Formerly known as Wikibon
Close this search box.

The Container Ecosystem Accelerates Up Its Maturity Curve


Containers, generally–and Docker, in particular–are increasingly ready for prime-time enterprise development.  The Docker ecosystem continues to mature as it adds crucial elements to its framework, converges on a common industry reference architecture, and improves the user-, developer-, and administrator-friendliness of core capabilities. However, the application services segment of the commercialized Docker ecosystem is still relatively underdeveloped.


Application modernization increasingly implies that programming code has been, at the very least, containerized for cloud-native deployment. This year’s DockerCon featured plenty of significant news for the growing developer community that has committed to this rapidly maturing cloud-native containerization technology

A mature technological market is one in which a substantial ecosystem has coalesced around a well-defined new approach and begun to aggressively commercialize it in diverse horizontal and vertical markets. By that criterion, the market for Docker-centric containerized applications is well along its maturity curve, but not yet fully mature.

Here’s where the Docker-centric containerization market currently stands in the key phases in its maturity curve:

  • Adoption: In this early maturity phase, an embryonic market is increasingly aware of a new opportunity to deliver innovative solutions that address new or established opportunities in the business and/or consumer spheres. In this regard, the containerization segment has long since achieved this milestone. As this year’s DockerCon made abundantly clear, Docker-style containerization is generally regarded as the new mainstream approach for cloud application development and is being adopted for a wide range of applications, ranging from greenfield deployments to refactoring and migration of existing applications
  • Crystallization: In this phase, an innovation-driven market crystallizes around a common approach for architecting solutions, and also coalesces into a substantial ecosystem to flesh out most solution niches implied by that architecture. This was the chief story at this year’s DockerCon, at which a well-defined Docker architectural framework came into focus as well as a vibrant ecosystem that’s bringing it to fruition with commercial offerings.
  • Commercialization: In this phase, the market stimulates commercial adoption through a redoubled focus on improving consumability, reducing cost of ownership, and offering solution-accelerator bundles for distinct horizontal and vertical use cases. Though there was no clear sign at the recent DockerCon that the market has reached this milestone—in that it currently lacks a well-developed application-services provider ecosystem–we are confident that this will be a core focus next year and beyond.

Adoption: Containerization Is the New Mainstream

Containerization is eating software everywhere. Containers — simple, portable wrappers for applications — are driving change in all major technology platforms, from the data center to the cloud to the Internet of Things.

Containerization has become a key practice for developers who seek to build cloud-native apps with the portability to run anywhere with little or no modification. As both a beneficiary and catalyst of this trend, the Docker ecosystem continues to expand the range of platforms on which containerized applications may be developed and deployed.

In four short years since the core technology was open-sourced, Docker has moved from a developer experiment to a widely adopted framework for greenfield cloud-native app development, and now to a full-fledged, enterprise-grade microservice-development environment.

This latest DockerCon featured a far larger attendance and vendor participation than previous years. Developers in every industry and around the world now see Docker as a mainstream open-source framework for developing cloud-native applications for deployment across increasingly complex virtualized multi-clouds. There was also a wider range of Docker reference customers in specific industries—including service providers, healthcare, financial services, information technology, insurance, and public sector—than in years past. Here are Docker’s adoption metrics showing that the momentum around this open-source framework is worldwide and expanding.

  • Docker host deployments: There are currently 14 million+ Docker hosts worldwide.
  • Docker container downloads: To date, there have been greater than 12 billion Docker container downloads worldwide, up from 4 billion in June 2016, 2 billion in February 2016, 1 billion in November 2015, and 300 million in April 2015.
  • Docker open-source community participants: Currently, there are greater than 170,000+ Docker-project organizers, mentors, captains, and members in 287+ cities worldwide.
  • Docker ecosystem support: Currently, there are greater than 100,000 Docker-using third-party projects.
  • Dockerized applications: Currently, there are 900,000 Dockerized applications in Docker Hub.
  • Docker open-source contributors: Currently, there are greater than 3,300 Docker community contributors. Independent individual contributors have contributed 41.5 percent of the code to the Docker project, with Docker Inc. contributing 40.6 percent, Microsoft 7.7 percent, IBM 3.2 percent, Huawei 3.0 percent, Red Hat 3.0 percent, and all other corporate contributors 1.0 of the code.
  • Docker meetup groups: Currently, there are greater than 270 Docker meetup groups in more than 70 countries.

