A vast number of people interact with Docker every day without even knowing it when they access applications that are running in containers powered by the company's technology. But when it actually comes to rolling up the sleeves and getting down and dirty with Docker Engine, the number of users is far fewer.
One of the key groups that actually gets hands-on experience with Docker technology is the developer community, and almost one and a half million devs around the world use Docker Desktop for container-based development. (Docker Desktop provides the Docker Engine with Swarm and Kubernetes orchestrators.)
But here's the thing. Installing Docker Desktop is all very well if you're a single developer working from your garage. But in an enterprise environment it's a right royal pain in the backside to have to install it for tens or even hundreds of devs — and then have to ensure that everyone on the dev team has their desktop configured in the same way, and is building applications that conform to the same architectural standards.
Docker Desktop Enterprise to the Rescue for IT Departments?
That explains why the folks at Docker have been busy little bees, building what the company is calling Docker Desktop Enterprise. It's basically Docker Desktop, but it's a version that the IT people can configure and deploy. And, crucially, it allows them to manage the development environments so that they conform to corporate standards and practices. Developers can then be presented with application templates designed for their team to standardize the development process. Handy.
That's not all that the Docker people have been up to in the run up to the holiday season. They've also announced something with the rather unwieldy name of "CNAB," which stands for Cloud-Native Application Bundle.
What Exactly Is CNAB?
Developed in collaboration with Microsoft, CNAB is an open source, cloud-agnostic specification for packaging and running distributed applications, which is quite a mouthful.
It's designed to address the fact that there is no single solution for defining and packaging multi-service, multi-format distributed applications that can span on-premises infrastructure as well as cloud-based services.
Instead, it's currently necessary to use a whole plethora of different tools like Terraform for the infrastructure, Helm charts and Docker Compose files for the applications, and CloudFormation or ARM templates for the cloud-services — each of which has to managed separately, Patrick Chanezon, a member of Docker's technical staff, points out.
"CNAB unifies the management of multi-service, distributed applications across different toolchains into a single all-in-one packaging format," Chanezon explains. "The CNAB specification lets you define resources that can be deployed to any combination of runtime environments and tooling, including Docker Engine, Kubernetes, Helm, automation tools, and cloud services."
Docker has implemented CNAB for containerized applications already, and will be expanding it across the Docker platform to support new application development, deployment and lifecycle management. CNAB bundles can be packaged as Docker images, and these can be distributed and shared through Docker Hub, Docker Trusted Registry, and other tools. Very soon it will also be possible to deploy and manage CNAB-based applications in Docker Enterprise, Chanezon adds.
Why is all this significant? It represents two examples of how barriers to containerization adoption are being swept away.
It also shows just how far we have moved on from the stages of building container functionality and adding security, to this advanced stage in the development of the container infrastructure where it's the optional extras and convenience items that are being produced.
Watch out for the container juggernaut as it continues rolling in 2019…
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.