Docker And The Rise Of Open Source

Aaref Hilaly | LinkedIn | November 18, 2014

There’s never been a phenomenon like Docker. Eighteen months ago, the company took its core technology, which enables IT people to move software easily between different machines by enclosing it in “containers”, and made it open source. Almost immediately, things took off: since last summer, Docker has been downloaded 43 million times; there are over 30,000 “Dockerized” apps in the Docker Hub Registry, and 13,000 third-party projects on GitHub using Docker. At AWS Re:Invent last week, its little booth on the show floor was overrun with people wanting to learn more about the company.

While its history and trajectory are unique, Docker is a more general example of a new breed of open source companies, which are building long-term, sustainable businesses. Companies like Cloudera, MongoDB and MuleSoft have revenue run-rates between $50-100M, strong growth, and huge market opportunities ahead of them. That’s new, in that historically only Red Hat (the grand-daddy of open source) has managed to scale a profitable business; many of the best companies that followed in the 2000s had successful acquisitions, but struggled to grow revenue.

So, what’s changed? Why is it possible to build a big open source company in a way that it wasn’t before? There have been 3 big developments over the past 10 years...