Docker draws distinctions between enterprise and community editions

The company that popularized container technology has fine tuned its marketing strategy, creating enterprise and community editions of Docker.

containers
Credit: Nicolás Boullosa/Flickr

Docker Inc., the company known for popularizing the concept of containers, is refining its business model and product portfolio by 'containerizing' Docker.

The company has renamed the Docker Commercially Supported (CS) edition to the Docker Enterprise Edition (EE). It’s also changing the name of Docker Engine to Docker Community Edition.

But renaming isn't the only change. “Docker Enterprise Edition is more than the CS Engine, as we've built a complete certification program around it for both container content and platform plugins on the Docker platform and announced partners,” said David Messina, SVP of Marketing, Docker Inc., in an email. “Additionally, we've made it modular, bundling several different options for organizations depending on their requirements.”

The restructuring of Docker products allows the company to maintain a balance between what the company needs and what the community wants. There has been a lot of criticism of Docker for adding features to Docker Engine. By creating a separate Enterprise edition, Docker is now free to add whatever features it wants to add to its product while keeping the Community Edition untouched.

Does the separation of Docker EE and Docker CE address those criticisms from the community? “Depending on your perspective, we receive feedback that we are either shipping features too quickly or not fast enough," Messina said. "It is for this reason that we have created more choice — both with EE and CE and by offering a modified release cadence. If you want the latest features and updates, you can opt to use the monthly release cadence or if you want more stability and less churn, you can move to quarterly release cadence.”

Renaming products along community vs. commercial lines is common practice in the open source world. Open source software vendors usually maintain two versions of their products: a fully open source, community supported version of their product that anyone can use without paying anything and a paid version with commercial support and additional features.

That's what Docker is doing.

“Docker CE and EE are an evolution of the Docker Platform designed to meet the needs of developers, ops and enterprise IT teams. No matter the operating system or cloud infrastructure, Docker CE and EE lets you install, upgrade, and maintain Docker with the support and assurances required for your particular workload,” Michael Friis, product manager at Docker Inc. wrote in a blog post.

What is Docker Enterprise Edition?

Docker Enterprise Edition comes in three versions: basic, standard and advanced. The Basic edition comes with the Docker platform, support and certification, while the Standard and Advanced version add additional features such as container management (Docker Datacenter) and Docker Security Scanning.

Docker EE is supported by Alibaba, Canonical, HPE, IBM, Microsoft and by a network of regional partners. Those who want to test Docker EE can download a trial version for free from the official site.

Docker is also offering a certification program to help third-party vendors in ensuring their products work with Docker EE.

What is Docker Community Edition?

Docker Engine has been renamed to Docker Community Edition, and, as the name suggests, it’s a do-it-yourself, community supported version of Docker that’s available for free of cost.

The community edition will be available in two versions: Edge and Stable. Edge will be released each month with the latest features. Stable will be released on a quarterly basis. While Edge will receive security updates and bug fixes for the current release, the stable version will get similar updates for four months after the initial release. This update cycle will give users a big enough window to plan upgrades from older versions.

While the two versions are targeted at different audiences, there isn’t much, or any, difference at source code level. “Both Docker EE and CE are based on the open source Docker project, which is developed in the open with Docker’s community of partners and contributors, and this forms the open, modular core of all Docker CE and EE editions,” said Messina.

Docker is now more predictable

Big businesses don’t like unpredictability. I recall my interview with Spotify where they planned to move away from Debian to Ubuntu, and one of the reasons was timely release of Ubuntu vs ‘release when ready’ model of Debian. Time-based release cycles make it easier for enterprise customers to plan their updates and upgrades.

The Enterprise Edition of Docker will follow the release cycle of the Stable version of the community edition. According to Friis, ”Docker EE is released quarterly and each release is supported and maintained for a full year. Security patches and bugfixes are backported to all supported versions. This extended support window, together with certification and support, gives Docker EE subscribers the confidence they need to run business critical apps on Docker.”

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