Solomon Hykes Leaves Docker


Solomon Hykes, the founder, and creator of Docker is leaving the company he founded.

Hykes founded Docker in 2010 (then named dotCloud) and led it to become the most disruptive technology company of our time. “Our goal was to harness an obscure technology called containers and use it to create what we called “tools of mass innovation”: programming tools which anyone could use,” wrote Hykes in a blog post.

Today, you can’t have a conversation about technology without mentioning docker or containers in it. On the technology side, the container technology pioneered by Docker has matured with a very strong open source community around it. It has become a catalyst in the digital transformation many industries are going through.

As a staunch supporter of Open Source, Hykes continued to release core components of Docker technologies as Open Source. Many of those technologies were donated to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Last year Docker announced the Moby Project that moved the entire development and assembly of Docker Engine into open source. The Moby Project, along with the Linux Kit project ensures that anyone can build Docker without reliance on the company.

On the business side, Docker Inc. has been a relatively small but successful company. “Docker has quietly transformed into an enterprise business with explosive revenue growth and a developer community in the millions,” wrote Hykes.

Docker has over 450 customers, and it continues to double its revenue every year. They are looking at the new market as IoT is emerging as a very lucrative use-case. Regarding financial stability, so far Docker has raised over $242 million in venture funding till date, which brings the overall value of the company to $1.3 billion.

What does Hykes departure mean for Docker?

The technology is a phenomenon. The open source community around Docker is amazing and the company is sustainable.

Under the leadership of Steve Singh, Docker Inc. is growing at its own pace. Though both containerization and orchestration have commoditized, there is still a big market for Docker Inc. to attack.

Docker has identified a pain-point that no one else is able to address – traditional or legacy applications. There are thousands of companies that still run legacy applications. It’s very expensive, time-consuming and counterproductive to refactor those applications and make them cloud native.

Docker came out with MTA (Modernizing Traditional Applications) program that helps companies containerize their existing applications without rewriting a single line of code. Docker is betting big on MTA.

“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 into 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,” wrote Hykes.

In addition to that, Docker is also looking at IoT as a new use case for them. Cloud Behemoth like Microsoft are embracing Docker containers as part of their IoT strategy.

I feel Hykes is leaving his baby in very good shape and in very capable hands.

No surprises here

The news of Hykes’ departure from Docker should not come as a surprise. As someone who monitors Docker closely, I have been following Hykes’ movement within Docker. He has been reducing Docker’s reliance on him for a while. He used to be the chief maintainer of the project and would spend a lot of time reviewing many patches and building a team of maintainers. After achieving that goal, he started to withdraw himself from the day-to-day involvement of the projects. “I delegated this to a very strong group of maintainers who are doing excellent work,” he told me in an earlier interview.

He continued to evolve his role at Docker. Last year Hykes stepped down from the position of the CTO and took the role of Chief Architect and Vice-Chairman of the Board of Directors.

What does it mean for Docker?

It’s true that Docker is at times associated with Hykes, they are not synonymous with each other. Today Docker is at that same stage as companies like Red Hat, Microsoft, and Google. It’s not dependent on its founder anymore.

So while Hykes’ departure may create some ripples; there won’t be any tremors. There won’t be a lasting impact on Docker.

“A founder’s departure is usually seen as a dramatic event. Sadly, I must report that reality is far less exciting in this case,” said Hykes.

There is one area were Hykes feels Docker still needs his help. “… we need a CTO by Steve’s side with decades of experience shipping and supporting software for the largest corporations in the world,” said Hykes.

And he is going to help Steve find that ideal CTO. He will also be around to “provide the occasional bit of advice, and get out of the team’s way as they continue to build a juggernaut of a business,” said Hykes. He will remain on the Docker’s board of directors.

What’s next for Hykes?

We don’t know. It seems Docker doesn’t challenge Hykes anymore. The technology is mature; the business is mature. Maybe it’s time to explore something different, something new.

“…after obsessing for so many years over my ideas, I am rediscovering the joys of putting myself at the service of others – my friends, my family, and the brilliant entrepreneurs I’ve been lucky enough to advise and invest in over the years. Over the coming months I plan to use my experience to help them in any way I can,” wrote Hyke.

I have been fortunate to meet and talk to Hykes. While writing his profile for The New Stack, I learned a lot about him. Hykes likes to try new ideas and new things, “If they work I keep it. If it doesn’t work, I try something else.”

Docker has worked. But it’s time to look beyond it.

“It’s never easy for a founder to part ways with their life’s work. But I realize how incredibly lucky I am to have this problem. Most ideas never materialize. Most software goes unused. Most businesses fail in their first year. Yet here we are, one of the largest open-source communities ever assembled, collectively building software that will run on millions of computers around the world,” he said, “To know that your work was meaningful, and that a vibrant community of people will continue building upon it…. can any founder ask for anything more?”

Good luck, Hykes!

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