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Scott Johnston, Docker chief product officer. (GeekWire Photo / Kevin Lisota)

Docker lost the Container Orchestration War of 2017, as brief and relatively amicable as it was. Now the company is focusing all of its attention on Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0, blending support for Kubernetes alongside its homegrown Swarm orchestrator and making a simple case to IT shops that Docker is the most neutral and flexible home for container development strategies.

Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0 is scheduled to be unveiled Tuesday, right as Docker enters a new era in its tenure as one of the more interesting companies in the enterprise tech market over the last few years. It’s been almost a year since former Concur CEO Steve Singh took over the top spot at Docker and just a few weeks since the heart and soul of Docker’s early days, founder and CTO Solomon Hykes, announced he was moving on to new pastures amid this shift in Docker’s priorities.

Simply put, Docker is under pressure to live up to the lofty valuation assigned to it by venture capitalists dazzled by how quickly its container technology was adopted by a generation of software developers. Containers, which allow developers to package the applications in lightweight bundles that are more flexible and malleable than virtual machines, have been around for a while but Docker figured out a way to make using containers simple, and it has raised well over $200 million at a valuation north of $1 billion.

At a certain point, that means it’s time start generating serious revenue, and Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0 was designed to convince Docker’s existing customers as well as potential enterprise customers that Docker is the best and safest place to execute a modern container strategy, said Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker, in an interview with GeekWire.

An overview of Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0. (Docker Image)

The 2.0 version of Docker’s main commercial product focuses on adding the support for Kubernetes it said was coming last September. Kubernetes, an open-source project originally developed at Google, allows companies to manage and deploy clusters of containers to production environments, and despite a well-deserved reputation as a complicated beast it emerged from 2017 as the de facto standard for container orchestration.

EE 2.0 allows users to choose either Kubernetes or Swarm at the orchestration layer, and Docker really wants to emphasize the flexibility it offers container veterans and container newbies alike. “The Docker brand promise is really choice; whatever you write, whatever app you put inside the container is able to run anywhere,” Johnston said.

Cloud vendors fell over themselves to offer managed versions of Kubernetes in 2017, but Docker is trying to position itself as a way for enterprises to avoid locking themselves into a managed Kubernetes service while still providing all the functionality of Kubernetes. The catch, of course, is that you have to manage Kubernetes yourself. But Docker is expanding its services operation with this announcement to provide more of a consultative approach to customer deals, and thinks that this approach will reduce the impetus to hire specialized (read: expensive) Kubernetes experts, Johnston said.

Docker Enterprise Edition also allows customers to run their workloads in the cloud of their choosing or in their own datacenters, across multiple operating systems and different versions of Linux as well as Windows. And it improves security with new features that check containers against certain policies before they are allowed to be deployed to production.

Once a critical darling among the techies, Docker is definitely selling out in hopes of corporate revenue with the release of Docker Enterprise Edition 2.0. That’s not a bad thing, if you’re a Docker investor or a company slightly behind the times that wants to make containers part of its software development strategy.

But serverless computing, which abstracts a lot of the application deployment concepts outlined by containers, is the new hotness among the forward-thinking developers and operators of the cloud-native world. Serverless allows developers to ignore deployment concerns, building their apps around events and triggers, and a lot of serverless backers think companies that hesitated to embrace the container revolution might just decide to skip that technology altogether and move straight to serverless.

That remains to be seen, and millions of dollars will change hands in an attempt to figure it out. But it seems pretty clear that Steve Singh’s Docker is positioning itself as a friendly vendor to enterprise customers that don’t sit at the bleeding edge of enterprise computing. Traditionally, those people have the most money, and a willingness to let their vendors drive the train.

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