What is Docker and What Can It Do For MSPs?

The Docker open platform enables developers and system administrators "to build, ship and run distributed applications," but why should managed service providers (MSPs) use this platform? Here's our overview on Docker for MSPs.

Dan Kobialka, Contributing writer

December 2, 2014

3 Min Read
Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes
Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes

Just a few years, the term “Docker” might have referred to a popular clothing brand. But today, Docker has a whole new meaning.

Not to be mistaken with “Dockers” clothing, Docker is an open platform that enables software developers and system administrators to deploy app containers in Linux environments; however, some pioneering managed service providers (MSPs) also are leveraging Docker to expand the services they offer to their end customers.

Docker containers operate like virtual machines (VMs) but are much more portable than VMs and enable users to quickly move apps between clouds, data center VMs and laptops.

Marty Puranik, CEO of Gainesville, Florida-based cloud computing and hosting services provider Atlantic.net, recently told MSPmentor that Docker allows MSPs to create containers to simplify application management for customers.

“Because each Docker container holds the application and the dependent files, it makes it easier to move applications between machines without breaking things or requiring additional configuration of the host operating system,” Puranik said. “In this way, it makes it easier for the MSP to manage and to offer services such as application portability, which has traditionally been more difficult. The customer benefits because he or she will get lower prices.”

The true value of Docker containers for MSPs

Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google (GOOG) and Microsoft (MSFT) are among the technology giants that have already shown their support for Docker, and TechCrunch recently pointed out that Docker “is probably the hottest technology in developer circles these days” for a number of reasons:

  1. Quick app assembly – Docker makes it easier for users to quickly assemble apps from various components, enabling IT to run the same app on laptops, data center virtual machines (VMs) and any cloud.

  2. App infrastructure flexibility – Docker users can deploy and run any app on any infrastructure.

  3. The ability to track app changes – Docker manages and tracks changes to help users better understand how the apps that developers build work.

As of September, at least 35,000 apps have already been “Dockerized,” and this total will likely increase, especially as more IT service providers recognize the value of Docker containers.

So how can MSPs leverage the value of Docker containers? Consider how the following companies have leveraged these containers:

  • IBM – To provide a more flexible way to build, scale and deploy applications, IBM (IBM) in June announced plans to develop an open integration model with Docker. IBM said its collaboration with Docker was designed to deliver “faster startup times, half the memory usage and dramatically faster input/output when compared to traditional virtualization techniques using other application servers.”

  • Rackspace Rackspace (RAX) earlier this year unveiled the Libswarm open source project to help users launch Rackspace Cloud Servers from Docker. Libswarm allows users to fill their Cloud Servers with containers and automatically create new Cloud Servers. Rackspace users also can remove containers any time they choose, which helps ensure that they only have to pay for the cloud servers that they need.

  • ElasticBox – Cloud application management platform ElasticBox works with Docker to help users run apps faster. ElasticBox users can define and deploy apps to any cloud, data center or VM and collaborate with one another in containers too.

Docker Inc., the company behind the open source Docker platform, is valued at around $400 million currently, according to Bloomberg. Puranik noted the open source platform could provide long-lasting value to MSPs.

“MSPs will continue to adopt Docker because it allows them to provide new services to customers, such as easier hardware upgrades, portability to different geographies and easier application and OS management,” he said. “For this reason, I expect MSPs to adopt Docker [because it can] provide new revenue opportunities.”

Share your thoughts about this story in the Comments section below, via Twitter @dkobialka or email me at [email protected].

About the Author(s)

Dan Kobialka

Contributing writer, Penton Technology

Dan Kobialka is a contributing writer for MSPmentor and Talkin' Cloud. In the past, he has produced content for numerous print and online publications, including the Boston Business Journal, Boston Herald and Patch.com. Dan holds a M.A. in Print and Multimedia Journalism from Emerson College and a B.A. in English from Bridgewater State College (now Bridgewater State University). In his free time, Kobialka enjoys jogging, traveling, playing sports, touring breweries and watching football (Go Patriots!).  

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