I don’t claim to know much about Docker, but my overall feeling has been that if you’re not doing something with Linux, it’s not something that you care about. It seems cool, but I don’t understand why there is all this buzz around creating application containers today when this type of technology has been around for a long time. Perhaps I’m missing something, but I figure if I have these questions then someone else probably does, too.
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VMware couldn’t stop talking about Docker at VMworld, to the point where the chatter about Docker was just about as loud as the chatter about what VMware announced (it was new to a lot of people, I guess). People in the desktop virtualization space paid particular attention to the talk about Docker when it was mentioned in relation to their acquisition of CloudVolumes (since renamed AppVolumes). One writer even called the acquisition “Windows’ answer to Docker containers.”
It’s not that I fail to see the parallel (that’s a future pun, but more on that later). Placing applications in containers so that they can be instantly, seamlessly delivered somewhere is important technology. For over a decade we’ve been trying to put containerize our applications in one way or another. We’ve shared a single host OS (RDSH), we’ve virtualized the entire stack (VDI), and we’ve delivered just applications to OSes with varying degrees of isolation (App-V, ThinApp, Spoon, AppVolumes, FSLogix, etc…). While all these approaches have fundamental differences, the goal of containerization remains.
Of course, our focus has just been on Windows, so maybe this is new in the Linux world? That doesn’t seem likely, though. We’ve had Parallels (there’s the pun!) Virtuozzo Containers for many years, with the “Containers” name alone dating back to 2009. Virtuozzo Containers isn’t looked upon as a desktop virtualization solution, though. It’s a datacenter optimization product aimed at service providers that need to stand up new instances of services like IIS.
Perhaps that’s the difference. Docker and Virtuozzo Containers are aimed at service providers and other datacenter-level service providers, so that kind of technology falls outside of typical desktop virtualization needs. Still, I get the feeling that the folks over at Parallels are waving their arms saying "Hey! Yeah, we know! It's awesome...you should know that already!"
Digging into it more, you can find that Microsoft is getting involved, with support for Docker containers expected in the next release of Windows Server sometime in 2015. But how will that work? Will I be able to run Docker containers consisting of components made for Linux on Windows? Or will there be Windows support so that I can run components made for Windows within the containers?
To be clear, I’m not trying to be cranky. I really want to know what all the hubbub is about and why it’s talked about like the second coming. The concept just doesn’t seem that new or revolutionary.
It seems as though Docker itself is off the desktop virtualization radar. If you really want a Docker-like product for your enterprise today that works with Windows apps, you can use any of the techniques I mentioned above. AppVolumes might be the closest, but basically anything that you’re using to compartmentalize and isolate Windows apps falls into this category. Even FSLogix, which admittedly doesn’t advertise any isolation capabilities, can isolate to the point where it can support multiple versions of Java for different applications.
Even Spoon has gotten into the mix with an announcement last week that seems to specifically target people that are looking at the Docker container model, but wishing for Windows application support. They even have a “Differences from Docker” page in their Documentation section, which is what got me thinking about this entire article. What Spoon is doing seems interesting, but I’ll have to get into that at another time.
Anyway, I’m curious to read the comments here on Docker, how you think it relates to what we do, and if there is something major that we’re missing. Again, it’s cool and I am 100% behind the concept, but I just can’t see how it’s anything more than an evolution of what we’ve been doing for many years. You wouldn’t know that based on the attention it gets, though.