​Docker Machine, Swarm, Compose: Now the orchestration tools roll out

Unveiled late last year in Amsterdam, the Docker orchestration services designed to facilitate multi-container distributed apps can now be downloaded.
Written by Toby Wolpe, Contributor on
Scott Johnston: Orchestration tooling for managing sophisticated microservice apps.
Image: Docker

The Docker orchestration services described in December by the company's CEO as the next 12 months' most important developments are now available for public use.

The first downloadable versions of Machine, Swarm - both public betas - and Compose 1.1 are designed to help developers and sysadmins create and manage multi-container distributed applications.

Docker Machine enables any host, whether a laptop, server, VM or remote cloud instance, to run Docker apps. Docker Swarm is a clustering service that can turn large numbers of servers into a single machine, creating a resource pool for distributed apps.

The third element of the orchestration services, Docker Compose, is designed to smooth the process of building a complex distributed app from a number of containers.

"The alpha products we talked about in December were either prototype code or just barely working examples of what was possible," Docker SVP product Scott Johnston said.

"Obviously, we've now advanced to beta. In fact we have some customers who've already rushed ahead with these betas into production despite our most ardent pleas, 'Please, don't do that'. But they found them so useful, they've just gone ahead."

Docker automates the creation and deployment of apps in containers - a lighter-weight form of virtualisation - with the goal of freeing developers from software and infrastructure dependencies, cutting costs and creating efficiencies in the process.

The beta release of Docker Machine now has 12 drivers: Amazon EC2, Digital Ocean, Google Cloud Platform, IBM Softlayer, Microsoft Azure, Microsoft Hyper-V, OpenStack, Rackspace Cloud, VirtualBox, VMware Fusion, VMware vCloud Air, and VMware vSphere.

Docker, the company behind the open-source container platform, said the community has generated 10 other pull requests for incremental drivers and is encouraging submissions for others.

"The intention was to make a bold claim that Docker certainly was useful and would continue to be useful as an engine to create these one-off containers. But the real promise for end users is where Docker is a full-on platform. That requires this next layer in the stack of orchestration tooling to enable users to effectively manage and deploy these sophisticated microservice apps," Johnston said.

The Swarm API supports alternative implementations of container scheduling and host discovery, with the beta version offering drivers for coordination service ZooKeeper, service- discovery tool Consul and distributed key-value store Etcd.

It can also work with third-party container orchestration products and cloud orchestration services. A collaboration between Mesosphere and Docker has produced reference implementations for Apache Mesos and the Mesosphere Datacenter Operating System.

There are plans to integrate Swarm with Amazon EC2 Container Service, IBM Bluemix Container Service, Joyent Smart Data Center and Microsoft Azure.

"Mesosphere has done a phenomenal job building a set of infrastructure tooling for Airbnb- and Twitter-type environments. Yet while the operations teams love the Mesos tools for those kinds of virtual datacentres, the DevOps teams love the simplicity and portability of the Docker APIs and the Docker tooling," Johnston said.

"So you can see this as being the best of both worlds where ops teams are managing their infrastructure using Mesos, and devs and the DevOps teams are creating these portable distributed applications and are landing them on the ops team's tool of choice, which happens to be Mesosphere."

He added that the API and the project itself are architected to allow the underlying cluster manager to be swapped out for other tools such as Kubernetes or a feed from CoreOS.

"So the devs continue to write using the tools that they've comfortable with that are also portable, and the ops teams can choose the tools for their specific use cases," he said.

Docker also announced an expansion of its ecosystem that already includes Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Joyent, Mesosphere, Microsoft and VMware, and now counts more than 30 working and proposed partner and community integrations.

"This is an inclusive architecture. This is an inclusive platform that is meant to catalyse ecosystem innovation and choice for customers, not the opposite, not to lock them in or prevent choice," Johnston said.

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