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Contribution And Collaboration In The Docker Community

San Francisco is a city surrounded: in the morning by sparkling water, sunny weather and the sound of seagulls; in the evening by bone-chilling wind and impenetrable fog; at night by the ambient electricity of imagination and the fertile dreamscapes of shining tomorrows.

To be here is to plug into a kind of current. To have a heightened awareness of a certain potential energy, a heritage passed down from the gold miners to the railroaders to the beats to the hippies to the chipmakers, software slingers, gene-splicers and the social/mobile/Internet people pushing today’s vanguard. Maybe it’s tectonic.

No surprise then that San Francisco is ground zero for the Docker open source project, a transformative technology for enterprise scale computing. Docker makes Linux containers intuitive and easy.

I’d like to say that we were way out in front on the Docker trend. The Docker Inc. (formerly dotCloud) team once shared office space with Mailgun, a company that builds email for developers that Rackspace acquired in 2012. We could have leveraged the huge head start we had, but the real power of this new platform wasn’t obvious to us until we started hearing about Docker from our customers and employees. They pulled us into this ecosystem.

Last summer, Rackspace leaders came to San Francisco to meet with some of our cutting edge customers, companies that were really experiencing hyper-growth to learn how to better serve them.

We had some amazing meetings, but one that really stood out to us with the interaction with Pantheon. Pantheon uses  Linux containers (but not Docker) on top of some very beefy boxes in our datacenters to run content management software for its customers. You can get Drupal or WordPress up and running in a matter of seconds with Pantheon and try it out for free to see if you like it.

Read more about how Pantheon makes it work and check out the video below.

Our customers have always driven change and pushed the boundaries of what’s possible. What Pantheon is doing is a window into the future and a clear demonstration of the truly transformative nature of containers.

We’ve always counted on our customers to lead us into what’s new. Our aim is to build the world’s greatest service company and you don’t become that without a close connection to your customers. But it also takes amazing employees—Rackers—who come to work ready to volunteer their best and are open to exploring new ideas.

Internally, we use Docker to:

  • Test and deploy new applications in a variety of operating environments. Our DevOps Rackers love using Docker to ensure consistency as we move new projects through development, test and production environments.
  • Run developer-focused email. Remember when I said that Mailgun had worked from the Docker offices? Well they’re also heavy users of Docker-driven containers. Read more about how Mailgun uses containers and contributes to the community.
  • Streamline our load balancing. Using containers for load balancers makes sense because it allows for efficient multi-tenancy of software-based load balancers. The containerized environment gives us a way to connect the load balancing function with our Cloud Networks capability, which connects Cloud Servers on a layer-two network that allows the use of any network protocol, not just TCP/IP. Using advanced security features in the Linux server, we can do this in a secure, high performance, and cost effective way.
  • Build Solum, an OpenStack-based ALM/PaaS. In our early work, contributors from Red Hat strongly advocated for using Docker to build a continuous integration and continuous development (CICD) capability right into Solum. The idea was simple: run a container right from the Git Repository that would have the most up-to-date code. It’s enabled us to build and run in a matter of minutes instead of recreating the development environment and its contingencies each time. That’s keeping us agile and enabling our engineers to collaborate more closely with our OpenStack partners.

But you don’t have to take my word for it. Check out what Rackers themselves say about this exciting technology.

Docker is the next generation of virtualization and we’re proud to be on the cutting edge of one of the major transformations in IT.

As exciting as it is today, Docker could be so much more. We have been working in close partnership with core Docker contributors for more than four months to make the code stronger. Our hope is that the Docker open source project will be a key component of a planet scale cloud.

We envision a future where the cloud is big enough and diverse enough to accommodate not just today’s IT, but the megatrends that are reshaping the way we work with technology: social, mobile, big data and the Internet of Things. This planet scale cloud will be hybrid by design and multi-vendor by necessity. Clouds won’t operate in isolation, but in cooperation with each other to best serve customer needs and permit near infinite customization.

Docker could provide the abstraction that makes swapping workloads between clouds possible. They don’t have to be OpenStack clouds either. OS-level virtualization makes the application agnostic to the underlying infrastructure. Docker could enable spot markets for cloud computing and the ability for users to find a best-fit solution for their needs.

We’ve contributed ideas, code and hundreds of hours from our top engineers. I’m proud that when we come to a community like this one, we come to work and to work with people who have different opinions and perspectives.

There’s a lot of momentum behind the Docker project, but it takes a long time to build a self-sustaining community around any technology. It takes real contribution and a commitment to collaboration. This is the currency of your karmic bank account.

I’d like to say that we started off knowing this, but the truth is this is a lesson we had to learn the hard way. When we put our competitive concerns first, it didn’t work. When we started with the question: “what can we get out of this?” it didn’t work. When we viewed the others at the table as threats instead of partners, it didn’t work. Trust works.

Maybe you want to make Docker work and are ready to make an investment in trust through contribution and collaboration. Here are a few suggestions on where to get started:

  • Make Docker better by contributing to the core code. Today, there are about 425 developers who have contributed code to this project. Become number 426.
  • Add your dockerized application to the public index so that others can take advantage of your work.
  • Participate in project governance and apply to join the advisory board.
  • Add documentation.
  • Explain and evangelize the work that’s going on here to your friends and coworkers.
  • If you’re a manager, add a line item to your budget for socialization and conference participation. Give your people an opportunity to forge connections with others in this community.
  • Develop in the open so other engineers can find and support your work as you do it.
  • Keep your repositories open and invite input from as diverse a cross section of this community as possible.
  • If you want to help make Docker more usable in the cloud, join us. Meet our engineers driving this work while many of them are here in San Francisco for the Docker conference or join us on IRC (Freenode: #docker-rackspace).

Though I’m apt to wax poetic about what makes San Francisco special, it really comes down to the people that surround me when I visit. And I’m not just talking about the locals. I mean the people who come from all over the country, converge on the convention center or one of the big downtown hotels, share ideas and work together. The energy I get from being here comes from the unity of purpose, the willingness to work together and the overarching urgency that drives us to each give our best. That’s what I want for Docker and for every other technology community Rackspace is a part of wherever it happens to be.

Check out video of John Engates’ keynote from DockerCon14.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by John Engates.

John Engates joined Rackspace in August 2000, just a year after the company was founded, as Vice President of Operations, managing the datacenter operations and customer-service teams. Most recently, John has played an active role in the evolution and evangelism of Rackspace’s cloud-computing strategy and cloud products.

John is also an internationally recognized cloud computing expert and a sought-after speaker at technology conferences, including CA World, the Goldman Sachs Techtonics Conference and Cloud Expo. He speaks on the future of cloud computing, enterprise cloud adoption, data center efficiency, green data center best practices, and more.

Click here to learn more.


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