Microsoft is no Apple, but it does have nearly $100 billion in cash lying around. There have been rumors that Docker could be available at the right price, and Microsoft has both the cash to afford the right price and the incentive to want to own Docker. A deal like that would have pros and cons, but let’s take a look at three reasons a Docker acquisition makes sense…at least for Microsoft.
1. Containers are hot
The rise of DevOps and the meteoric ascent of Docker itself are driving a self-feeding circle that makes container technologies one of the hottest concepts in tech right now. Microsoft is partnering directly with Docker to build seamless integration and support for Docker containers into Windows Server and its Azure cloud service, as well as developing its own container technologies like Hyper-V Containers.
Docker didn’t invent the container concept, but it has driven its rise from obscurity to mainstream adoption. We’re still in the early stages of maturing the container ecosystem so there will be plenty of opportunities to evolve containers themselves as well as for building the tools and services organizations need to develop, deploy, and manage a container ecosystem.
2. Get ahead of (or own) the curve
Docker has been red hot, but it’s not the only container game in town. Although everyone held hands and had a “kumbaya moment” at DockerCon with the launch of the Open Container Project, many of the companies involved also have their own proprietary stake in the ground. Google, for example, is an Open Container Project supporter but also develops its own container cluster manager software, Kubernetes. Companies from Rackspace to VMware to IBM and just about everyone in between are scrambling to get on the Docker wave while also looking at the broader container ecosystem.
At this point, though, Docker is synonymous with containers and owning Docker would put Microsoft in the control position in that battle for supremacy.
3. Assure seat at the table for Azure
Under Satya Nadella Microsoft has almost completely transformed its vision and business model. Former CEO Steve Ballmer was intent on maintaining a more-or-less proprietary Microsoft ecosystem and doing everything possible to drive customers to Microsoft and then shackle them there. Nadella has a more open vision that has Microsoft striving to co-exist with and provide value across rival platforms and services. It is also pushing cloud and mobile services.
As mentioned above, Microsoft is already working with Docker to deliver native support for the container technology within Azure, but owning Docker would make Azure the de facto home for Docker and enable Microsoft to integrate Docker containers at a deeper level.
To be fair, there are also a number of reasons Microsoft shouldn’t buy Docker. Just look at how the Nokia acquisition worked out. Microsoft’s track record when it comes to smoothly integrating—never mind continuing to develop and evolve—a large acquisition like Docker is questionable. It’s also possible for Microsoft to achieve many of the same goals by simply working closely with Docker and the open source community rather than taking on unnecessary risk with a Docker purchase.
The Nokia purchase was a poor decision because Microsoft bought a company that wasn’t competitive to try and make its mobile platform that isn’t competitive more competitive in a market that already had dominant players. A Docker purchase would be different in that Microsoft would be acquiring the dominant player in the market and essentially acquire a role as the leader of a nascent market that’s just taking off.
Microsoft has the cash and the incentive and a Docker acquisition could be a coup if Microsoft played it right.