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Review: Docker Swarm soars, and the sky's the limit

Nigel Poulton | April 24, 2015
It's a well-known fact that deploying and managing anything at scale is hard. Docker is no different. However, the engineers at Docker recognize this and are working on three products to help: Docker Machine, Docker Compose, and Docker Swarm.

We've already said that Swarm doesn't support autorestart of containers (yet). This is a major feature gap, but one I expect to be plugged very soon.

There's also no HA (high availability) for the Swarm Manager process (yet). I wouldn't be surprised to see HA for the Swarm Manager by the time Swarm is released as version 1.0.

Integration with networking and storage is understandably limited. Due to the fact that networking and storage are two core features of Docker that are relatively immature and still under heavy development, I expect Swarm integration with these to take longer to arrive.

Currently all nodes in a Swarm cluster need to run the same version of Docker — which will no doubt pose challenges when it comes time to upgrade your cluster to the latest version of Docker.

Removing the batteries

The time and effort that Docker Inc. is putting into Swarm and other orchestration components such as Machine and Compose tell me two things: The company recognizes the challenges of containers at scale, and it's serious about making Docker a platform for large enterprises.

However, Swarm is not without competitors. Products such as Mesosphere are more mature and more suitable for large-scale deployments, and it can easily replace Swarm. While this fits nicely with the philosophy of "batteries included but removable," this could potentially become tricky for Docker Inc. On the one hand, Docker Inc. wants a strong partner ecosystem. On the other hand, it needs to make money.

Drawing on the example of a virtualization giant: VMware is all-guns-blazing committed to delivering customers the entire stack — often at the expense of its third-party ecosystem. Docker Inc. may find it hard not to follow suit as turning a profit becomes increasingly important.

One final point — something of a personal plea: The lack of sys admins and IT operations people involved with Docker is a concern. Docker looks set to become a fundamental component of IT infrastructure, and we're staring down the barrel of a huge shortage in sys admins that grok it. The last thing we need is core infrastructure like Docker placed solely in the hands of developers, who, as good as they may be, do not have the experience of running production infrastructure.

To sys admins out there: Get yourself involved with any deployment of Docker within your organization before it's too late. In a traditional environment, developers should own what's inside the container, and operations should own what's outside.

 

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