Tracking the Hot Container Market

The container market is moving at the speed of light. Each vendor in this space is delivering features at an amazing pace. In fact, things are moving so fast that this article will likely be way outdated in about 2 months. It was just under two months ago when I reported on the many announcements made at DockerCon 2015 in San Francisco. Since then, each vendor has made a number of significant announcements about new features or partnerships. Here is a rundown of what has been announced by the major players in the hot container space.


After announcing at DockerCon that they would focus on making Docker production ready and work on the next generation platform to “make the Internet programmable”, Docker just released version 1.8 which boasts the following features:

  • Docker Toolbox – Toolbox is an installer that simplifies the setup of Docker on developers’ laptops and PCs with versions for Windows, Macs, and Linux. Previously, Docker offered a tool called Boot2Docker which often required a lot of troubleshooting to make it work correctly. I personally could never get Boot2Docker to work correctly on my laptop. I was able to get Docker to work on a VM on the Google Cloud Platform where I did all of my experimentation, but now with Toolbox everything works great on my PC. I will admit that the initial install of Toolbox had a few issues with migrating my old Virtual Box files, but after I uninstalled all of my old stuff and reinstalled it work cleanly. This is great news for developers who want to try out containers without spending countless hours struggling through configuring Docker on their laptops.
  • Docker Content Trust – Docker promised at DockerCon that it would focus heavily on improving security so that enterprises would be comfortable using Docker in a production environment. Content Trust is a step in that direction. Content trust adds public/private key pairs to Docker images so that users can verify the publisher of Docker images. It also protects images from forgery, replay attacks, and key compromise. Content Trust works in conjunction with Notary and TUF, a security framework, to establish a set of security best practices for building distributed applications. Read more about Docker security here.
  • Docker Engine 1.8 – I mentioned in previous blog posts that network and storage abstraction is the next major enhancements coming to containers. Docker Engine 1.8 is the first step towards storage abstraction. In this release Docker announced the addition on many new plugins for storage and logging drivers. They also releases a number of improvements to the CLI and runtime.
  • Docker Registry and Compose Updates – Docker also made many improvements to the registry and orchestration functionality. Most of the enhancements focus on improving performance and usability.

This latest Docker release boasts an impressive list of enhancements in less than 2 months from their last major release. I am impressed with the rate at which Docker is delivering new features.


Google’s Kubernetes is taking the container market by storm. Regardless if customers are using Docker or Rkt for containers, Kubernetes is the de facto standard for managing and running large clusters of containers. Docker is building Swarm and Compose to address these needs, but when it comes to running containers at scale, even Docker will tell you that Kubernetes is the preferred solution. Google is also rolling out features at a rapid pace. Here is a summary of the more significant Kubernetes announcements:

  • Support of OpenStack – Google announced its support of the OpenStack Foundation. This is great news for the private cloud industry and any company trying to deliver on the promise of hybrid cloud. In addition, Kubernetes now runs on OpenStack and a number of private cloud solutions are integrating with Kubernetes. Expect to see more announcements in this area in the upcoming months.
  • Kubernetes 1.0 released – 1.0 is a major milestone. With this release, Kubernetes is now production ready and boasts an impressive set of features, such as, cluster management, high performance and scalability capabilities, and abstraction services for compute, network, and storage layers. Kubernetes already has an impressive customer base that includes companies like Box and Redhat. They also announced partnerships with CloudBees and CoreOS. With Kubernetes, customers can run a hosted or managed container offering of the Google Cloud Platform or they can run Kubernetes natively on any public or private cloud endpoint


Docker is not the only container technology in town. CoreOS has made some significant announcements as well. CoreOS has a suite of products in the container ecosystem. Rkt (pronounced “Rocket”) competes head on with Docker containers. Alex Polvi, CEO of CoreOS, created Rkt because he did not like the security model that Docker had designed. Docker uses a central daemon which results in all commands requiring privileged access to the server (“root access”). Rkt addresses this issue but also allows users to build containers in Docker but run them in production using Rkt. For a great explanation on this and for the best analogy I have ever heard on the difference between containers and VMs (around minute 11), Listen to this podcast I recently did with Alex. It is extremely informative.

While Docker is grabbing most of the headlines these days, CoreOS is also iterating like crazy. Here are a number of announcements from CoreOS:

  • etcd 2.1 – etcd is an open source, distributed, consistent key value store for shared configuration, service discovery, and scheduler coordination. With this release, CoreOS boasts improvements in the following areas: authentication/authorization APIs, new metric endpoints, improved transportation stability, increased performance between etcd servers, and enhanced cluster stability.
  • Tectonic – CoreOS just announced a new service that is a commercial distribution of everything you need to run a container platform. It includes support and services from all of the components required to run containers (Docker, Rkt, and Kubernetes). With Tectonics you get 24×7 support for running distributed applications at scale using containers. They also offer hands on workshops to help teach customers best practices on containers. It is currently in preview mode but will be released soon.
  • Integration with Mirantis (OpenStack) – on the heels of the Kubernetes OpenStack announcement, Mirantis announced integration with Tectonic. This is a huge step for containers and private clouds. As I have written before, containers are a key technology for making hybrid cloud a reality. The Mirantis integration makes it possible to effectively design a public/private hybrid cloud. Keep an eye on this development as it progresses.

Apache Mesos

Mesos is another major player in the container space. Mesos is frequently used for managing and scheduling large deployments of applications like Hadoop, Spark, Elastic Search and other big data techologies. Mesos integrates with Docker, Rkt, and Kubernetes. Here are some current announcements from Mesos:

  • Mesos 0.23 released – The latest release boasts an impressive list of enhancements and new features. Mesos now provides the capability to create persistent volumes. This provides great benefits for statefull services such as HDFS, Cassandra, and others. Enhancements to resource utilization has been implemented to protect against over-subscription of services which should reduce costs. Numerous other enhancements around security, performance, and monitoring were announced.
  • Mesosphere 0.9.0 released – There are a number of enhancements and new features in this release including better integration with Docker, integration with Zookeeper for storage, and much more.


The container space is moving fast. All of these solutions are open source projects. Companies that are not leveraging open source should pay attention here. Containers as a stand alone product or service was non-existent just over 2 years ago. Now we have these four vendors advancing their offerings at incredible speeds. There are also a large number of startups that have emerged to fill gaps in areas like security, container management, monitoring, etc. All of these new companies are open source as well. The combination of DevOps and open source development models have allowed all of these companies to continuously evolve their products at rates that are unmatched by typical closed source companies. The gaps that this 2 year old industry has are getting closed so fast that it is just a matter of time before container based microservices architectures becomes the new norm from greenfield applications. I will try to keep you all updated every few months and consolidate all the activity into an easy to consume post. Buckle up!