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Following 'Whirlwind' Year, Docker Changes Operational Structure

The open source Docker project experienced "unprecedented growth" last year, its maintainers say, with project contributors quadrupling and pull requests reaching 5,000.

To cope with the surge of this "whirlwind year," Docker, Inc., the chief commercial supporter of the project, has modified its organizational structure, spreading out the responsibilities that had been handled by Docker's founder and CTO, Solomon Hykes, into three new leadership roles.

The new leadership roles include Chief Architect, Chief Maintainer, and Chief Operator. The new operational structure also defines the day-to-day work of individual contributors working in each of these areas. All three positions were filled by new or existing employees of Docker, Inc., the chief commercial supporter of the open source Docker.io container engine project.

"This is the natural progression of any successful company or open source project," Docker's new Chief Operator, Steve Francia, told ADTmag. "As your popularity grows, you eventually have to spread the load, and that's what this new structure is doing."

Since the release of Docker 1.0 last June, the project has attracted more than 740 contributors, and fostered more than 20,000 projects and 85,000 "Dockerized" applications.

Hykes will take on the role of Chief Architect, which Francia called "the visionary role. It trims his responsibilities to overseeing architecture, operations, and technical maintenance of the project. He will also be responsible for steering the general direction of the project, defining its design principles, and "preserving the integrity of the overall architecture as the platform grows and matures."

The role of Chief Maintainer has been assigned to Michael Crosby, who became a Docker team member in 2013, and has been a core project maintainer. He will be responsible for "all aspects of quality for the project, including code reviews, usability, stability, security, performance, and more." Crosby began working with the project in 2013 as a community member. "He was appointed to the position because he was already so good at supporting the other maintainers," Francia said. "It's a role that, in some ways, he's already been playing." Crosby is described in the Docker announcement as "one of its most active, impactful contributors."

As Chief Operator, Francia will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the project, managing and measuring its overall success, and ensuring that it is governed properly and working "in concert" with the Docker Governance Advisory Board (DGAB). For the past three years Francia had served in a similar capacity as chief developer advocate at MongoDB, where he "created the strongest community in the NoSQL database world," the announcement declares.

"When I joined MongoDB, I'd been around long enough to realize that companies that transform the industry come along maybe once in a decade," Francia said, "and I knew how lucky I was to be a part of that. At Docker I get to be part of another transformation, one that is going to change the way development happens, forever. You always hope that lightening will strike twice, but I sure didn't expect it to happen so soon."

Francia introduced himself to the Docker community in a Q&A session today on IRC chat in #docker. He also posted his first blog as Chief Operator.

The Docker reorganization itself went through the same process as a proposed feature, and was documented in a pull request (PR #9137). It was commented on, modified, and merged into the project. The changes are intended to make the project more open, accessible, and scalable, and in an incremental way, without unnecessary refactoring.

Docker and containerization seem to be on everybody's mind these days as microservice architectures gain traction in the enterprise. Over the past few years, Netflix, eBay, and Amazon (among others) have changed their application architectures to microservice architectures. Thoughworks gurus Martin Fowler and James Lewis defined the microservice architectural style as "an approach to developing a single application as a suite of small services, each running in its own process and communicating with lightweight mechanisms." Containers are emerging as a popular means to this end. 

"The level of ecosystem support Docker has gained is stunning, and it speaks to the need for this kind of technology in the market and the value it provides," said IDC analyst Al Hilwa said in an earlier interview.

Posted by John K. Waters on January 28, 2015