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Docker, Inc is Dead

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To say that Docker had a very rough 2017 is an understatement. Aside from Uber, I can’t think of a more utilized, hyped, and well funded Silicon Valley startup (still in operation) fumbling as bad as Docker did in 2017. People will look back on 2017 as the year Docker, a great piece of software, was completely ruined by bad business practices leading to its end in 2018. This is an outside facing retrospective on how and where Docker went wrong and how Docker’s efforts to fix it are far too little way too late.

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Docker’s doom has been accelerated by the rise of Kubernetes. Docker did itself no favors in its handling of Kubernetes, the open source community’s darling container orchestrator. Docker’s competing product, Docker Swarm, was the only container orchestrator in Docker’s mind. This decision was made despite Kubernetes preferring Docker containers at first. Off the record, Docker Captains confirmed early in 2017 that Kubernetes discussions in articles, at meetups, and at conferences was frowned upon by Docker.

Through dockercon17 in Austin this Kubernetes-less mantra held. Then, rather abruptly, at dockercon EU 17 Docker decided to go all in on Kubernetes. The sudden change was an obvious admission to Kubernetes’ rise and impending dominance. This is only exacerbated by the fact that Docker sponsored and had a booth at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2017.

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The real problem with Docker is a lack of coherent leadership. There appears to have been a strategic focus around a singular person in the organization. This individual has been pushed further and further away from the core of the company but still remains. The company has reorganized and has shifted its focus to the enterprise. This shift makes sense for Docker’s investors (the company does have a fiduciary responsibility after all). But, this shift is going to reduce the brand’s cool factor that fueled its wild success. It is said that, “Great civilizations are not murdered. They commit suicide.” Docker has done just that.

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