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Docker Extensions, Desktop for Linux get mixed reception

DockerCon 2022's opening keynote focused on expanding the developer toolkit, but it may not be enough to ward off financial challenges.

Docker introduced Docker Extensions, Docker Desktop for Linux and the acquisition of Nestybox at DockerCon 2022. The new features received a mixed reception from industry analysts and developers.

Docker, based in Palo Alto, Calif., unveiled the new additions to the company's platform at this week's DockerCon 2022 virtual event. Docker Extensions includes one-click pluggables from JFrog, Red Hat and VMware, and allows developers to integrate additional tools and new functionality into Docker Desktop with more ease.

In addition, Docker Desktop for Linux gives Linux users an identical experience to macOS and Windows users. The company also introduced Nestybox, which gives developers the ability to run any type of workload in containers.

While the new features give developers more tools, that may not be enough to ensure financial viability, industry analysts said.

Docker Extensions provide one-click tool set

Docker Desktop now includes 16 extensions for debugging, networking, vulnerability scanning and getting started with Kubernetes. The extensions include the following:

  • JFrog, which scans Docker images for vulnerabilities;
  • Red Hat OpenShift, which deploys Docker images to OpenShift; and
  • VMware Tanzu Community Edition, which spins up a Tanzu Kubernetes cluster.

During her keynote address, Amy Bass, senior product manager at Docker, said that the extensions make Docker Desktop pluggable. For example, a developer can install the Disk Usage plugin and clean up the disk with a single click, without leaving the Desktop.

Feedback from developers, both internally and those who work on Docker's public roadmap on GitHub, led to the idea of one-click extensions, said Docker's CEO Scott Johnston in an interview with SearchSoftwareQuality ahead of the virtual event.

Docker CEO Scott Johnston onstage at DockerCon 2022
Docker CEO Scott Johnston speaks at DockerCon 2022.

Docker is known for containers, he said, but there are emerging cloud-native technologies, like AWS Lambda, WebAssembly or function as a service, that developers are using Docker to apply.

"Customers were swimming in complexity of the cloud-native tool set," he said, which led to giving developers one-click tools.

One benefit of Docker Extensions is that VMware users can reduce the amount of time it takes to get its Kubernetes stack running from 20 minutes to two minutes, Johnston said. "Before Docker Extensions," he said, "developers had to Google around and search on the web and download stuff and try it."

Linux Desktop, Nestybox broaden Docker's reach

Another addition to the Docker portfolio is Docker Desktop for Linux, which Johnston described in a keynote presentation as having "all the benefits of Docker Desktop brought to Linux workstations."

Unlike the Extensions portion of the keynote, which got a tepid response from the studio audience of company employees, Johnston's Linux announcement received a burst of applause. Holger Mueller, vice president and analyst at Constellation Research, wasn't surprised by the more enthusiastic response for Linux.

"[Developers] love and use Linux, and now they don't have to use the Windows VM for Docker, but can run native," Mueller said.

However, Mueller thinks the introduction of Linux isn't as significant as integrating third-party tools for tasks like core repository or data access, like those included as Docker Extensions. "Linux is like a new set of tires," he said. "Extensions are free rides to favorite or relevant locations."

In addition to Docker Extensions and Linux Desktop, Docker's acquisition of Nestybox will enable containers to run any type of workload -- not just microservices -- seamlessly and securely.

Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at RobustCloud, didn't see a high demand for the feature. While it might add some capabilities to the Docker portfolio, he said, Nestybox is small and does not bring enough to make a big difference to Docker's challenge of needing to significantly increase revenue.

New features may not generate more revenue

Docker has been focused on Docker Desktop since it sold off its Docker Enterprise products to Mirantis in 2019.

Last year, Docker changed pricing tiers to increase revenue. However, most users are nonpaying customers who use the free edition, Carvalho said. "Whether these new features coax [more users] into subscribing to a paid edition remains to be seen," he said.

Docker faces the challenge of significantly increasing revenue, and I am not sure these new features help.
Larry CarvalhoIndustry analyst, RobustCloud

After a $105 million cash infusion in series C funding led by Bain Capital Ventures in March 2022, Docker's Johnston said the company would be adding features to its platform, including security feature expansion, serverless support and heavy investment in bringing security left.

Following that announcement, Carvalho and Chris Riley, senior manager of developer relations at marketing tech firm HubSpot, said that despite Docker's new roadmap, they had reservations about Docker's long-term prospects as a standalone business. The product news from this year's DockerCon hasn't changed their minds.

Bringing tools like JFrog into Desktop is fantastic, Riley said. But his big question now is whether Docker is getting more integrated into the delivery chain, something that he's not seeing. "Developers don't spend a lot of money on tools, so helping the efficiency of the developer -- I don't think that's where the money is."

Riley has questions about where Docker is headed next. A good start would be to fully integrate into the software delivery lifecycle, he said, because Docker "can't just live in the developer box."

Carvalho agreed that the extensions are a good addition because they enhance developer productivity. However, he expressed uncertainty about Docker's financial future. "Docker faces the challenge of significantly increasing revenue, and I am not sure these new features help," he said.

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