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Protocol | Enterprise

Software developers scramble as Docker puts limits on container use

New cost-saving limits for free users of a Docker service that's become central to a lot of modern software have forced developers to assess their options.

Boxes

Docker says it can longer afford to offer one of it's very well-used container services for free.

Image: Clayton Shonkwiler and Protocol

Reality sank in this week for software developers who built applications using Docker containers over the past few years: The free ride is over.

Earlier this year, Docker announced that it was going to impose new limits on how free users of its Docker Hub service would be able to access public container images stored in that repository, and those changes started rolling out Monday. The move comes almost exactly a year after Docker sold the enterprise version of its software business and 75% of its employees to Mirantis, leaving a much smaller company behind.

Developers had time to prepare, but many — especially users of the Kubernetes container management service — were still caught off guard this week by the new limits. In response, several vendors offered tips for getting around the issues involved, and AWS announced a plan to offer its own public container registry in the near future.

Containers were a huge step forward for modern software development. They allow developers to package all the building blocks needed to run an application into, well, a container, which can be deployed across a wide variety of cloud or self-managed servers. Docker raised more than $300 million in funding after it created a developer-friendly way to use containers in the mid-2010s, but despite wide use of its container format, the company has struggled to find a business model.

Container images are essentially blueprints for the container, and they are usually stored somewhere readily accessible for developers to grab when they are updating their applications with new code. Developers can store their images in private if they prefer, but over the past few years lots of developers and companies opted to publish public container images to boost adoption and awareness of their software products. The convenience of those building blocks of code being publicly available meant that many people built applications using them.

Docker builds its own certified images for Docker Hub users to employ, along with certified images published by third-party developers and a trove of community-generated images. When it was a fast-growing enterprise tech unicorn, Docker offered those services for free, but the company can't afford such largess at this point in its history.

That entire repository is pretty big — over 15 petabytes worth of container images — and storing that much data is not cheap. Earlier this year Docker said it would delay a plan to delete inactive images after a community uproar, but as of Nov. 2 it imposed new limits on how many times free users of Docker Hub could grab images over a six-hour period, given that the bandwidth costs associated with serving those images are also not cheap.

The rise of automated continuous integration services provided by companies like CircleCI and JFrog exacerbated the problem, said Donnie Berkholz, vice president of products for Docker. Those services automatically check container images for updates when deploying changes to software, which is great for their users but a load on Docker.

"On the order of 30% of our traffic was coming from 1% of our users, and that's not sustainable when those users are free," Berkholz said.

Users of Docker's paid services — which also include features designed for teams and large software organizations — will not face the rate limits, and Docker worked out a deal that will lift the limits for most of CircleCI's customers, too.

Deep-pocketed cloud providers see a different opportunity. Microsoft's GitHub announced plans for its own free public container registry in September, and on Monday AWS announced vague plans for a public container registry that it will likely outline during its upcoming re:Invent virtual conference.

The storage and bandwidth costs associated with hosting container images are rounding errors for companies such as Microsoft and AWS, and developer goodwill is a valuable commodity. AWS will likely encourage users of its public container service to run those containers on AWS, and while GitHub still operates at an arm's length from Microsoft, similar suggestions for Azure users wouldn't be surprising.

In the end, Docker's move is a signal that a relatively permissive and free-wheeling era of cloud computing is winding down as it becomes an enormous business. It also highlights the importance of the software supply chain: Modern software applications pull code from a wide variety of places, and disruptions to those supply chains can have profound effects on application performance or availability.

Big Tech benefits from Biden’s sweeping immigration actions

Tim Cook and Sundar Pichai praised President Biden's immigration actions, which read like a tech industry wishlist.

Newly-inaugurated President Joe Biden signed two immigration-related executive orders on Wednesday.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Immediately after being sworn in as president Wednesday, Joe Biden signed two pro-immigration executive orders and delivered an immigration bill to Congress that reads like a tech industry wishlist. The move drew enthusiastic praise from tech leaders, including Apple CEO Tim Cook and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai.

