For the last few years, the programming world has been going nuts over a trendy new technology called “software containers” — a set of tools that makes it easier for developers to build and ship software across their own laptops and massive data centres alike.
The market was all but created by Docker, a $1 billion startup that’s sparked a major movement: Companies like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft have all been tripping over themselves to provide first-class support for Docker containers in their cloud computing services.
Now, Microsoft and Docker are helping each other out with a new partnership that will bring Docker’s premium CS Docker Engine software as a free add-on for the brand-new Windows Server 2016, which will be widely used in data centres and server rooms at the world’s largest companies.
The benefits for Microsoft are real. Enterprises of all shapes and sizes have been looking at Docker containers as a way to more efficiently build software and squeeze more capacity from their existing infrastructure. Integrating Docker with Windows Server 2016 gives Microsoft’s crucial large enterprise customers a way to take advantage.
It’s also a huge step forward for Docker, the company. Docker’s container technology is available as open source software, meaning it’s free for anybody all around the world to download and modify for their own purposes.
The way the company makes money is by selling the CS Docker Engine, a paid tool for managing Docker containers, plus customer support plans on top of it. But open source is a notoriously tricky business model, and it can be hard to monetise when your core tech is available for free.
Under this partnership, CS Docker Engine will get into the hands of way more people than it may have otherwise. It’s a big commercial win. Plus, Microsoft will handle the support for those large customers, which is something that would be hard for a startup like Docker to handle in-house.
So Microsoft helps customers take advantage of containers, and Docker gets huge in-roads with customers that will go a long way towards justifying its $1 billion price tag.