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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.

Protocol | Workplace

The Activision Blizzard lawsuit has opened the floodgates

An employee walkout, a tumbling stock price and damning new reports of misconduct.

Activision Blizzard is being sued for widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination.

Photo: Bloomberg/Getty Images

Activision Blizzard is in crisis mode. The World of Warcraft publisher was the subject of a shocking lawsuit filed by California's Department of Fair Employment and Housing last week over claims of widespread sexism, harassment and discrimination against female employees. The resulting fallout has only intensified by the day, culminating in a 500-person walkout at the headquarters of Blizzard Entertainment in Irvine on Wednesday.

The company's stock price has tumbled nearly 10% this week, and CEO Bobby Kotick acknowledged in a message to employees Tuesday that Activision Blizzard's initial response was "tone deaf." Meanwhile, there has been a continuous stream of new reports unearthing horrendous misconduct as more and more former and current employees speak out about the working conditions and alleged rampant misogyny at one of the video game industry's largest and most powerful employers.

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Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.

Over the last year, financial institutions have experienced unprecedented demand from their customers for exposure to cryptocurrency, and we've seen an inflow of institutional dollars driving bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to record prices. Some banks have already launched cryptocurrency programs, but many more are evaluating the market.

That's why we've created the Crypto Maturity Model: an iterative roadmap for cryptocurrency product rollout, enabling financial institutions to evaluate market opportunities while addressing compliance requirements.

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Caitlin Barnett, Chainanalysis
Caitlin’s legal and compliance experience encompasses both cryptocurrency and traditional finance. As Director of Regulation and Compliance at Chainalysis, she helps leading financial institutions strategize and build compliance programs in order to adopt cryptocurrencies and offer new products to their customers. In addition, Caitlin helps facilitate dialogue with regulators and the industry on key policy issues within the cryptocurrency industry.
Protocol | Workplace

Founder sues the company that acquired her startup

Knoq founder Kendall Hope Tucker is suing the company that acquired her startup for discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Kendall Hope Tucker, founder of Knoq, is suing Ad Practitioners, which acquired her company last year.

Photo: Kendall Hope Tucker

Kendall Hope Tucker felt excited when she sold her startup last December. Tucker, the founder of Knoq, was sad to "give up control of a company [she] had poured five years of [her] heart, soul and energy into building," she told Protocol, but ultimately felt hopeful that selling it to digital media company Ad Practitioners was the best financial outcome for her, her team and her investors. Now, seven months later, Tucker is suing Ad Practitioners alleging discrimination, retaliation and fraud.

Knoq found success selling its door-to-door sales and analytics services to companies such as Google Fiber, Inspire Energy, Fluent Home and others. Knoq representatives would walk around neighborhoods, knocking on doors to market its customers' products and services. The pandemic, however, threw a wrench in its business. Prior to the acquisition, Knoq says it raised $6.5 million from Initialized Capital, Haystack.vc, Techstars and others.

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Megan Rose Dickey
Megan Rose Dickey is a senior reporter at Protocol covering labor and diversity in tech. Prior to joining Protocol, she was a senior reporter at TechCrunch and a reporter at Business Insider.
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Protocol | Workplace

What’s the purpose of a chief purpose officer?

Cisco's EVP and chief people, policy & purpose officer shares how the company is creating a more conscious and hybrid work culture.

Like many large organizations, the leaders at Cisco spent much of the past year working to ensure their employees had an inclusive and flexible workplace while everyone worked from home during the pandemic. In doing so, they brought a new role into the mix. In March 2021 Francine Katsoudas transitioned from EVP and chief people officer to chief people, policy & purpose Officer.

For many, the role of a purpose officer is new. Purpose officers hold their companies accountable to their mission and the people who work for them. In a conversation with Protocol, Katsoudas shared how she is thinking about the expanded role and the future of hybrid work at Cisco.

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Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Protocol | Fintech

The digital dollar is coming. The payments industry is worried.

Jodie Kelley heads the Electronic Transactions Association. The trade group's members, who process $7 trillion a year in payments, want a say in the digital currency.

Jodie Kelley is CEO of the Electronic Transactions Association.

Photo: Electronic Transactions Association

The Electronic Transactions Association launched in 1990 just as new technologies, led by the World Wide Web, began upending the world of commerce and finance.

The disruption hasn't stopped.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

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