It’s clear that developers throughout the cloud-native computing ecosystem have focused on Docker as the core framework for solution innovation. This year, Docker could point to specific examples of enterprise customers who’ve used the technology for innovative applications in various industries. Showcase customers are using Docker technology for e-commerce, financial transaction processing, alarm monitoring, air traffic control, military operations, and healthcare research. The applications discussed ranged from greenfield implementations around Docker to refactoring and migrating existing applications to take advantage of Docker’s write-once-run-anywhere cloud-native advantages.

Crystallization: Consensus Framework of Containerization Approaches

In terms of how they crystallize the future outlines of the Docker ecosystem, the most important DockerCon announcements were:

What follows is an examination of how these announcements inform industry consensus around the core techniques under which developers prepare applications for cloud-native deployment:

  • Add Linux, hence Docker, containerization support to existing platforms. Docker containers natively leverage Linux container technology, which has long been a core feature of that widely adopted open-source OS. In this regard, you should explore LinuxKit project, which provides a toolkit for building secure, portable, lean, and custom Linux subsystems. that run container platforms–especially Docker–on Windows, Mac, and other non-Linux platforms (including desktop, server, Internet of Things, mainframe, bare metal, and virtualized systems).
  • Containerize applications from the get-go using Docker. Containerization, leveraging Docker, should be a core feature of developers’ primary toolkits. In this regard, you should explore Moby Project, which provides developers with an open framework, library, and reference assembly for building customized container systems from modular, reusable, interchangeable components.
  • Repackage, port, and migrate legacy applications into Dockerized platform environments. Modernization involves bringing legacy assets into the new era. In this regard, you should engage Docker in the Modernize Traditional Applications (MTA) program, which helps developers repackage legacy applications to run securely, efficiently, and with portability in any containerized platform that implements Docker technologies.
  • Run Docker containers alongside target platforms’ native containerization features. Considering that Linux and Docker are not the only platforms that natively support containerization, developers should ensure that new container technologies play well alongside any non-Linux/non-Docker containers on target platforms. If you’re interested in Dockerizing applications on Microsoft platforms, you should explore the expanded support that Microsoft recently announced for running Docker and other Linux containers natively on Windows Server platforms.  Microsoft said is adapting the resource isolation feature in its Hyper-V virtualization software to support Linux-based containers on the platform.
  • Upgrade to Dockerized versions of commercial solutions. When an enterprise has made significant investments in commercial solutions, modernization often involves upgrading to the newest versions that, in addition to adding fresh functionality, implement the latest, greatest platform and middleware technology. If you’re interested in Dockerizing solutions in an Oracle environment, you should explore the relevant Oracle database, middleware and developer tools that Oracle now offers through the Docker Store marketplace via the Docker Certification Program.

Just as important as any of these announcements was a clear shift in Docker’s approach to nurturing the ecosystem. Docker is taking a far more agnostic approach to ecosystem enablement than it had previously. Chief among Docker’s moves toward greater ecosystem openness were as follows:

  • Kubernetes embrace: Docker has come to accept Kubernetes as a widely supported alternative to its Swarm orchestration tool.
  • LinuxKit modularity: Docker has implemented all LinuxKit system services are containers, thereby enabling developers to remove or replace any of them, even with containerized components that are not Docker-centric.
  • Moby reference assembly: Docker has included in Project Moby a reference assembly that can be used as-is, modified, or, if a developer wishes to minimize the Docker-developed componentry, simply as inspiration for developing one’s own custom container system.
  • Open-source core components: Docker has recently open-sourced its container engine and orchestration tool for open governance by the Cloud Native Computing Forum, and committed to developing around the open-sourced offerings rather than their pre-submission versions going forward.

These Docker moves in the direction of openness signal that  the ecosystem is less likely to crystallize into a polarized dynamic of solution providers warring around underlying technical platforms, tools, and interfaces.

