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DotCloud Pivots And Wins Big With Docker, The Cloud Service Now Part Of Red Hat OpenShift

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DotCloud is a great example of a startup with a pivot that worked. The proof of that is in a new partnership that marries its Docker open-source app portability project with Red Hat and its OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS).

Docker is a lightweight Linux app container that DotCloud originally developed for its multiple-language PaaS.In March, DotCloud launched Docker as an open-source project. With Docker, apps are essentially transported in virtual containers by developers who often use them to sync between their laptops and the cloud.

Until now, Docker and Red Hat have had incompatible versions of the Linux kernel. Today’s partnership fixes that, making it possible for developers to use Docker containers in OpenShift to easily move code between different infrastructures without the heavyweight requirements that come with moving around virtual machines and operating systems.

It comes down to this: virtual machines are not designed to move between clouds. So instead, Docker moves the code between the virtual machines. Docker does not port the virtual machine nor the operating system. It does not need to — the compute, storage and networking is already in place on a cloud service — the application just gets delivered there to run.

Docker will initially be available on Red Hat Fedora for the community to use. By the end of the year or beginning of 2014, Docker will get fully integrated into OpenShift and Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL).

How It Works

Joe Fernandes heads OpenShift product management at Red Hat.In an email he said developers access OpenShift through its web console, command line interface or through their own Eclipse Independent Developer Environment (IDE). The customer either authenticates against the Red Hat OpenShift Online service or via their enterprise authentication system. Alternatively they may deploy using OpenShift Enterprise, using their own infrastructure.

Developers then get access to the services provided in OpenShift including various programming languages and frameworks such as Java, Ruby, PHP, Python and Node.js. They also get access to databases such as Postgresql, MySQL and MongoDB and other services such as Jenkins, a continuous integration environment.

Fernandes said this all gets packaged with what Red Hat refers to as OpenShift “Cartridges,” which are then deployed on one or more “Gears” which are RHEL containers running across one or more RHEL OS instances. This is what forms the foundation of OpenShift. The RHEL OS instances can either be virtual instances running on virtual machines, private or public cloud instances such as Amazon Web Services or can run directly on bare metal physical servers.

Fernandes said by integrating with Docker, Red Hat is bringing new capabilities to its RHEL Gears, which will benefit OpenShift developers by providing greater portability and usability. Developers can also deploy applications to those containers directly using Docker (outside of OpenShift). Customers may also run Docker natively on Red Hat Enterprise Linux, Fedora and other Red Hat based Linux platforms such as CentOS.

With Docker, the future looks far more optimistic for the startup and its prominent list of investors. Ron Conway and Chris Sacca were part of the seed round investment in DotCloud. In its Series A funding, the company received investment from Benchmark Capital and Trinity Ventures. Along with the financing, Yahoo! co-founder Jerry Yang, Apple engineering manager Marc Varstaen, Benchmark’s Peter Fenton and Trinity’s Dan Scholnick joined the DotCloud board of directors.

With Red Hat, Docker could soon be packaged for use in some of the world’s largest Linux-based enterprise deployments. It’s not just excellent distribution but also puts DotCloud in an entirely new position as a company. It can now become one of the standard methods for lightweight app portability in the entire cloud ecosystem.

The challenge for Docker is with IT, who are still so accustomed to using virtual machines. Moving virtual machines may be cumbersome but it’s a process IT managers know. But Red Hat has enterprise credibility which will give Docker a opportunity to appeal to both developer and operations teams which means deeper reach with enterprise customers.