Docker Cloud: Why all the complaining

By | March 4, 2016

So there’s a few unhappy campers in the Docker space at the moment. And it seems to boil down to money.

Here’s my summary of the situation – The Docker Cloud service used to be called Tutum and it used to be free. Since then, Docker, Inc. acquired Tutum, re-branded the product as “Docker Cloud”, announced it as 1.0, and slapped a price tag on it. Some people are upset.

That’s the skinny.

There are definitely some valid reasons for folks getting upset. But there are also some… let’s just say “less valid reasons”.

I see the following two issues at the heart of it:

  1. Docker, Inc. just isn’t great at talking about commercial stuff
  2. People expect Docker to be free

The Docker, Inc side

Most people I talk to agree that Docker, Inc. has some issues with talking openly about it’s commercial offerings. For the longest time their commercial offerings have been hidden away in a grubby corner of the website, and you could even attend events such as Dockercon and not even know that commercial offerings even existed. It’s almost as if they’ve been afraid to mention the word “commercial”. Weird, for a company that’s looking to turn a profit at some point.

So why is this the case? Simple (IMO)…. a company so passionate about open source talking about commercial offerings is more uncomfortable than you dropping a loud and pungent fart the first time you meet your other half’s parents. So it seems Docker, Inc. has struggled to balance its love and passion for open source, with the need to make money so that they can survive and continue to change the world.

And to be fair, it’s a awkward dilemma. But I don’t think anyone who understands the DNA at Docker, Inc. can argue with their support of open source. Yet I doubt anyone can argue against the need to make money if we want them to still be around in five years.

Now this is just a personal opinion here (this is ALL personal opinion)…. but I think the guys at Docker need to bite the bullet and start being more open and aggressive about commercial offerings. Coz I’m even hearing of customers and potential customers that can’t even find the commercial stuff on Some say they even struggle to find out how to even open a ticket!

Long story short…. Docker, Inc needs to stop being ashamed of its commercial products and customers.

The customer side

We’re all tight-fisted. We don’t like parting with cash. And that’s especially the case if we’ve been using something for free and then are asked to pay for it.

But seriously…. when that *free* product or service is a beta product, we should absolutely expect the day to come when we’re asked to pay for it. To assume something will remain free – especially something like Tutum/Docker Cloud – is grossly naive in my opinion. We all know that Docker, Inc. needs to turn a profit (they’ve taken $180M in VC Funding so far). We all know that the money isn’t going to come from licensing the core Engine product. We all see that the money looks like it’s going to come from the higher level orchestration-type services.  It’s simple 2+2 math! These higher level orchestration type services are going to cost money!

The solution

The way I see it, two things need to happen….

  1. Docker, Inc. could probably do a better job with their overall messaging around commercial products.
  2. Customers and end-users need to get to grips with the fact that high quality software costs money.

Neither of these points are rocket science, though I do think the onus is more on customers and end-users not to expect stuff to be free. I mean seriously… do any of us genuinely complain that AWS, MS Azure, Digital Ocean, VMware vCenter etc costing money? Of course not, we absolutely expect to pay for the stuff that keeps our businesses running. So why would we balk at the idea of paying for wares from Docker, Inc.? We need to get over this.

Now then… have Docker, Inc. got the pricing model wrong? Possibly. And it’s absolutely the right and prerogative of customers to complain and give feedback on this – very little will ever change if we don’t give feedback. The folks at Docker, Inc are no doubt still learning on this.


So the way I see it, there’s no big deal here.

Docker, Inc. probably need to tighten things up on the commercial side of the business (that’s to be expected). And customers need to get their heads around the fact that this stuff can’t be free forever.

The only alternative I see is Docker, Inc. making everything free, burning through their VC funding, going out of business, and customers ending up paying somebody else for similar services.

NOTE: While I’m heavily involved in the container ecosystem, everything said here is my own personal opinion, and most of it is probably pure fiction. Either way, I don’t speak for anybody other than myself.

2 thoughts on “Docker Cloud: Why all the complaining

  1. Elton Stoneman

    Hey Nigel, in complete agreement with you here. I’ve been happily using Docker gratis since 2014, but in production I’m paying dollars to Microsoft because Docker’s own cloud offerings came too late and the pricing is a little opaque. I don’t think “contact us for a quote” ( cuts it, when competitors’ pricing is so easy to compare. The OSS/we-need-to-make-money balance is an awkward one, but it can work – GitLab do it very nicely. I’m hoping the Docker commercial offerings mature soon; I’d be happy to pay into Docker Inc because the products, culture and attitude are exceptional.

  2. Braga

    Another wonderful article on Docker ! Loved your course on PluralSight. I read this article the way you narrate the screencast (space/time wrap 🙂 ).

    Just one tip: Stop using repeated disclaimers! this is your blog page and ofcourse its your personal opinion. And your personal opinion matters a lot to your fans – like myself.

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