilities -- though customers can plug in software from partners to accomplish this -- finer-grained role-based access controls and compliance best practices baked in, according to IT pros.

People will need some time to evaluate what Docker has put out and whether it meets their needs, said Fintan Ryan, an analyst with RedMonk, based in Seattle.

"There are quite a lot of people [who] are doing a combination of taking some sets of tools and rolling their own solution -- from a technical point of view, people are quite comfortable doing that," Ryan said. "But from an enterprise and CIO point of view, they'd prefer to have something that they can have clarity and control over."

The Docker product will probably meet the needs of most IT pros, so they could be less likely to turn to third parties for such tools -- unless they have specific needs, such as live database migration with ClusterHQ, that are better addressed by startups that have popped up to fill various Docker management niches, Ryan said.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for SearchAWS. Write to her at bpar[email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.  

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