August 19, 2017

How many people are using Docker? What is Docker’s current market share? These are difficult questions to answer accurately, but we’re going to try.

Docker market share is hard to measure for several reasons. Like most open-source platforms, Docker can be downloaded and run by anyone without having to register or pay any money. This makes it more difficult to count users.

It’s also difficult to know who is actually using Docker in the real world and who has downloaded it for experimentation.

Last but not least, there are a number of different ways of acquiring Docker. Some people download the Docker code direct from Docker itself, but other users run Docker through platforms such as Rancher or AWS EC2. For that reason, you’d have to look in many different places to get an accurate sense of how many people are using Docker, and how their numbers are changing over time.

Estimating Docker Usage Trends

We may never be able to get a perfect understanding of Docker market share and usage trends. But it’s possible to gain a sense. Here are some facts and figures about current Docker adoption rates:

  • According to its website, Docker has been downloaded 450 million times in the last two years. Of course, it’s unclear how long that statement has been on the site, and it’s impossible to know how many of those 450 million downloads were done by repeat users, how many turned into production deployments, and so on.
  • Datadog reports that 18.8 percent of its customers now run Docker. That figure has increased from 13.6 percent in 2016. This trends only holds true among Datadog customers, however; it’s unclear whether they are representative of the market as a whole.
  • Ben Golub reported at DockerCon 2016 that Docker Hub was hosting 460,000 apps at that time, up from 3,100 in 2014. It’s unclear what the number is today, but the Docker Hub home page currently mentions a “100,000+” figure, so presumably the number of apps on Docker Hub remains in the hundreds of thousands, not millions.
  • There were more than 6 billion pulls from Docker Hub in 2016, compared with only 1 billion in 2015 and a mere million in 2014. If nothing else, this is evidence that Docker Hub’s popularity has grown markedly in the last two years. It also may be evidence of Docker’s overall growth, but there are too many variables in this equation to extrapolate Docker Hub data to overall Docker market share.
  • Sysdig published a report this spring about monitoring data from 45,000 individual containers. The report doesn’t say how many customers there were, but it provides some insight into how many Docker containers there are out there in the wild.

Beyond this information, most of the data about Docker container adoption and Docker market share available today is from mid-2016 or earlier.

The bottom line is, there’s no clear answer to questions about Docker market share. The best one can say is that a lot of people are using Docker, and their numbers grew by magnitudes between 2014 and 2016. Whether they’re continuing to grow as we head into the second half of 2017 or have just stabilized is not known.

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.