I just came back from DockerCon EU. I have not met a more friendly and helpful group of people than the users, vendors, and Docker employees at DockerCon. It was a well-organized event and a fun experience.

I went into the event with some questions[ about where Docker was headed. Solomon Hykes addressed these questions in his keynote, which was the highlight of the entire show. Docker embracing Kubernetes is clearly the single biggest piece of news coming out of DockerCon.

If there’s one thing Docker wanted the attendees to take away, it was the Modernize Traditional Applications (MTA) program. The idea of MTA is simple: package a traditional Windows or Linux app as a Docker container then deploy the app on modern cloud infrastructure and achieve some savings. By dedicating half of the day one keynote and the entire day two keynote to this topic, Docker seems to have bet its entire business on this single value proposition.

I am surprised, however, that MTA became the sole business case focus at DockerCon. The DockerCon attendees I talked to expected Docker to outline a more complete vision of business opportunities for Docker. MTA did not appeal to majority of DockerCon attendees. Even enterprise customers I met had much bigger plans than MTA. I wish Docker had spent some time reinforcing the value containers can deliver in transforming application development, which is a much bigger business opportunity.

MTA builds on the most basic capabilities of Docker as an application packaging format, a practice that has existed since the very beginning of Docker. But what specific features of Docker EE makes MTA work better than before? Why is Docker as a company uniquely positioned to offer a solution for MTA? What other tools will customers need to complete the MTA journey? The MTA keynotes left these and many other questions unanswered.

Beyond supporting Kubernetes, Docker made no announcements that made Swarm more likely to stay relevant. As an ecosystem partner, I find it increasingly difficult to innovate based on Docker’s suite of technologies. I miss the days when Docker announced great innovations like Docker Machine, Docker Swarm, Docker Compose, Docker network and volume plugins, and all kinds of security-related innovations. We all used to get busy working on these technologies the very next day. There are still plenty of innovations in container technologies today, but the innovations are happening in the Kubernetes and CNCF ecosystem.

After integrating Kubernetes, I hope Docker can get back to producing more innovative technologies. I have not seen many companies who possess as much capacity to innovate and attention to usability as Docker. I look forward to what Docker will announce at the next DockerCon.

Sheng Liang

Prior to starting Rancher, Sheng was CTO of the Cloud Platforms group at Citrix Systems after their acquisition of Cloud.com, where he was co-founder and CEO. Sheng has more than 15 years of experience building innovative technology. He was a co-founder at Teros, which was acquired by Citrix in 2005 and led large engineering teams at SEVEN Networks, and Openwave Systems. Sheng started his career as a Staff Engineer in Java Software at Sun Microsystems, where he designed the Java Native Interface (JNI) and led the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) development for the Java 2 platform. Sheng has a B.S. from the University of Science and Technology of China and a Ph.D. from Yale University.