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Docker Inc.'s Strategic Shift to Dev Focus One Year Later

It's been almost exactly one year since Docker Inc. sold its enterprise platform business to Mirantis, a commercial distributor of OpenStack, to focus on the needs of enterprise application development teams. Since then, the company behind the leading containerization platform has concentrated on refining its dev tools and building an ecosystem of partners to support a "code-to-cloud" automations for developers.

Docker CEO Scott Johnston talked with a group of reporters this week about the progress of that strategy and laid out the company's path going forward.

The sale to Mirantis was a burn-the-ships commitment to a massive restructuring of the company. "We sold off three quarters of our employee base, all the enterprise customers, and all the enterprise customer revenue," Johnston said. "All in the spirit of restarting the company with a new mission."

That new mission would see Docker spending the next year with a "laser-like focus" on app development teams, embracing partners "in a first-class-citizen type way," and "building a sustainable community, sustainable code, and a sustainable company around the restructured entity."

The result? 11.3 million monthly active users sharing applications from 7.9 million images on Docker Hub repositories with 13.6 billion code pulls per month--up 70% over last year, Johnston said.

Johnston emphasized Docker's commitment to embracing a community to provide for the needs of enterprise developers. "We walk the talk," he said, citing the open sourcing of the Compose Specification in April on GitHub with open governance. Compose is a developer-focused standard for defining cloud and platform agnostic container-based applications.

He pointed to some key partnerships, including a deal with Microsoft that integrates the Azure public cloud and the Virtual Studio Code editor with Docker Desktop. The company also recently announced a partnership with open-source security platform provider Snyk to deliver a native vulnerability scanning service for container images. And he pointed to the recent agreement with Amazon Web services (AWS) to create a simplified workflow for developers using Docker Compose to build apps for Amazon's Elastic Container Service (ECS) and Amazon ECS on AWS Fargate. Docker has also partnered with Atlassian and the Microsoft-owned GitHub to make Docker Hub something of a nexus for integrating, configuring, and managing application components.

Former industry analyst Donnie Berkholz, who joined the company as VP of product just a few weeks again, was on hand for the briefing. All of these integrations are about helping developers get from code to cloud quickly, he said. "And that's not just about things we deliver, but these partnerships," he said. "Because developers are building, sharing, and deploying all over the internet. We can't just have a single point solution to solve their problems. We have to meet developers where they are and where they're going. And so really the partnership ecosystem that we're forming around Docker is the core to doing that."

Johnston also addressed some pricing changes that went into effect over the past year. The company added per-seat pricing for subscriptions, and then followed up with an annual purchasing option that offers discounts for longer-term commitments. The company's free plan, which gave developers unlimited public repositories and one private repository, proved not to be economically sustainable "when we have tens of millions of developers today and tens of millions more coming tomorrow," Johnston said. The adjustments are intended to make sure a small subset of "overconsuming" users doesn't negatively impact the rest of the users.

"In order to build a sustainable community and sustainable code, we have to build a sustainable company around the new restructured entity," he said. "So we put limits on the upper bounds of the all-you-can-eat buffet, so we're able to scale to tens of millions more developers and continue to offer free services, while still having a viable business that can sustain all the investments required in order to do that."

Posted by John K. Waters on October 29, 2020