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Docker Acquires Orchard Labs

by Chris Swan on Jul 23, 2014 |

Docker Inc have announced their acquisition of Orchard Labs, a provider of hosted Docker services. Orchard are also the developers of Fig, a composition and orchestration tool for multi container Docker applications. The London based Orchard team is two strong, with prolific developers Ben Firshman and Aanand Prasad.

Orchard featured in Docker CTO Solomon Hykes’ keynote at DockerCon with a video demo of their integration with libswarm. The demo showed how Docker containers could be launched and managed locally and in a variety of remote environments without any special tools. In each case a libswarm daemon was invoked to connect the regular docker command line tool to the appropriate back end (or collection of back ends).

Fig uses a YAML file to describe the relationships between interconnected containers in a multi container application. It can be used to launch and manage the life cycle of those containers, replacing what would otherwise be a number of discrete docker run invokations. When combined with libswarm Fig can be used to manage multi container applications across a number of environments.

Docker have announced their intention to shut down Orchard’s hosted Docker services, with a “long running transition plan” to migrate existing customers to other service providers. Docker Inc’s antecedent DotCloud was previously platform as a service provider, and VP of Product Scott Johnston says the company wants to “focus on core business of software” rather than return to being a service provider.

Orchard is seen as being a pioneer of “Docker first” products and services, and a long time member of the Docker community (though that community has only existed for 16 months). Docker Inc CEO Ben Golub said:

Our goal is to provide the best tools and experiences for developers creating web-scale applications that move frictionlessly between bare metal, virtualized, and cloud environments. Orchard really stood out to us with their vision of what developers need and their delivery of well-designed services and products.

The acquisition, which is Docker Inc’s first, is stated to be about “talent and technology”, making it a mixture of acquihire of Firshman and Prasad and integration of Fig into Docker’s portfolio of tools to “build, ship and run” applications. The Orchard team will remain in London to help expand Docker’s European footprint.

Whilst Fig has many similarities to other Docker tools such as Red Hat’s geard the company says that the acquisition is “not about choosing a winner” and that it wants to encourage “Docker first” developments wherever they come from. Libswarm achieves this at the back end, by integrating into a multitude of orchestration frameworks such as Google's Kubernetes. Having an orchestration front end within the Docker stable is however likely to dent enthusiasm for developing new ones elsewhere. Docker has begun the digestion of its own ecosystem.

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