Docker, Inc. is famous for developing a container framework.
But because the core Docker software is available for free, Docker relies on professional management services to make money.
Here's what MSPs should know about Docker's service offerings.
The core Docker platform, which Docker calls Docker Community Edition, is available for anyone to download and run free of charge.
(You can also install Docker in other ways, such as by downloading packages through your Linux distribution's repositories.)
If you want to run Docker in production, however, the company encourages users to sign up for a subscription package for an enterprise version of the platform.
Docker offers three enterprise editions of its software. Pricing starts at $750 per node per year.
Docker expanded its enterprise offerings earlier this year, a sign that the company sees enterprise-level services as an important source of revenue as the Docker platform matures.
Docker Professional Services and MSPs
The enterprise editions of Docker all include professional support.
That is one of key differentiators between Docker's enterprise offerings and the community edition, which offers only community-level support (e.g., asking other users for help).
By offering professional Docker management services, Docker, Inc. is competing with MSPs in some senses.
Docker users can rely on Docker itself to provide the management and support that they need to run containers in production, rather than paying MSPs for those services.
MSPs can still thrive alongside Docker's professional services offerings, however.
That's because Docker's enterprise editions don't include everything customers might need to run containers.
In particular, Docker's service and support do not necessarily cover the following areas:
- Image management. Only the Standard and Advanced versions of Docker's enterprise packages offer sophisticated image hosting. Setting up and maintaining container registries at a lower cost than these Docker packages can be one business model for MSPs in the Docker world.
- Application management. Docker's Standard and Advanced enterprise packages include Docker Datacenter, which provides a holistic solution for deploying applications on containerized infrastructure. The less expensive edition only includes Docker itself, however. This means customers using the latter product would have to set up and manage the rest of the Docker environment themselves. This is a service that MSPs could offer.
- Security. Only the highest tier of Docker's enterprise services includes security scanning for container images -- and image scanning covers only one part of the many areas that need to be hardened in order to keep a Docker environment secure. This creates an opportunity for MSPs to offer additional security services for Docker.
Of course, MSPs can also succeed by offering the services that Docker provides at a lower cost than Docker charges, or with a more simplified cost structure.
Docker charges per node, which means that companies with many virtual or physical servers hosting Docker containers will pay more.
A Docker managed services plan that provides the services Docker offers with a pricing structure that does not raise costs when more nodes are added could be attractive to customers seeking assurance that scaling up will not lead to a major increase in cost.