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Docker container management renews appeal to enterprises

Docker repackaged its container management tools in an effort to sweeten the appeal to enterprises.

Docker Inc. revamped its licenses and release cycles this week, which could boost its appeal as it rides a wave of mainstream enterprise container adoption expected this year.

Docker has pledged to slow and regulate updates to the Docker container platform, now split into two editions: the free and open source Community Edition, which will be updated every four months, and the Enterprise Edition, which will be updated every 12 months with security and critical bug fixes, as needed.

Docker Enterprise Edition comes in three flavors: Basic, Standard and Advanced, each of which includes support from Docker. Standard and Advanced editions include the Docker Datacenter container orchestration tool. Enterprise Edition Advanced also includes image scanning and security vulnerability monitoring.

The Enterprise Edition starts at $750 per node, per year for business-day support on Docker Enterprise Edition Standard. At the top level of the Docker container management pricing packages -- which costs $3500 per node, per year -- the minimum support response time is two hours, and the package caps the number of support contacts at eight, according to Docker's pricing page. Analysts foresee this being the subject of price negotiations with larger enterprises that may need faster responses or more people to handle them.

Docker Datacenter seeks leg up in busy market

Experts said the licensing change is an opportunity for Docker to promote Docker Datacenter amid a nascent and volatile market, where many container management tools compete for the same enterprise audience. As a result, it can be difficult for any one product to stand out.

"It should help boost their market share," said Robert Stroud, an analyst with Forrester Research. "We don't hear much about Docker Datacenter at all. At the same time, inquiries about container orchestration and management tools have sharply increased."

IDC analysts do get inquiries about Docker Datacenter specifically, said Gary Chen, an analyst at the market research firm. But sales for all orchestration platforms are slow, as enterprises are still becoming acquainted with core container platforms, such as Docker and CoreOS rkt.

Here, Docker Enterprise Edition can raise Docker Datacenter's profile, said Brandon Cipes, managing director of DevOps at cPrime Inc., an Agile consulting firm in Foster City, Calif.

"[Docker Enterprise Edition] gives them a chance to start working on more regular revenue streams and forge a path toward larger clients in need of more reliable support," Cipes said.

Docker Datacenter's features are well-aligned with the balance enterprises seek between completely do-it-yourself "erector sets" and highly specific platform-as-a-service (PaaS) offerings, added Dennis Smith, an analyst with Gartner.

Over the next 18 months, we're going to see more clients going with production-level deployments, and Docker Datacenter is well-positioned there as a middle ground.
Dennis Smithanalyst at Gartner

"A lot of my clients are not eager to go the full-blown PaaS route, nor do they have the expertise to build it themselves from scratch," Smith said. "Over the next 18 months, we're going to see more clients going with production-level deployments, and Docker Datacenter is well-positioned there as a middle ground."

Docker Datacenter also gives enterprises one commercial vendor on which to focus, as opposed to a fragmented ecosystem of multiple vendors that offer variations of Google Kubernetes, IDC's Chen said.

Docker's newly unveiled partner certification program also seems an attempt to tame a confusing ecosystem of competing products, Docker users said.

"Both the ability to have images certified, as well as being able to readily identify tested and compliant images, is critical to building trust and confidence in the Docker ecosystem," said E.T. Cook, chief advocate at Dallas-based consulting firm etc.io, which works with enterprises to deploy containers. "It brings a bit of sanity to an ecosystem that, at times, can seem like the Wild West."

Cook said he was excited to see a partnership with Microsoft that includes Docker Enterprise Edition licenses in Windows Server 2016.

Some highly regulated and security-conscious enterprises with large IT infrastructures might find the Docker container management platform's 12-month enterprise lifecycle too short to incorporate the often major changes that tend to come with each Docker release, Cook said. Other enterprise support licenses for open source software, such as Red Hat Enterprise Linux, may last as long as a decade.

However, more rapid changes and upgrade cycles are the way of the world now as DevOps hits the enterprise.

"Things are a bit faster than they were going back a decade or so ago," Gartner's Smith said. "Twelve months is pretty normal now."

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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