IBM has been cozying up to Docker for several years now, but it has well and truly jumped into bed with the container company following the DockerCon EU jamboree in Copenhagen earlier this month.
Big Blue and Docker announced they have been working together to cook up Docker Enterprise Edition (EE) for IBM Cloud, designed to allow customers to bring up Docker environments on IBM Cloud (IBM's public cloud) to run their existing workloads. (The two had previously gotten their heads together to produce versions of Docker EE for IBM's z LinuxONE and Power systems.)
What's cool about this is that once existing workloads are containerized and moved into IBM's cloud environment, they can easily (or fairly easily, at least) be connected and integrated with other IBM cloud services, such as Watson, without changing the original application.
As an example, IBM suggests that a pet supply shop could containerize its digital inventory and then connect it to the Watson Visual Recognition service and Twilio.
That would enable a customer to take a photograph of a product such as a can of pet food using a mobile phone, and then get sent information from the store's databases such as the price of the item and product details.
Clever stuff, and in the right circumstances a compelling reason to move to containers and IBM's cloud.
Of course, moving to the cloud can be tricky, but IBM also announced that it has joined the Docker Modernize Traditional Apps (MTA) program, which aims to help customers to take their "legacy" or traditional data center applications, containerize them, and move them to IBM's cloud.
Creating Incentive for Customers to Choose IBM for the Cloud
There's a theme that's emerging here, and it's this: IBM would like everyone to start using its cloud more. Docker provides the company with a very good story for why customers should start using it more.
IBM wants this very much because its traditional enterprise computing business is likely to decline over the coming years, and it hopes to replace these hardware and software sales with sales of services such as general cloud computing and more specialist ones such as cognitive services through Watson.
That's why IBM has gotten itself a Docker Enterprise Edition for its own cloud, and why it's joined the MTA program.
And lest we forget, IBM made one further announcement at DockerCon: it plans to publish some of its enterprise software such as WebSphere Application Server and DB2 database in the Docker store. "This will enable customers to quickly access the software images needed for containerization, and gain confidence in those images through the promises of container certification," the company explained in the announcement.
It's an unlikely state of affairs, but thanks to virtualization and containerization, the likes of the once-mighty IBM are looking to comparative technology upstarts such as Docker, as well as the public cloud, for salvation and a more certain future.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.