President Biden nullified several of former-President Trump's most hawkish immigration policies. His executive orders reversed the so-called "Muslim ban" and instructed the attorney general and the secretary of Homeland Security to preserve the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, which the Trump administration had sought to end. He also sent an expansive immigration reform bill to Congress that would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented individuals and make it easier for foreign U.S. graduates with STEM degrees to stay in the United States, among other provisions.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Protocol | Enterprise

Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson explains how he decided to face off with Parler

Also, why he thinks the $3.2 billion purchase of Segment will help Twilio's customers help their customers and why he's OK with being reliant on AWS.

"I think in a society, words matter, actions matter," Twilio CEO Jeff Lawson said. "That's why companies have things like Terms of Service and acceptable use policies."

Photo: Twilio

Cloud computing companies were one of the few segments of society that enjoyed 2020. But even companies like Twilio, whose stock price tripled over the last 12 months, have had enough of 2021 already.

Last Friday, in the wake of the deadly attack on the Capitol, Twilio sent a letter to the right-wing social media app Parler notifying the company that it was violating Twilio's acceptable use policy for two of its authentication services. Parler decided to turn off Twilio's services rather than moderate calls for violence against elected officials on its app, which became a moot point after AWS cut Parler off from its own computing and storage services Sunday evening.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

Protocol | Enterprise

The GE Mafia: How an old-school firm birthed a generation of tech leaders

The conglomerate hot-housed graduates in the '90s and '00s to create an adaptable army of tech talent. Now those execs are everywhere.

Look at the resumes of the top tech executives at the nation's largest companies and you're likely to find at least one theme: a stint at General Electric.

The once-quintessential American conglomerate has served as a launch pad for individuals now spearheading IT operations at companies such as Airbnb, United Airlines, Unilever, Morgan Stanley, AIG and dozens of others, according to analysis by Protocol.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

Protocol | Enterprise

Why observability is the new monitoring

Understanding software performance is an extremely important — and complex — undertaking for the modern enterprise. Simply watching the meter no longer works.

There's a lot to keep track of in modern software.

Image: Alexander Sinn/Kwamina2

No unhappy complex system is alike: Each is unhappy in its own way. A growing line of business in software development, observability seeks to understand how and why modern software applications and teams become unhappy in order to set them on a path toward happiness, uptime and profit.

An evolution of monitoring software — which became popular during the rise of Web 2.0 applications and spawned companies such as Splunk, Datadog, New Relic and SolarWinds — observability takes the idea of simply watching IT systems a step further. While it's helpful to have dashboards that let administrators determine the health and performance of their applications at a glance, observability advocates believe what modern businesses really need are tools that help them understand the root cause of software issues.

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Tom Krazit

Tom Krazit ( @tomkrazit) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering cloud computing and enterprise technology out of the Pacific Northwest. He has written and edited stories about the technology industry for almost two decades for publications such as IDG, CNET, paidContent, and GeekWire. He served as executive editor of Gigaom and Structure, and most recently produced a leading cloud computing newsletter called Mostly Cloudy.

Protocol | Enterprise

Databricks plans to take on Snowflake and Google and score a huge IPO

Even against intensifying competition, Databricks hopes to be a hit when it heads to the public markets this year.

Ali Ghodsi is the CEO of Databricks.

Photo: Databricks

Enterprise software had a huge 2020 on Wall Street as companies such as Snowflake and C3.ai went public with blockbuster initial offerings. Databricks CEO Ali Ghodsi is hoping to ride the same wave in 2021.

The public debut of the data analytics startup, valued at $6.2 billion, is among the most-watched IPOs for the year. And for good reason: It competes in a similar space as the much-hyped Snowflake, helping customers find the data to power the algorithms that help with everything from picking which products to order to which candidates to bring in for job interviews. While Databricks has been tight-lipped on its specific plans, including which bankers it is tapping to help navigate the often arduous process, it is taking steps internally to prepare.

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Joe Williams

Joe Williams is a senior reporter at Protocol covering enterprise software, including industry giants like Salesforce, Microsoft, IBM and Oracle. He previously covered emerging technology for Business Insider. Joe can be reached at JWilliams@Protocol.com. To share information confidentially, he can also be contacted on a non-work device via Signal (+1-309-265-6120) or JPW53189@protonmail.com.

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