Docker Engine 1.12 embeds Swarm. Is there an agenda?

When we first heard that Docker 1.12 included “swarm mode”, which enables container orchestration, our first thought was “Swarm has been out for months, how is that news?”  Then we realized that this was not Docker Swarm as a separate product, as it’s been so far; this is swarm integrated natively into Docker Engine, so that it can be turned on and off and provide orchestration without the programming that is necessary with other choices out there, such as Kubernetes.  Our interest was piqued.

And why shouldn’t it be? The integration of swarm mode, which provides a self organizing, self healing, infrastructure-agnostic cluster that can run multi-container apps across multiple hosts could easily be seen as a shot across the bow of projects such as Kubernetes and Mesos. Is it meant to be? We can’t know for sure, of course, but it is turned off by default. That said, ContainerJournal writes, “The decision to embed Swarm inside Docker Engine is a pre-emptive strike.”

“Docker announced this week that it is including orchestration and security tools with the subtly named 1.12 release of its platform (couldn’t they have least named it 1.2?),” SDXCentral wrote. “This was supposed to freak out a bunch of the VC-funded container startups that are providing orchestration and security tools.”

Docker 1.12 also includes an experimental version of a new Distributed Application Bundle (DAB) tool, which enables deployment of updates to multiple containers simultaneously.

And there is some evidence that while many in the Docker ecosystem insist there’s room for everybody, some companies are taking the threat seriously, beginning to distance themselves from Docker technologies — or at least attempt to insulate their customers from it. For example, Platform9 announced its Managed Kubernetes service, saying that it could later add support for other technologies such as Mesos.

Red Hat is trying to go even further, insulating its customers from the issue altogether. The company announced the launch of Ansible Container, which enables users to use Ansible playbooks to coordinate containers directly. Puppet and Chef are doing the same.  (Ansible creates Kubernetes templates in the background, the the user doesn’t interact with them.)

At the end of the day, however, it’s unclear how much of this announcement is substance, and how much is noise. SDXCentral goes on, “For example, officials at Apcera, the container management company majority owned by Ericsson, pointed out that the new Docker orchestration features only work for single application microservices and are primarily targeted at software-as-a-service (SaaS) providers.”

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