Super-hot startup Docker raises $95 million as it prepares to squeeze out the competition

Docker Solomon HykesDockerDocker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes

Just over two years ago, a company called Docker came out of nowhere with a ton of hype and lofty ambitions.

It basically invented an entire market for its signature application container technology, and it only wants to grow and grow until there’s no room for anybody else.

To that end, Docker today announces a $US95 million round of Series D funding from Insight Venture Partners.

This brings Docker’s total funding up to $US150 million as it furthers its campaign of expansion against upstart competitors like CoreOS, which took its own much smaller $US12 million round of funding from Google Ventures earlier this month.

Obviously missing from the announcement is Docker’s valuation, which was recently reported to be as high as $US400 million as of its last round in September 2014. It’s not quite a unicorn (yet), but it’s growing.

Docker’s technology is hard to explain, but it’s highly popular among software engineers and its effects are profound. Essentially, it creates a way for developers to take their software and pack it up into what we call a container, which is a figurative box that lets it run almost anywhere — in a company’s own data center or in a cloud service run by somebody else — without any additional tools or trickery.

In the same way a shipping container lets boatyards stack loads of cargo in a standard, unobtrusive way, so too can Docker containers let developers stack their software in a super-efficient way, saving their customers time and money on things like servers.

This is important as more businesses turn to cloud computing, where applications run in huge data centres operated by companies like Amazon Web Services, Microsoft, and Google. If the applications can run more efficiently, customers have to pay less for their monthly cloud bill.

In fact, every big cloud company has been tripping over themselves to support Docker’s popular technology. A former Docker partner called CoreOS recently made waves with its own Rocket container technology, but it’s not been as popular.

Which brings us to Docker’s strategy: It doesn’t only want to offer the technology to make containers, it wants to sell the additional stuff you need to manage those containers and replicate them. If it can turn its popularity into money by selling the tools businesses need to make it work at large scales, it will be set.

This venture capital money will go towards funding the expansion of this effort to build its products out, as well as towards making the technology work more efficiently on Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM clouds, according to the press release.

$US95 million is a lot of money, regardless of how you slice it. And containers are a growing market. But history has shown us again and again that having a lot of developers doesn’t translate into having a lot of money. Docker is betting that this market continues to grow.

This round also included participation from Coatue, Goldman Sachs, Northern Trust, as well as existing Docker investors Benchmark, Greylock Partners, Sequoia Capital, Trinity Ventures and Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures.

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