Docker scoops up Kitematic for smoother Mac compatibility

13 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Docker Acquires Kitematic Following SocketPlane Buyout.

Docker, a startup whose open-source container technology is becoming a popular component in software development, is announcing today that it’s acquired KiteMatic, a three-man startup that built a Mac app that lets people quickly start working with Docker’s containers for storing application code.

The announcement Thursday came about 18 months after Kitematic was founded by three University of Waterloo graduates — Sean Li, Jeffrey Morgan and Michael Chiang. “I am very excited to join Docker, and move down to California,” Li said in a phone interview. “Now I am here in California and working in San Francisco.” Kitematic’s founders graduated in June 2013. But the KiteMatic team goes considerably further. “This is kind of a one-stop shop — simple workflow, GUI [graphical user interface]-based — that kind of drives people through the whole process,” David Messina, Docker’s vice president of enterprise marketing, told VentureBeat in an interview. Today, those three founders — Jeff Morgan, Michael Chiang and Sean Li — have sold their little company to Docker for an undisclosed price, and they are packing their bags and moving to San Francisco.

While that might seem like a bizarre announcement from a company that is aiming to fulfill the need for enterprises running huge web-scale applications, it actually make sense. The Mac app makes it easy to start using a few starter containers, including the RethinkDB database, the Redis key-value store, and a server for playing Minecraft. The financial terms of the agreement were not disclosed to the public. “We are always focused on what’s best for the evolution of the Docker Project and its surrounding ecosystem,” said Justen Stepka, director of product management at Docker. “Kitematic aligns with our strategy to identify both teams and companies that have exhibited leadership in the ecosystem and are committed to expanding tooling for developers and sysadmins.” The Canadian-based startup uses a graphical user interface (GUI)-driven workflow to automatically install Docker on a user’s Mac. Increasingly developers, once thought of as the smelly, unkempt individuals that tinkered down in the basement, are now an integral part of delivering business transformation. if software, as famed investor Marc Andreessen opined, is truly eating the world, then those who create the software are the enablers of that.

Tools that let them develop within their existing workflow, but which also let them seamlessly move applications into production, are a big productivity boost. Kitematic won a Velocity pitch competition at UW that came with $25,000 and space in the Velocity Garage, the university’s software incubator in downtown Kitchener. But really, KiteMatic could serve a critical function for Docker — getting more people comfortable with Docker’s Linux containers as a supplement or even an alternative to virtual machines.

How Kitematic works is it leverages Docker Machine to configure a developer’s Mac as what’s called a “Docker host.” Afterward it installs and runs the Docker Engine. Stepka believes this will open up Docker to a whole group of users who previously might have stayed away because it required a high level of technical expertise to understand and run. To increase their user base even further, Docker plans to have the Kitematic port its product to Windows to attract that developer community to Docker.

As for KiteMatic, it has received backing from University of Waterloo’s Velocity Fund, the JumpStart program through the Canadian government’s Accelerator Centre, Communitech, Lightspeed Venture Partners. The Kitematic story began when the three founders were undergrads living in an off-campus apartment and began tinkering with the idea of a product that would make it simpler for developers to manage the complexities of modern applications — a task that Docker is trying to help with as well, using containerization technology.

Of course the face that Kitematic was a tiny team means that this was a deal that saw Docker get some talent, another useful addition to the Docker stable and some more developer love, all for what is likely a very small pricetag. As the Kitematic founders tell it, they made a video of a prototype that would synchronize between cloud and desktop and posted it on Hacker News just to see if anyone was interested. It pivoted to focus on the desktop application last August — ironically, Docker itself made a pivot, going from a cloud platform as a service (PaaS) to its current container-oriented strategy — and released the first version one month later. Fast forward and some grants, internships and several iterations later and in the result was Kitematic, an open source tool specifically designed to work with Docker. The developer is then presented with a catalog of curated content which includes images for Nginx, Minecraft, Redis etc. that they can build, ship and run as Docker containers on their laptop.

Of course every time Docker makes an acquisition, the ecosystem winces about their broader intentions – it is for this reason that it was particularly interesting to see the company give some clarity about its acquisition strategy. Not too shabby for a trio of twenty-somethings who imagined an idea and have lived the dream of every entrepreneur to build something useful, see rapid market acceptance and exit smoothly.

Docker’s acquisition of Orchard in the summer of 2014 was Docker’s first and was focused on a different facet of the developer experience; composition of multi-container applications. Kitematic also follows the recent acquisition of SocketPlane, which will be focused on addressing and accelerating the operational solutions around Docker networking by leading ecosystem collaboration around APIs.

Overall, these open source acquisitions have centered on expanding the pool of users using Docker in their daily workflows, which is highly beneficial to the broader ecosystem of partners building differentiated solutions supporting the journey to dockerized distributed applications.

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