Why Google, IBM, and Intel are backing this hot technology
A group of leading companies including Amazon, Google, Goldman Sachs, Hewlett-Packard, and IBM are joining forces to help make an emerging data center technology easier to use by creating an industry-wide standard.
This software technology, called a container, has businesses excited about its potential to make operating tech infrastructure more efficient and less labor-intensive. Developers can also use containers to more quickly develop modern-day software applications used by companies like Airbnb, Twitter, and Spotify that pull information from multiple databases and servers. The technology is so hot right now that even companies like Google and IBM are also detailing this week more container services as part of their cloud computing businesses.
Docker, a fast-rising San Francisco startup, has popularized container technology over the past year and cites a number of companies like BBC News, eBay, and Yelp that are using its free open source service. But there is no universal standard that would ensure containers can be used across many different environments, like the data centers of different cloud computing providers. The new standard would essentially make sure that containers are able to be interoperable so that everyone can use them.
“We don’t want people to be wasting their time arguing,” said Docker CEO Ben Golub. “Nobody wanted fragmentation. We’ve basically gotten everyone in the industry to sign on to this.”
Golub said that a coalition of 20 or more businesses have come together to agree on the technical nuances behind what makes a container operate. These companies and organizations—including VMware (VMW) , Red Hat (RHT) , Intel (INTC) , and the Linux Foundation—hope to be able to assure customers that any container-related products they create will be preserved and protected under the standard.
Businesses won’t have to worry about any changes to container technology due to industry fragmentation that could impact their own software products.
Container-centric startup CoreOS, which raised $12 million from Google (GOOG) Ventures in April, is among the companies supporting the standard. This is despite CoreOS being a competitor to Docker because of the similarities of its technology. But with the standardization, it appears the two startups are putting aside their differences for the sake of making containers more mainstream.
“This is a win for both users of containers and our industry at large,” CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi wrote in a blog post on the announcement.
In the past, tech companies have tried to create standards around a number of technologies including the Java programming language and instant messaging. But they’ve had mixed results because some companies feel it may hurt their competitive advantage and make it easier for the customers to defect.
Golub said that the Open Container Project is a non-profit organization formed under the Linux Foundation that will oversee the container standard. Docker will donate its core container technology to the foundation, and it will be used as the organization’s cornerstone technology that companies will essentially use as blueprints. Cisco, EMC, Huawei, and the startups Mesosphere and Rancher Labs are among the various members of the vendor-neutral organization.
For Docker, the move makes sense because it has been working on making its container technology compatible in a variety of software environments like Windows, as opposed to only Linux. In order for the company to expand its reach, it must make sure it can work in multiple infrastructures, such as Amazon’s cloud data center.
In doing so, Docker is also making itself more attractive as a partner other companies and perhaps win more customers for its planned paid services product. It’s already had partnerships with companies like IBM (IBM) and Microsoft (MSFT), and the standardization will likely make it even more of a hot commodity.
Of course, with Docker’s rise in popularity comes a rise of interest in whether it is looking to sell its business. Over the past few weeks, rumors emerged that Microsoft was perhaps interested in buying the company, but a source told Fortune that Docker wouldn’t sell for less than $3.5 billion.
Golub denied that the startup is looking to sell the company, and instead cited the fact that the company just raised $95 million in April and has beefed up its workforce to 150 employees. He said this is evidence that the company is “100% focused on building a great company,” and that these are signs that it plans to build a sustainable business.
“I think you get good exits by not running for the exits,” said Golub.
For more on the data center, check out the following Fortune video: