June 27, 2017

Docker containers have transformed from a niche technology to mainstream. That begs the question: What will be the next major innovation in the container and microservices world?

From its humble beginnings in 2013, Docker has established a clear foothold in the enterprise world. Even though I tend to think its adoption for “production” environments may be a little slower than some recent studies suggest, there is no doubt that it’s here to stay.

What’s After Docker?

Docker containers offer lots of important innovations for app deployment. But folks in the technology world are always looking to make things bigger and better. That means once they have settled into using Docker and take its benefits as a given, they’ll want to find ways to do things even more efficiently.

What might post-Docker innovations look like? Here are some trends to watch:

  • Unikernels. Unikernels are a way of essentially packaging an entire operating system in a very lean, portable package. Docker Inc. has been interested in unikernels technology since early last year, when it acquired Unikernels, a company that specializes in—you guessed it—unikernels technology. So far, it’s not clear what, if anything, the company plans to do with it. But other people are already using unikernels in cool ways. While it’s too early to tell how they might be deployed in the enterprise, it seems a safe bet unikernels play an important role in evolving the next generation of infrastructure.
  • Serverless computing. Serverless computing platforms have been around in the form of AWS Lambda Functions for a few years. But they are now becoming a bigger and bigger deal. In some respects, the advantages that serverless computing offers—especially virtually no infrastructure overhead—already build on and extend what Docker can do. There is no doubt serverless computing also will be an important source of innovation in the next phase.
  • System containers. Docker containers help you deploy individual apps more easily. But there also is a market for system container platforms such as OpenVZ and LXD, which are designed to host entire operating systems rather than just a single app inside a container. System containers have been around much longer than Docker. To date, however, they have not made significant inroads against traditional virtualization platforms such as KVM and VMware. I think there is a good chance that could change and system containers could become much more popular as containers become more mainstream—when you’re running your apps inside containers, why not host your guest operating systems inside containers, too?

So, those are three ideas about what could be the next big innovation after Docker. Have thoughts of your own? I’d love to hear them in the comments below.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with Fixate.io and Sweetcode.io.

  • DennyZhang

    Excellent summary, Christopher!

    To my observation, docker will gradually replacing VMs and Bare metals in more and more scenarios.