StackEngine Focuses on Docker Tools for the Real World

18 Jun 2015 1:49pm, by

Despite Docker’s popularity, many organizations find the prevailing tools based on the “unicorn” data centers of Google or Twitter, not the real-world mishmash of systems they’re dealing with.

Austin, Texas-based StackEngine aims to help companies manage Docker containers in the real world with its Container Application Center, a self-service center for both developers and the operations team.

The company, which emerged from stealth in October, will be demonstrating its first product next week at DockerCon in San Francisco.

Co-founder Bob Quillin and Eric Anderson have operations backgrounds with companies like CopperEgg, Hyper9 and VMware. They raised $1M in seed funding from Silverton Partners and LiveOak Venture Partners, and most recently added another $3.5 million from Silverton Partners.

They’ve worked with close to 500 enterprises over the past year to learn about their challenges and motivations around Docker.

“[They’re telling us] they want to deploy applications in a very efficient way, but have that VMware-like control and security that they have with their current infrastructure-management tools, but they want to do it without the cost and complexity of that,” Quillin said.

They’re looking for the freedom and flow of Docker containers, but they’re running legacy applications, colocation facilities, in the cloud.

Container Application Center allows the ops team to create resource pools, multi-user access and deploy across multiple data centers, clouds and providers — both private and public — all on a common development, DevOps and operations platform.

Its drag-and-drop Application Editor provides an authenticated service discovery and key/value store built into the product. It allows developers to pull images from any private or public repository or hub, and run containers directly on VMware, AWS, bare metal or on any Linux, including CoreOS.

“It provides a separation of concerns,” Quillin said. “The IT team sets up how they want the environment to be provisioned, then the developers can compose their applications inside that environment and set up how you want it to run. The resource pools are assigned by the operations team, then it all comes together and launches an instance that runs based on the scheduling policy that you set up. It’s automated from the development to production process.”

He said customers are finding solutions based on microservice architecture, like Kubernetes and Mesosphere, too complex, and don’t fit into the way they operate.

“There are Docker tools coming out, and there are some libraries there, but they’re very developer-focused. They’ve developed a strategy about how a developer-centered data center would look like. … We think we have something that’s much more balanced and approaches the problem in a way that pulls IT operations in and allows developers to use containers and deploy them in a very free way.”

Its Container Application Center focuses on allowing companies to:

  • Compose Docker applications simply.
  • Share and reuse application components across an organization.
  • Deploy anywhere — across data centers, availability zones, and colocation facilities.
  • Run enterprise applications that can dynamically learn the location of shared services.

There has been a shotgun approach to containerization in its initial stage, with developers attacking a range of problems on GitHub, according to StackEngine’s CTO Eric Anderson, who calls this the second stage.

“The second stage is where it takes a lot more coordinated effort to put together all the pieces … We see customers who want to put this into production — and all the open source tools and components are good, but it’s not what they need to do business. We’re trying to help customers get to the business end of this market.”

One of its customers, UberCloud, has used StackEngine to increase visibility into its containers and provide a secure and easy way to manage them. UberCloud is a PaaS vendor using Google, AWS or private data centers that allows scientists and engineers to purchase cloud computing to run experiments.

It uses containers to isolate the different experiements, but needs to run in a multi-tentant environment.

“With StackEngine, you have one Docker GUI — a single pane of glass,” explained Burak Yenier, UberCloud CEO.

Admins can set up resource pools, and with individual user accounts, development teams compose and launch their own Docker applications.

An unnamed healthcare customer has not only security, but also regulatory compliance mandates, but also wants to operate across myriad systems, Quillin said.

“Do with containers what VMware did with VMs a decade ago” has been an investment theme for the past year, so it’s no surprise to see somebody going after the GUI-centric lab manager and data center automation tools market, points out Chris Swan, CTO at CohesiveFT in London.

Docker and its investors have been pushing “developer-defined infrastructure” as a new thing — and perhaps the next thing after “software-defined,” he says, so a story that’s about ops people, rather than developers, is one that anchors to the past, he says.

“The big question is, if this is something that gets bought instead of VMware, or in addition to VMware. In many ways, this space already belongs to VMware, and is theirs to lose,” Swan says, “but they’ve been slow to get anything to market, which is what provides a needs gap for customers and a window of opportunity for StackEngine.”

CoreOS and Docker are sponsors of The New Stack.

Feature image: “SXSW Street Art” by Nan Palmero is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

The New Stack is a wholly owned subsidiary of Insight Partners, an investor in the following companies mentioned in this article: Docker.