You’ve probably seen this Tweet already…
…ignoring Docker updates is a paid feature now?? pic.twitter.com/ZxKW3b9LQM— Brendan Dolan-Gavitt (@moyix) May 1, 2021
If we needed any more evidence that Docker is in trouble, this is it. At this point Docker, according to Crunchbase, has raised more than $330 million dollars. Docker is a darling of the software engineering world. Docker ushered in a sea change in DevOps. But they’ve had a big problem for a while, and one that gets worse every day that passes.
They can’t figure out how to make money. And those 3.3 million Benjamins want some buddies.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that Docker isn’t making *some* money, but they aren’t making Unicorn money. They are in the three commas club now, so that Unicorn money better start showing up.
Russ: Know what has three commas in it, Richard?
Richard: Uh, a sentence with two appositive phrases in it?
Russ: No, a billion dollars.
Up to now though, their efforts to build a moat have been stymied at every turn…
- They had to open their container standard and runtime. They saw the writing on the wall and figured that if they didn’t open it up, an open standard would come about and they would be forced to support it, and so they got in front of it. Smart move, and ensured their survival, but at the cost of a walled garden. This allowed them to be bypassed completely.
- They lost to Kubernetes. Docker was pushing Swarm hard, but couldn’t keep up with Kubernetes and the ecosystem.
- Their private container repository was bypassed as every cloud provider on the planet created their own.
And finally, in November 2019, Docker sold its Enterprise business and team to Mirantis to “return to our roots by focusing on advancing developers’ workflows”. See the Tweet at the top of this post for a hint at what this might mean.
So at this point, what are they going to do? Almost every engineering team that I know of is using Docker for some purpose, but so far they haven’t found a way to capitalize on it. Is squeezing us on features like skipping versions going to be their new strategy for getting there? Seems like that might put them at odds with the community really quickly.
It is a shame; Docker is a great tool, and they’ve done great things for the software engineering world. It is unfortunate that they haven’t found a good way to use Docker to create a sustainable business, and after taking a quarter billion dollars in funding they desperately need to figure that piece out.
If you were in charge of Docker, how would you monetize it?
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