Docker regroups as cloud-native developer tool company

Docker had an existential crisis last year when, in a matter of months, CEO Steve Singh stepped down, the company sold its enterprise business to Mirantis and long-time executive Scott Johnston took over as CEO. It was a lot to process.

The organization that remained decided to regroup as a developer tools company, and today the new entity officially begins its journey.

Johnston recounted what happened at the end of last year as Docker moved on from the enterprise business and returned to its developer roots.

“In November, we separated the enterprise business, which was very much focused on operations, CXOs and a direct sales model, and we sold that business to Mirantis,” Johnston told TechCrunch. “At that point, we decided to focus the remaining business back on developers, which was really Docker’s purpose back in 2013 and 2014.”

What Docker has in its favor is that it’s the company that popularized the idea of containerizing software. It is hoping to build on that expertise and brand recognition with the newly configured company. To that end, it’s aiming to reduce some of the growing complexity around building, shipping and running cloud native applications.

Docker has decided to focus on three areas in particular. The first is to deal with the growing volume of containers. Johnston says that, in the early days, the container was almost magical. But today, applications consist of dozens or even hundreds of containers, creating a layer of complexity that Johnston believes tools like Docker App, Docker Compose and third-party partner integration can help solve.

The next piece is managing the tool chain itself as companies move through a continuous delivery cycle and work with Git repositories like GitHub and BitBucket. He sees a market that has fragmented and created tool silos around the different pieces of the chain as developers move the application from source to the cloud. Docker offers Docker Desktop and Docker Hub along with partnerships with the Git repositories to help developers manage their tool chain.

Finally, Docker wants to help companies better manage open source, including licensing, updates and patches.

While the company has taken its focus off of enterprise in favor of aiming squarely at developers and developer teams, Johnston says that the company may find its way back to the enterprise again at some point—but with a SaaS approach this time. For now, the company will cater to the developer community and hope to build from there.

Docker had problems commercializing its technology prior to this as the container technology moved away from the container itself, which became a commodity of sorts, and moved towards management with Kubernetes.

Now the company is hoping to reinvent itself once again and rise from the chaos of last year to become a go-to, cloud-native developer tool vendor. Whether this approach can work is still unclear, but Johnston sees this as the way forward. Time will tell if the strategy is successful or not.