Docker acquires Orchard, makers of Fig

First acquisition by Docker bring tools, talent and geography to hot container start up.

Docker today announced that they are making their first acquisition. Docker is acquiring Orchard. In terms of scope of the acquired company they didn’t have to look to far. Orchard was an early member of the Docker community. They operated a hosted Docker service and developed an orchestration tool called Fig. In terms of geography though Docker reached across the pond for this one, as Orchard is London-based and will remain so. The acquisition brings both IP and talent, as well as reach to San Francisco based Docker.

I spoke to Scott Johnston, SVP of products at Docker about the acquisition.  Scott told me that the hosted service from Orchard is not really strategic to Docker’s future plans. In fact they have already told Orchard’s hosting clients that the service will be phased out and other options will be made available to them.  There are several hosted Docker solutions available, so no customers should be left in the lurch with this move.

More strategic to Docker is Fig, with which, according to the release, “a developer can compose and manage a multi-container Docker application.  After defining the application’s containers and their dependencies in a simple configuration file, the developer can – with a single command – automatically start all the components of the application, including containers, network connections, and storage dependencies.  This eliminates the overhead and inevitable mistakes inherent in re-typing multiple complex terminal commands or creating rigid, unmaintainable custom scripts.”

More than the IP itself though Johnston emphasized that the Orchard team shared Docker’s values, views and goals. This made the company an easy choice to be Docker’s first acquisition. As important as Fig, Johnston and the Docker team are excited to be adding the two co-founders of Orchard to the company. Ben Firshman and Aanand Prasad, will be joining Docker and will head up Docker’s developer environment initiatives while continuing developing and maintaining Fig.

Since both Firshman and Prasad are based in London, Johnston told me that this will serve as a anchor for Docker’s UK based activities, as well as the start for Docker to expand its presence throughout Europe. Docker is as popular in Europe as here in the US, so having a presence there was important.

Like so many acquisitions by start up companies, this one is as important for the talent Docker is bringing in house as it is for the IP and technology it acquired.  My friend and DevOps advisory board member, Brad Feld always told me that he liked to see the start up companies he invests in acquire other companies as the fresh blood and ideas they bring are good to keep the energy flowing. It appears that Orchard fits the bill here for Docker. I am sure there several VC investors are very happy with the acquisition.

As expected Scott declined to discuss any specifics around the size of the deal. Usually these type of early stage acquisitions are heavily leveraged with equity. In the case of Docker, owning some shares pre-later round financing may wind up being quite valuable to the Orchard team indeed.

I don’t think this will be the last acquisition we see from the Docker team. As they continue to build out there business model they will make build versus buy decisions pretty often. When they do if the decision is to buy, they have the means to do so.

Congratulations to both the Docker team and the Orchard team. Building a company that someone is willing to fork over good money for is an accomplishment to be proud of.  Good luck to all of the Docker team, both old and new.

While on the subject of Docker, James Turnbull has authored a new book, called appropriately enough “The Docker Book“. It is “designed for SysAdmins, Operations staff, Developers and DevOps who are interested in deploying the open source container service Docker™.”

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Alan Shimel

As Editor-in-chief of DevOps.com and Container Journal, Alan Shimel is attuned to the world of technology. Alan has founded and helped several technology ventures, including StillSecure, where he guided the company in bringing innovative and effective networking and security solutions to the marketplace. Shimel is an often-cited personality in the security and technology community and is a sought-after speaker at industry and government conferences and events. In addition to his writing on DevOps.com and Network World, his commentary about the state of technology is followed closely by many industry insiders via his blog and podcast, "Ashimmy, After All These Years" (www.ashimmy.com). Alan has helped build several successful technology companies by combining a strong business background with a deep knowledge of technology. His legal background, long experience in the field, and New York street smarts combine to form a unique personality.

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