Today marks the 3rd anniversary of Docker. In three short years, Docker has grown from a concept to a company that is valued at over a billion dollars. I have been fortunate enough to witness this wild ride from the beginning and have been covering Docker ever since.
Docker in 2013
I first met Solomon Hykes back in January of 2013 when I was in San Francisco interviewing PaaS companies for a book I was working on. At the time, Solomon was the founder and CEO of dotCloud, a pure play PaaS company. We were sharing war stories about our startup experience when I mentioned that if I could turn back the clock and do my startup all over again, I would focus more on automation and the CI/CD (continuous integration and continuous delivery) process earlier. Solomon mentioned that he was working on something that would make that process a whole lot simpler and invited me to attend a demo the next time I was in San Francisco.
I was back in the Bay in February and reached out to Solomon. He invited me and a few others over to his office for a demo. All together there were five of us as Solomon introduced the concept of Docker. This was early days so there were no marketing slides that clearly explained what Docker was. Solomon walked us through the shipping container analogy and explained how the industry boomed once standardized containers were invented. Before shipping containers, different types of products like food and chemicals could not be shipped together. With standard containers, what was in the box no longer mattered. Suddenly the shipping industry was able to ship all different kinds of products at the same time by simply stacking containers on top of each other without having to worry about the contents inside.
Solomon then went to the command line and showed us how easy it was to build containers with a variety of technology stacks inside and execute them over different cloud endpoints. The light bulb went off in our heads and the room filled up with excitement as we all started asking questions.
One month later, in March of 2013, dotCloud announced Docker as an open source project. Overnight the pull request counts surged and the community grew. In October of 2013, dotCloud officially pivoted and changed its name to Docker. At this point, Docker had over 200 contributors with over 90% of them from outside the company. Docker had been downloaded over 100,000 times, companies like eBay started using it and the community expanded with meetups all over the world.
Docker in 2014
2014 was an amazing year for Docker. After raising $15M in January and another $40M in September, Docker’s valuation neared $400M. In July and November, Docker made its first two acquisitions, Orchard and Koality. In June, they released their 1.0 version of Docker. Amazingly, major vendors like IBM, Microsoft, and Redhat were already integrating with Docker while it was still in beta. Docker sold off the dotCloud PaaS software in August so it could focus entirely on containers. In November, Amazon Web Services announced their EC2 Container Service in support of Docker. In December of 2014, they released Swarm, Machine, and Compose which brought much needed orchestration and automation tools to the user community and further simplified the user experience.
Docker in 2015
In 2015 Docker made three more acquisitions, picking up Socketplane, Kitematic, and Tutum which gave them improved networking capabilities, improved automation, and a central management console. The biggest news of all was a $95M dollar round which gave them a valuation of over $1B. In June, DockerCon was held in San Francisco. The show was absolutely packed and Docker did not disappoint. They announced Runc, Notary, and Docker Network. The Docker product development strategy has always been “follow the developer” and the developers were asking for better security, better networking capabilities, and the ability to pick and choose which Docker components they wanted to use. Notary added much needed security for publishing and verifying content. Docker Network made containers more portable across different network infrastructures where, in the past, manual configuration was often required.
In August, Docker added more security enhancements with the introduction of Content Trust for signing and verifying Docker Images. The Universal Control Plane (UCP) and Docker Hub were introduced towards the end of the year. Docker Hub is a marketplace for containers and finally unveiled how this billion dollar unicorn was going to generate revenue. Hub is a subscription based service where customers can go to leverage production quality docker images for almost any technology stack imaginable.
Docker also quietly raised an additional $18M at the end of the year for a total of $168M in 5 rounds.
Docker in 2016 (so far)
If the previous three years were not impressive enough, already in 2016 Docker has announced Docker Datacenter, an on-premise container management and deployment service and Docker Cloud, a SaaS based container management and deployment service. Docker Cloud is the first production iteration of the purchase of Tutum. Docker has also purchased two companies in 2016, Unikernal Systems and Conductant.
Docker’s “Containers as a Service” strategy is picking up steam as we are seeing many companies starting to prefer assembling various containers to build their own PaaS without the restrictions of a pure play PaaS solution. The purchase of Unikernal also plays into their long term strategy of connecting developers to all “things.” As the Internet of Things (IoT) is becoming more relevant, unikernals become more important because sensors, chips, and small devices do not have the resources to host an entire operating system.
In the last three years, Docker has gone from a little known concept to one of the hottest tech companies in the world. One thing that makes Docker unique is that they focus on the developer experience whereas many other companies in this space are infrastructure focused. By focusing on the developer experience, Docker is making it very simple to use containers. Containers have been around for many years, but it is Docker that has made containers popular by making containers simple. As you look back through the years and the announcements, you will see that Docker is truly following the developer.
Their original focus was on improving the CI/CD process. Then they focused on security, networking, and the data layer. Then the developers wanted one place to go to manage it all and Docker delivered. Now they want hybrid capabilities and Docker offers both on-premise and hosted management capabilities.The latest announcements have been focused on performance and high scalability.
It will be fun to watch the rest of the year play out to see what is next. Who will be the next acquisition? What will be the next big feature announcement? Which enterprise will leverage Docker in production next? I’ll be at DockerCon in Seattle in June and recap it all for you.