Docker’s acquisition by Mirantis: What this means for both companies

The recent announcement that Docker was acquired by Mirantis, a lesser-known enterprise cloud solutions vendor, caught many by surprise. Containerization made a splash in the IT world when it first came out and instantly became the next big thing. But that was bound to happen with the potential this new technology had. Docker was the poster-child of containerization and became a favorite of any enterprise that wanted to change things around and explore what containers had to offer.

With containers, you didn’t have to spend a huge amount of time, money, and resources to run various virtual machines to maintain different components or environments for your applications. Docker brought with it a new age of development and deployment. Docker containers are platform-agnostic, making them appealing to several organizations that relied on various platforms to host their applications. Docker helped in growing the adoption of microservices. Docker also provided way more efficient pipelines and easier testing and deployment. With Docker, enterprises could easily migrate to the cloud, making it an ideal tool for organizations that wanted to make that move. However, the news that Mirantis had acquired Docker made waves as many were left shocked to see a company that had so much potential was bought out. Although for a few others, it was just an inevitability. Let’s look at what led to this acquisition and what is in the cards for both companies now.

What happened to the blue whale?

Much like its mascot, Docker was edging toward extinction. And this isn’t really because of a lack of innovation or growth. What we have to understand here is that it’s not Docker the tool that failed but it’s Docker Inc. the business that made some choices that put it in this situation. Docker was growing fast and was a strong business. But once it started getting adopted by a growing number of organizations, it made the logical choice and shifted its focus towards Docker Enterprise. However, there was a new open-source community growing around containers and container orchestration. Enter Kubernetes, a tool we all know about because its popularity is hard to avoid. Kubernetes is an open-source tool that has Google’s stamp on it, which immediately made it all the rage. Since its debut a couple of years ago, Kubernetes has become the most sought-after container orchestration platform. Kubernetes has a rapidly growing and constantly innovating open-source community. Enterprises gravitated toward the new kid on the block, which made Docker more of an afterthought. Two years ago, Docker accommodated Kubernetes, but that didn’t help much as enterprises previously not using Docker directly went for Kubernetes.


Rumors were making the rounds about how Docker wasn’t doing well financially. Docker’s total funding to date is around $280 million, which is a huge sum. However, the company hasn’t been able to make a profit. Then there’s the fact that after years of being in the game, an IPO still isn’t on the cards. This definitely doesn’t sit well with investors and they anxiously want a buyout. So, this acquisition isn’t completely out of the blue.

What is Mirantis and what did it get with Docker?

Mirantis is a cloud consulting company with OpenStack roots that has recently started dabbling into Kubernetes and provides purely open-source Kubernetes adoption. It provides two solutions: Mirantis Cloud Platform (MCP) to run private clouds based on Kubernetes and OpenStack and Mirantis Application Platform that focuses on continuous cloud-native delivery. Mirantis acquired Docker Enterprise at a time when Docker was struggling to get any more funding. The acquisition amount hasn’t been revealed yet. But, in an interesting turn of events, after this acquisition, Docker received funding of $35 million from its investors. Press statements released by both Mirantis and Docker focus on a joint effort toward innovation in Kubernetes-as-a-service. For now, Mirantis isn’t shaking things up too much and Docker gets to work independently for the foreseeable future with a steady merging of their respective teams. Mirantis also plans on developing Docker’s products and aims at interspersing its Kubernetes and lifecycle management technology in it.

Mirantis says that Docker Enterprise is completely compatible with the direction Mirantis is headed in. It wants to use Docker Enterprise and its technology to provide an on-demand experience to developers irrespective of what environments they are working on. Mirantis has around 450 employees and now has to integrate 300 of Docker’s employees into itself. The sales and marketing teams from Docker will function separately for a while, but then even they will be integrated into Mirantis. Mirantis wants this transition to be as smooth as possible for the newly acquired customer based. Docker had an impressive clientele including big names PayPal, Visa, MetLife, and Societe Generale. Mirantis inherits almost 700 new customers with this acquisition. Mirantis also inherits all the contracts and strategic partnerships. With this acquisition, Mirantis wants to become a viable alternative to the likes of VMware and IBM/Red Hat by helping users avoid vendor lock-in.

What’s in store for Docker?

Docker’s latest funding proves that this acquisition is a new start. Docker has now decided to change its priorities and to focus on developers. Docker plans on expanding Docker Desktop and Docker Hub to help developers with modern workflows. Docker Swarm is not going to stay. Mirantis will support Swarm for at least two years, but will essentially primarily work on Kubernetes. Mirantis and Docker will collectively work on open-source Kubernetes-as-a-service solutions. Docker’s business plan wasn’t working. This new era will help both enterprises equally. The new Docker CEO, Scott Johnston, has this to say about the new chapter in Docker’s journey:

Going forward, Docker’s focus is to build on these foundations to advance developer workflows for modern apps. Along with real benefits, the last six years also resulted in additional complexities, an explosion of choices and new potential threats of lock-in. In light of these challenges, Docker and our community ecosystem have the opportunity to extend the open standards, functionality, automation tooling and cloud services of Docker Desktop and Docker Hub to better help developers build, share and run modern apps.

Docker and Mirantis: A chance to right the wrongs

This is a story of a business model that failed an incredible technology. It’s hard to deal with the fact that a company like Docker was in such deep water because of business choices made along the way. Mirantis’ acquisition of Docker has given Docker a chance to right those wrongs. Docker’s plan to go back to its roots and help developers simplify their workflows puts Docker on a new path with several new possibilities. Mirantis has not just acquired Docker Enterprise — it has found a way to spread its services and business to new customers. With the never-ending popularity of Kubernetes, Mirantis can reach even more customers that already trust Docker. Only time will tell how this new collaboration will work out for either enterprise. But with all this money changing hands and so many investor eyes on both companies, they will need to make it count from here on.

Featured image: Shutterstock / Pixabay / TechGenix photo illustration

Twain Taylor

My interests lie in DevOps, IoT, and cloud applications. I began my career in tech B2B marketing at Google India, after which I headed marketing for multiple startups. Today, I consult with companies in The Valley on their content marketing initiatives, and write for tech journals.

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