May 27, 2018

Which companies are shaping the future of containers? Some names are obvious, and some less so. Here’s a short list of companies that are currently most influential in the container market.

As Docker containers have grown in popularity over the past several years, the number of companies that have established themselves in the Docker market has increased sharply. From blue-chip tech companies to obscure startups, the ecosystem surrounding Docker, Kubernetes and related tools is now quite dynamic.

Innovation — and Influence

Yet, of all of the companies that are now developing, selling or supporting containerized infrastructure, only a minority are actually influencing the future of containers. Below are the most important names in driving technical innovation in this space—in my personal view, at least.

Red Hat

When people first started talking about Docker containers in 2013 and 2014, I expected Red Hat would expand its product offerings to include solutions focused on containers. But I didn’t expect the company to invest as heavily as it has in original container technology.

Today, Red Hat is one of the top supporters of Kubernetes. It has developed major container platforms including OpenShift. And its recent acquisition of CoreOS places it in a position to oversee several important container-related software projects.

While a number of other Linux vendors also support containers, few have invested as aggressively in developing container technology as has Red Hat.

Canonical

Canonical, the company whose best-known product is Ubuntu Linux, has also made significant investment in the container space. Unlike Red Hat, however, Canonical’s most innovative efforts have centered around developing LXD, a container platform that is distinct from Docker and caters to separate use cases.

LXD has yet to make as big a splash as Canonical probably wishes. And standard Docker containers and Kubernetes are well-supported on Ubuntu. But LXD continues to chug along, and it just might turn out to be a big deal one of these days.

Google

Containers are not the first thing to come to most people’s minds when they think about Google. And you might not expect Google to be particularly aggressive about developing container technology. But the company is the largest corporate source of Kubernetes contributions.

Why, you ask? The answer probably has to do, in part, with Google’s interest in using Kubernetes (which derives from an orchestrator tool that was developed internally at Google long before most people were talking about containers) on Google Cloud Platform.

But it probably also reflects Google’s interest in competing with Microsoft, which has been a close collaborator with Docker Inc.—which develops its own orchestrator, Swarm, to compete with Kubernetes.

Docker

On that note, Docker Inc. is obviously a major driver of development in the container space, too. Although Docker is not very engaged in the niche surrounding Kubernetes—which is arguably the most important container-related platform of the moment—it still delivers core technologies for running containers.

Huawei

You probably don’t think of Huawei, the Chinese telco company, as a major player in the container market.

You may be surprised to learn, however, that Huawei is among the top five contributors to both Kubernetes and Docker. And although many people in western markets may not have paid much attention, Huawei has released its own container orchestration tool, Cloud Container Engine, along with a container image repository, Dockyard.

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.