June 25, 2017

In a move intended to shore up the confidence enterprise IT organizations have in Docker Inc., a former SAP executive has been named CEO and chairman. In his new role, Steve Singh replaces Ben Golub, who will remain a member of the board of directors of Docker Inc.

Singh, who prior to joining SAP was the founder of Concur, a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application specializing in the management of travel expenses, says his mission is not to set a new strategy for Docker Inc. as much as it is to accelerate product development and adoption of containers in the enterprise.

As part of that effort, Docker Inc. will look to drive innovation at higher levels by developing a platform that can span multiple container technologies. For example, Singh says Docker Inc. fully understands there will be times when organizations prefer to employ Kubernetes at the orchestration layer as an alternative to the orchestration engine developed by Docker Inc. There’s no reason why the Docker platform should not be interoperable with Kubernetes, he says.

Over time, he notes, the industry will work out the nuances between container-as-service (CaaS) terminology preferred by Docker versus platform-as-service (PaaS) environments. In the meantime, he sees a massive opportunity for CaaS to become a major deployment options for both legacy and emerging applications.

The important thing, Singh says, is to set a tone and culture that encourages organizations to want to work with Docker Inc. to advance the goals of the community.

Longer term, Singh says he envisions the Docker platform encompassing multiple application deployment models, including emerging serverless frameworks that are expected to become a popular mechanism to deploy stateless applications. Much of the initial enthusiasm for Docker containers stems from deploying stateless applications, yet Docker is now evolving into a platform for deploying stateful applications—this at a time when many of the stateless applications for which Docker is most widely used might be migrating to stateless environments.

The degree and rate at which such a dual migration might occur is unknown. But navigating that transition may prove critical for Docker Inc. There’s a world of difference between creating an open-source project that simplifies the development and deployment of applications and creating a platform that manages that process. As Docker Inc. has sought to become that platform, it has found itself in contention with rival platform vendors backing everything from rival approaches to container orchestration engines to lower-level container networking standards.

To help ease that contention, Singh says he’s committed to making sure Docker Inc. is a place where the best and brightest in the IT industry want to come to work. As that culture evolves, the Docker community as whole can benefit regardless of what technology may be implemented at any given part of the stack, he says.

Obviously, it may take some time for Singh to impose a new imprint on the Docker Inc. culture. But contention and uncertainty are not conducive to enticing conservative enterprise organizations to rapidly embrace microservices architectures based on container technologies that many of them are still not as comfortable with as they otherwise should be.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.