August 18, 2017

Baked-in Swarm. Docker on Windows. Red Hat’s OCID fork-that’s-not-a-fork. These were the big container stories of 2016. What does 2017 hold in store for the container ecosystem? Here are some predictions.

Perhaps I should point out that I am an historian by training, not a fortune teller. I don’t claim any special ability to predict what will happen in the coming year.

But if I had to guess, these are what I suspect will be the biggest trends in containers in 2017:

  • System containers become a bigger deal. So far, most of the discussion about containers has focused on Docker containers that host individual applications. But containers can also serve as hypervisors for complete operating systems. The technology already exists in the form of platforms such as LXD and OpenVZ. Expect it to become a bigger deal in the new year.
  • Docker starts playing more nicely with the community. 2016 was a year of high tensions between Docker and other projects in the open-source community. The tensions, which resulted in large part from claims that Docker was not sufficiently open and compatible with other platforms, culminated in discussion of forking Docker late last summer. Going into 2017, however, Docker looks like it is going to play more nicely with the community. Docker seems to be embracing open standardization genuinely, and the recent open-sourcing of containerd in partnership with several other organizations suggests that Docker has foregone the go-it-alone approach that it endorsed previously for developing most of its technologies.
  • Container security matures. 2016 saw the release of several new container security tools, such as CoreOS Clair and Docker Security Scanning. But most container security solutions are piecemeal. They secure only certain layers of the container stack. That means demand remains high for a security solution that can secure an entire container stack in one go. A few vendors, such as Aquasec, are already trying to provide such a solution. More options are likely to appear in 2017.
  • More containers-as-a-service platforms. Now that containers as a service, or CaaS, is proving a popular implementation option for organizations wishing to adopt Docker, it’s a good bet that more vendors will jump on the CaaS bandwagon by releasing their own CaaS solutions.
  • Docker on Windows adoption remains limited. Native Docker support for Windows debuted in September 2016. I think it will be a long time before lots of people are using Windows servers to host Docker in production, however. That’s because some important Docker features on Windows are not yet implemented, and because Docker only works on the very latest versions of Windows Server and desktop Windows. I don’t think 2017 is going to be the year of Docker on Windows.

Of course, I may be wrong. Look forward for my year-in-review column 12 months from now to figure out how wrong or right I turned out to be.

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.