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Mirantis Lens extension debuts on Docker Desktop

Docker Desktop adds a Mirantis Lens extension as another option for developers who want an easier way to work with Kubernetes.

Mirantis is partnering with Docker to bring Lens, an integrated development environment for Kubernetes, to Docker Desktop. The extension benefits developers of all levels who want to work with the open source container orchestration platform.

The combination of Lens, an IDE Mirantis acquired in 2020, and Docker Desktop makes the complex Kubernetes platform more accessible to developers who don't want to become systems experts, said Shaun O'Meara, field CTO at Mirantis, a privately held open source software and services company based in Campbell, Calif. The partnership allows developers to focus on building code without having to deal with the intricacies of Kubernetes management, including spinning up VMs and configuring Kubernetes manually, he said.

The new Docker Extension provides a direct hook from Docker Desktop into Lens, said Lee Sustar, principal analyst at Forrester Research. This means Mirantis can position itself as a provider of developer-friendly Kubernetes infrastructure, a task the industry has struggled with to date, he said.

Docker, Mirantis partnership has a long history

This is not the first time Mirantis and Docker have played boardroom ball. In 2019, Mirantis purchased Docker Enterprise products, an acquisition that industry experts said marked a shocking end to Docker's familiar market identity.

Following the acquisition, Docker switched its focus to its remaining products: Docker Hub, a cloud-based image repository; and Docker Desktop, which enables developers to build and share containerized applications and microservices. Last month, the company released 16 Docker Extensions, which provided developers with the ability to debug, manage networks and scan for vulnerabilities with one click.

In addition, the VMware Tanzu Community Edition pluggable gave developers a simplified Kubernetes experience. The Mirantis Lens extension adds a second option for managing Kubernetes in Docker Desktop.

Which Kubernetes option a developer chooses -- VMware or Lens -- is largely personal preference, said Chris Riley, senior manager of developer relations at marketing tech firm HubSpot. He prefers VMware partly because of familiarity but also because of VMware's more general-purpose virtualization. However, the planned acquisition of VMware by Broadcom might change this preference, he said. 

Docker-Mirantis symbiotic relationship

Personal preferences aside, the addition of Lens is a smart move by Docker, Riley said, because it ties Docker into a broader application environment.

"Docker Desktop has the upper hand with the developer and developer productivity," he said. "It continues to be the easiest way to leverage containers on your local machine."

The Docker-Mirantis partnership allows Mirantis to tap into Docker's strong developer following, which it retained following the acquisition, Forrester's Sustar said. Docker will benefit because it is now able to meet the demand of developers needing help with Kubernetes, he said, which -- without a pluggable -- is complicated and hard to implement.

However, Larry Carvalho, an independent analyst at RobustCloud, said he doesn't know if the addition of Lens will be a game changer for Docker, which has faced revenue challenges since the Docker Enterprise acquisition.

"While this is an excellent step to expanding Docker Desktop users, the question is whether these will be paying customers," Carvalho said. "I do not think it will change the status much."

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