Commercialization: Growing Range of Containerized Solutions

As abundantly evident at DockerCon, the commercialization of the Docker ecosystem is well underway. The conference attendance, adoption growth, and ecosystem-focused announcements are clear evidence of a vibrant emerging sector. Another indication of robust commercialization was the increasing diversification of the solution providers, professional service firms, and other organizations who’ve committed to Docker.

Growth in the number and range of delivery and support providers was evident at this year’s DockerCon, boding well for the segment’s continued push away from a pure developer orientation toward enterprise IT and infrastructure operations going forward. There is now substantial competition and innovation in each of the following Docker ecosystem segments, and they were all represented at the event. Here is the slide presented by Docker CEO Ben Golub that show the expanding set of ecosystem partners broken out by segments:

It was clear at this year’s DockerCon that the entire ecosystem is shifting toward an enterprise focus, with substantial tracks and announcements devoted to secure orchestration, container-app lifecycle workflow, and other topics of keen concern to enterprise IT operations.

As the Docker core framework matures, the ecosystem will follow suit as third-parties exploit increasingly robust capabilities to develop and deploy increasingly rich containers, services, and applications. As a robust Docker industry ecosystem emerges, this cloud-native computing segment will become increasingly feature-complete, enterprise-ready, and able to address the most demanding enterprise availability, security, compliance, and governance challenges.

From a commercialization standpoint, Docker Inc.’s recent launch of Docker Enterprise Edition was an important milestone. Docker now places a strong emphasis on its platform’s readiness of enterprise deployments. Having enterprise stalwarts such as Microsoft, Oracle, HPE, Red Hat, and IBM announce significant commitments to Dockerizing their solution definitely helped with that message. Docker Inc. hasn’t backed off from attention to its Community Edition, but it has repositioned this distribution as a developer tool, while positioning the new Enterprise Edition as its flagship for growing its penetration, product/tool development, and the most demanding cloud-native computing opportunities with enterprises and service providers alike.

The MTA announcement showed that Docker Inc. understands where it needs to focus if it hopes to grow a substantial and monetizable enterprise footprint. In addition to wrapping legacy apps as containers, enterprise developers will increasingly evaluate Docker as a tool for refactoring existing apps as containers as well as developing greenfield cloud-native apps. There was plenty of discussion of those requirements at this year’s DockerCon, and we expect to see them well-represented in the sessions, announcements, and innovations at future installments of this event.

Likewise, Oracle’s splashy decision to offer its full enterprise solution in Docker Store was huge validation in the eyes of enterprise customers. We expect to see Oracle’s application and middleware competitors follow suit with their respective portfolios, offering them in Docker Store as well as in their own online marketplaces. going forward. Going forward, Docker Store will almost certainly play a larger role in the monetization strategies of Docker Inc and its partner ecosystem.

One commercial segment of the Docker ecosystem that is still tiny—application services—will probably loom much larger in coming years, especially as developers everywhere containerize the new generation of artificial intelligence, deep learning, and cognitive computing apps for hybrid clouds, mobile applications, Internet of Things edge applications, streaming media, consumer electronics, and other growth segments. It’s encouraging to see Docker Inc play up its community engagement and developer enablement activities, which will be essential to boosting innovation as more ISVs Dockerize their apps from the get-go, or refactor or migrate them to take advantage of the containerization and orchestration capabilities of the growing cloud-native stack that is coalescing around Docker. In this respect, this latest DockerCon’s key announcements—LinuxKitMoby Project, and MTA—will have a multiplier effect on the development and scaling of the Docker ISV ecosystem.

Action Item

Containers today are driving change in all major technology platforms from the datacenter to the cloud to the Internet of Things.  Developers should focus on modernizing applications through the use of open-source Docker technologies as well as the commercial solutions that leverage those technologies. Developers who wish to build cloud-native Dockerized applications from the ground up should explore Moby Project. This new toolkit provides an open framework, library, and reference assembly for building customized container systems from modular, reusable, interchangeable components.


Book A Briefing

Fill out the form , and our team will be in touch shortly.
Skip to content