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Docker drops Desktop roadmap hints after cash infusion

The roadmap for Docker Desktop will include security updates and serverless support, as industry watchers speculate about potential acquisition interest from Atlassian.

Docker Desktop's security features and serverless support will expand as the result of a $105 million round of funding disclosed this week, officials said.

Docker Inc. CEO Scott Johnston, who has led the company since it sold off Docker Enterprise products to Mirantis and refocused its attention on the Docker Desktop product in 2019, revealed some of the company's product roadmap plans following the series C round, led by Bain Capital Ventures.

"We're going to be investing heavily in bringing security left -- further left than it already is," Johnston said, citing a December update to Docker scans for Log4j vulnerability detection the company shipped in Docker Desktop 4.3.1. "We have a [container] build technology as part of our tool set, and we were able to put in that build technology the ability to check for Log4Shell vulnerabilities. ... [You'll] see more of that kind of security built in."

Scott Johnston, CEO, DockerScott Johnston

Docker Desktop, which developers use to build containerized applications on local workstations, will also add a plugin framework, to be unveiled in May, that partners can use to add features to the software. These plugins will include intellectual property from container security vendors and tools that facilitate collaboration among multiple developer laptops on a single application. Longer term, Docker Desktop will also support testing serverless functions before deployment to services such as AWS Lambda and WebAssembly compilers, Johnston said.

Docker also raised a $23 million series B round in March 2021 and rolled out changes to its pricing to boost its revenue in August. That updated pricing will remain in place despite the further influx of cash, Johnston said, adding that 80% of the Docker user base still uses Docker Desktop for free, with the Docker Personal edition. Docker now has 56,000 paying customers, and its annual recurring revenue quadrupled in 2021 over 2020, according to a company blog post this week, although the previous number of customers and the dollar amount of revenue were not specified.

The upshot of the new funding for Docker Desktop users is that the company will continue to hire more engineers to deliver the roadmap features Johnston described more quickly than it could with fewer staff. Johnston said the company plans to double its head count this year. The relaunched company began with 68 employees in 2019 and now has 150, according to a company spokesperson.

Atlassian Ventures investment turns heads

Bain Capital Ventures led the series C round for Docker, but one of its partners, former Symantec CEO Enrique Salem, also brought in Atlassian Ventures, Johnston said. Salem is also a board member at Atlassian. Both Bain and Atlassian are new investors in Docker.

Atlassian's participation in this funding round intrigued industry watchers, who wondered whether a merger could be in the works.

In the last two and a half years, we've gone to school on Atlassian, reading all their stuff, getting to know their executives, crawling through their website.
Scott JohnstonCEO, Docker

Johnston said Docker's business reboot has been a deliberate emulation of Atlassian's model, which targets developers and "bottom-up" grassroots adoption, rather than traditional top-down enterprise sales. That tactic has become widely seen as the way forward for tech companies, some of which, such as Splunk and ServiceNow, face an innovator's dilemma in shifting toward the bottom-up approach.

"In the last two and a half years, we've gone to school on Atlassian, reading all their stuff, getting to know their executives, crawling through their website," Johnston said. "This helps us get smarter at building a product-led go-to-market [strategy]."

The link between the two companies with this investment might portend something more, said Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at Robust Cloud.

"Atlassian being part of this funding is a really big deal," he said. "I still feel Docker's most likely exit will be to be purchased, and Atlassian may be ideal for that."

There's potential value for developers in connecting Docker Desktop in with Atlassian's Agile software development and DevOps tools, said Chris Riley, senior manager of developer relations at marketing tech firm HubSpot.

"Atlassian tools are in the hands of almost every developer out there in some form or another -- right now I use three different Atlassian tools on a daily basis," he said. "One thing that Docker was always really good at is documentation and user experience, and that could help to create better parity between development and production environments."

However, despite Docker's reported business growth, both Carvalho and Riley said questions remain about its long-term prospects as a standalone business, as do competitive challenges from cloud providers and open source projects that build in for free what Docker Desktop charges for in larger organizations.

"I do not see how they are part of application security," Riley said. "Right now, they do it with partnerships with [companies] like Snyk, but I could do that independently without too much effort."

Beth Pariseau, senior news writer at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of IT journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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