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.

Protocol | Policy

5 things to know about FCC nominee Gigi Sohn

The veteran of some of the earliest tech policy fights is a longtime consumer champion and net-neutrality advocate.

Gigi Sohn, who President Joe Biden nominated to serve on the FCC, is a longtime net-neutrality advocate.

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday nominated Gigi Sohn to serve as a Federal Communications Commissioner, teeing up a Democratic majority at the agency that oversees broadband issues after months of delay.

Like Lina Khan, who Biden picked in June to head up the Federal Trade Commission, Sohn is a progressive favorite. And if confirmed, she'll take up a position in an agency trying to pull policy levers on net neutrality, privacy and broadband access even as Congress is stalled.

Keep Reading Show less
Ben Brody

Ben Brody (@ BenBrodyDC) is a senior reporter at Protocol focusing on how Congress, courts and agencies affect the online world we live in. He formerly covered tech policy and lobbying (including antitrust, Section 230 and privacy) at Bloomberg News, where he previously reported on the influence industry, government ethics and the 2016 presidential election. Before that, Ben covered business news at CNNMoney and AdAge, and all manner of stories in and around New York. He still loves appearing on the New York news radio he grew up with.

If you've ever tried to pick up a new fitness routine like running, chances are you may have fallen into the "motivation vs. habit" trap once or twice. You go for a run when the sun is shining, only to quickly fall off the wagon when the weather turns sour.

Similarly, for many businesses, 2020 acted as the storm cloud that disrupted their plans for innovation. With leaders busy grappling with the pandemic, innovation frequently got pushed to the backburner. In fact, according to McKinsey, the majority of organizations shifted their focus mainly to maintaining business continuity throughout the pandemic.

Keep Reading Show less
Gaurav Kataria
Group Product Manager, Trello at Atlassian
Protocol | Workplace

Adobe wants a more authentic NFT world

Adobe's Content Credentials feature will allow Creative Cloud subscribers to attach edit-tracking information to Photoshop files. The goal is to create a more trustworthy NFT market and digital landscape.

Adobe's Content Credentials will allow users to attach their identities to an image

Image: Adobe

Remember the viral, fake photo of Kurt Cobain and Biggie Smalls that duped and delighted the internet in 2017? Doctored images manipulate people and erode trust and we're not great at spotting them. The entire point of the emerging NFT art market is to create valuable and scarce digital files and when there isn't an easy way to check for an image's origin and edits, there's a problem. What if someone steals an NFT creator's image and pawns it off as their own? As a hub for all kinds of multimedia, Adobe feels a responsibility to combat misinformation and provide a safe space for NFT creators. That's why it's rolling out Content Credentials, a record that can be attached to a Photoshop file of a creator's identity and includes any edits they made.

Users can connect their social media addresses and crypto wallet addresses to images in Photoshop. This further proves the image creator's identity, but it's also helpful in determining the creators of NFTs. Adobe has partnered with NFT marketplaces KnownOrigin, OpenSea, Rarible and SuperRare in this effort. "Today there's not a way to know that the NFT you're buying was actually created by a true creator," said Adobe General Counsel Dana Rao. "We're allowing the creator to show their identity and attach it to the image."

Keep Reading Show less
Lizzy Lawrence

Lizzy Lawrence ( @LizzyLaw_) is a reporter at Protocol, covering tools and productivity in the workplace. She's a recent graduate of the University of Michigan, where she studied sociology and international studies. She served as editor in chief of The Michigan Daily, her school's independent newspaper. She's based in D.C., and can be reached at llawrence@protocol.com.

Protocol | China

Why another Chinese lesbian dating app just shut down

With neither political support nor a profitable business model, lesbian dating apps are finding it hard to survive in China.

Operating a dating app for LGBTQ+ communities in China is like walking a tightrope.

Photo: Nicolas Asfouri/AFP via Getty Images

When Lesdo, a Chinese dating app designed for lesbian women, announced it was closing down, it didn't come as a surprise to the LGBTQ+ community.

It's unclear what directly caused this decision. 2021 hasn't been kind to China's queer communities; WeChat has deactivated queer groups' public accounts and Beijing has pressured charity organizations not to work with queer activists.

Keep Reading Show less
Zeyi Yang
Zeyi Yang is a reporter with Protocol | China. Previously, he worked as a reporting fellow for the digital magazine Rest of World, covering the intersection of technology and culture in China and neighboring countries. He has also contributed to the South China Morning Post, Nikkei Asia, Columbia Journalism Review, among other publications. In his spare time, Zeyi co-founded a Mandarin podcast that tells LGBTQ stories in China. He has been playing Pokemon for 14 years and has a weird favorite pick.

The Oura Ring was a sleep-tracking hit. Can the next one be even more?

Oura wants to be a media company, an activity tracker and even a way to know you're sick before you feel sick.

Over the last few years, the Oura Ring has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch.

Photo: Oura

Oura CEO Harpreet Rai swears he didn't know Kim Kardashian was a fan. He was as surprised as anyone when she started posting screenshots from the Oura app to her Instagram story, and got into a sleep battle with fellow Oura user Gwyneth Paltrow. Or when Jennifer Aniston revealed that Jimmy Kimmel got her hooked on Oura … and how her ring fell off in a salad. "I am addicted to it," Aniston said, "and it's ruining my life" by shaming her about her lack of sleep. "I think we're definitely seeing traction outside of tech," Rai said. "Which is cool."

Over the last couple of years, Oura's ring (imaginatively named the Oura Ring) has become one of the most recognizable wearables this side of the Apple Watch. The company started with a Kickstarter campaign in 2015, but really started to find traction with its second-generation model in 2018. It's not exactly a mainstream device — Oura said it has sold more than 500,000 rings, up from 150,000 in March 2020 but still not exactly Apple Watch levels — but it has reached some of the most successful, influential and probably sleep-deprived people in the industry. Jack Dorsey is a professed fan, as is Marc Benioff.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories