Superhot $1 billion startup Docker is solving a big challenge with a new acquisition

Docker ceo ben golubDockerDocker CEO Ben Golub

Software makers love the idea of Docker, valued at $US1 billion, and its “software container” technology.

But actually getting started with Docker has always been a challenge — software containers are still a relatively new market, with Docker kicking off the trend at its 2013 launch.

That’s why Docker just announced the purchase of Madrid-based startup Tutum: A tiny, 11-person company that has a popular tool for managing and maintaining Docker’s software containers across any cloud platform.

“It really helps knock down [the challenge] of using Docker at a large scale,” says Docker CEO Ben Golub.

Container complexity

Tutum is a drastically simplified tool for running Docker-ized apps. It has 24,000 users for its beta product, which had always been designed to seamlessly integrate with Docker and let apps run wherever customers wanted.

“Almost across the board, they loved Tutum,” Golub says of Tutum’s early user base.

The main benefit of Docker is that a developer can write their code once and deploy it on anywhere — from a laptop to a virtual machine running on Amazon’s cloud service — without any changes.

Docker solomon hykesDockerDocker Founder and CTO Solomon Hykes

In an age where gigantic data centres can be rented for their supercomputing power by the minute, it can make programmers a lot more productive if they don’t have to worry about the infrastructure on which their apps are running.

But there’s a catch. Once a developer’s code is in a Docker container, it just kind of sits there. It requires a whole bunch of other tools, including the likes of Google’s Kubernetes or VMware’s Project Photon, to take advantage of Docker’s benefits.

That gets complicated. And for a business customer, complication means cost, either in consulting charges, or in man-hours lost to solving the problem.

That challenge is Docker’s opportunity

Docker has turned this into an opportunity. It makes the Docker software itself available for free as “open source,” meaning that developers everywhere can download it and contribute code back to the project, if they so choose.

To make money, it wants to sell premium services. That now includes Tutum.

With Tutum, any developer using Docker has a tool to access Amazon Web Services or any other IT infrastructure and essentially lay out the welcome mat for their containers.

It handles all the hard parts of actually running the app. And the developer gets a single place to go to see how their app is performing. If something goes wrong, they can simply restart it, and Tutum will handle all the rest.

That’s important when customers are running hundreds or thousands of containers.

“Deployment and management of that many containers needs something like Tutum,” Golub says.

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