Channel partner programs, Virtualization, DevOps

Docker Partner Program Unlocks DevOps, ALM Opportunities

Alan Geary
Alan Geary
David Messina
Roger Egan

When Docker unveiled a formalized channel program today, partners gained a new springboard that could launch them deeper into DevOps, application lifecycle management and various managed services.

The partner program launch was nearly three years in the making. To understand the journey, rewind to January 2014. That's when the software container company hired former Red Hat Channel Chief Roger Egan as senior VP of sales.

At the time, Egan told me Docker's influence across the IT market could eventually eclipse Linux's impact. Sure, Linux freed the world from expensive Unix servers and enabled data center consolidation projects. But containers, he reasoned, could speed application deployments across all types of on-premises and cloud systems. The net result, Egan asserted:

  • SaaS companies could use Docker for DevOps and other projects to continually update their on-demand applications.
  • Traditional enterprises could leverage containers to more effectively emulate cloud companies, updating on-premises and cloud applications far more quickly than traditional software deployment methods.
  • The added bonus: Applications within containers were considered more secure than traditional approaches.

Building the Docker Partner Program

Docker certainly caught on with IT consulting firms and global systems integrators -- many of which have been helping customers with container projects. But a formalized partner program would require key talent and careful planning. After Egan's arrival, the company also hired:

  • David Messina in September 2014 as VP of enterprise marketing. Messina had a rare blend of enterprise IT marketing and startup marketing.
  • Alan Geary as senior director of channel alliances and sales in January 2014. Geary's background included business development and channel roles at Infochimps (a CSC company), MapR, VMware and Veritas.

With that team in place, the container company started to piece together its channel strategy.

Tiered Partner Program Emerges

The result, announced today, is a tiered program that empowers partners to deliver Container as a Service (CaaS) offerings. The tiers include Premier and Professional levels supporting such segments as:

  • Global & Federal System Integrators;
  • Regional Consulting; and
  • Resellers.

The overarching goal: Empower partners to leverage Docker Datacenter while delivering application lifecycle development and management services.

The program includes Sales, Presales, Technical and Consulting accreditations for individuals who complete the training and pass the required exams. Partners that leverage deal registration can grow their margins as they climb the program's tiers. VARs can pursue training and authorization in North America and EMEA to sell Docker Datacenter subscriptions.

On the distribution front, Synnex is the company's only commercial distributor in North America. Also, Docker already has established U.S. federal distribution deals through SYNNEX, Immix (an Arrow company) and Vizuri.

Similar... but Very Different

The Docker team's earlier experience building channel partner programs at VMware and Red Hat certainly assisted this latest journey. But the current effort isn't a carbon copy of those earlier efforts.

"In many ways it's much different," says Egan. "Nobody understood open source and subscription services when we were getting started back at Red Hat. This -- Docker's growth -- has moved faster than anything I've seen in 25 years."

Docker, still privately held, has grown to about 250 people. Adoption of the company's software has been massive. Docker containers have been downloaded more than 5.5 billion times and millions of developers use the container technology. Moreover, there are more than 4 million “Dockerized” applications, and over 100 Docker-related startups and integration partnerships in place.

Those numbers pulled partners into the Docker ecosystem even before the two-tier partner model debuted today. For instance, VMware VARs embrace Docker because they understand SDDC (software designed data center) and hybrid cloud benefits, says Geary. The big twist: Docker is helping those partners to manage entire application lifecycles, he says.

From CaaS to Managed Services

Docker executives widely credit VP Messina for building out the Container as a Service (CaaS) strategy. He's also a big proponent of Docker as a security wrapper that more fully protects applications from hackers and probing eyes.

So what's next? Application lifecycle management (ALM) will pave the way for partners to wrap recurring revenue services around Docker, according to Geary. "That's clearly the next logical step," he adds, though the MSP conversation remains in its early stages. MSPs may also discover a range of Docker services that they can monitor for a monthly fee.

Now that the tiered partner program has officially launched, I asked Egan for a reality check on his journey at the company. "It's exceeded every expectation I had," he says. "I knew it was big. The community came first. Then the ecosystem emerged. Now we're in the best position you can imagine for partners. And we had the foresight to build a partner program the right way. There's a strong foundation for partners. We're ready to make money together with them."

The biggest proof point? Back in the early days of Linux, Red Hat executives typically scored meetings with IT managers. With Docker, the team is confirming meetings with CIOs, CTOs and other transformation agents, Egan says.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.