The road Solomon Hykes has followed to success has been a winding one. His journey to building Docker began 10 years ago with the founding of dotCloud in Paris. That road ended today with his resignation from the company. In between, Hykes’ leadership pivoted dotCloud from a PaaS company to the center of the Linux container revolution with the release of Docker as an open source project in 2013.
Along the way, dotCloud became Docker, containers expanded beyond just Linux, and the Hykes and company managed to raise almost $250 million in venture capital. With that much funding on the line, it’s no surprise that Hykes has perhaps grown weary of the day-to-day operations of Docker. In his resignation blog posting, Hykes states that he is going to focus on being a board member and shareholder at Docker, while also helping the many entrepreneurs he’s invested in over the years.
Hykes follows the path of other high profile founders who’ve had to leave their mid-sized venture-backed companies as they struggled to shift toward larger-scale operations. Luke Kanies handed over the reins of Puppet to a more business-like team in 2016 and has also shifted his focus to his investments.
While Hykes brought Docker to prominence with its pivot towards enterprise containerization software, the company’s growth and expanded enterprise product offerings have caused some growing pains. In particular, Docker had struggled to control the narrative around orchestration platforms for containers, a space Hykes had identified as ripe for the company to dominate early on. Docker maintains that Hykes’ departure has nothing to do with those struggles, and indeed, credits Hykes with the merging of Swarm and Kubernetes.
“No, this has absolutely nothing to do with his decision. Solomon sits on the Cloud Native Computing Foundation Technical Oversight Board and played a major role in the integration of Kubernetes alongside Swarm in the Docker container platform,” wrote a Docker spokesperson in response to The New Stack. Hykes himself states that he will be taking on the job of finding a new CTO for the company, something he had previously undertaken after resigning from that role in late 2017.
Back in 2016, at the company’s Docker Con, Hykes explained to the crowds the importance of mass orchestration platforms for container-based infrastructure. “Orchestration is at the same stage today as containerization was before Docker. You either need an army of experts to build it, or you lock yourself to a monolithic platform which will drastically reduce your choice of suppliers. Three years ago we brought containerization into the mainstream by making it usable for non-experts, without lock-in. We think it’s time to do the same for orchestration. This is a necessary step for the industry to move forward, and as the leaders of the containerization market it’s our responsibility to lead this change.”
Unfortunately, over the ensuing year, the Kubernetes project became the de facto winner in the fight for the orchestration layer. In mid-2017, a shake-up began at Docker as its CEO, Ben Golub, was replaced with ex-SAP executive and former CEO of Concur, Steve Singh. At that same time, Docker’s EVP of Product Marc Verstaen also stepped down. Docker embraced Kubernetes earlier this year, and now offers its own commercial Kubernetes distribution.
In November of 2017, Hykes moved from his role as CTO to chief architect. Hykes had generated some minor controversy with his tweets and press appearances but had always remained a dedicated advocate of containers and open source software.
In his resignation blog post, Hykes writes that, “Today, as I turn 34, Docker has quietly transformed into an enterprise business with explosive revenue growth and a developer community in the millions, under the leadership of our CEO, the legendary Steve Singh. Our strategy is simple: every large enterprise in the world is preparing to migrate their applications and infrastructure to the cloud, en masse. They need a solution to do so reliably and securely, without expensive code or process changes, and without locking themselves to a single operating system or cloud. Today the only solution meeting these requirements is Docker Enterprise Edition. This puts Docker at the center of a massive growth opportunity. To take advantage of this opportunity, we need a CTO by Steve’s side with decades of experience shipping and supporting software for the largest corporations in the world. So I now have a new role: to help find that ideal CTO, provide the occasional bit of advice, and get out of the team’s way as they continue to build a juggernaut of a business. As a shareholder, I couldn’t be happier to accept this role.”
CNCF is a sponsor of The New Stack.