DockerCon EU 2017 – summary by me


  • the conference was really good, from both organization and content perspectives
  • watch the videos: all sessions were recorded and videos are available online
  • the biggest news of the conference was Docker EE introducing full native support for Kubernetes, using the native API
  • hallway tracks and talks are really interesting, I met a lot of interesting people – never skip this part of a conference
  • what’s the point of very loud music on the IT party, where majority just wants to talk?


My DockerCon EU '17 badge
My DockerCon EU ’17 badge

How do they say it? “Better late than never”? I hope that’s true, at least in this case. DockerCon EU 2017 ended well over a month ago. I had a pleasure to be one of the speakers at the conference and I was taking part in many other sessions and discussions in the hall and dining area too. This post is to share my general impressions of the conference and also to share the most important technical learnings I have from the conference. Of course, this entry doesn’t cover the whole conference. You have to remember that except general sessions, for the most part of the main two days, there were 8 session tracks running in parallel. So if you want to learn more, you have to take a look at all of them.

Overall impression

Just before getting to sessions details and some takeaways, I have to say I was surprised by the quality of DockerCon EU 2017. The organization was really good, everything moved forward smoothly and on schedule. Most importantly, the technical side of the presentations was really good as well. Going there, I was a little bit afraid, that the conference will be “100% docker… and nothing else”. So, I expected to hear nothing about Kubernetes, as it was a clear competition to Docker’s Swarm. To my surprise, the first general session on the first day changed my point of view completely when Docker announced integration with Kubernetes. Also, there were many talks about projects and solutions that do things with docker “differently than the recommended way”. Well, Docker was always saying that  “batteries are included, but replaceable”. It seems that after all, they keep the promise.

Also, one specific idea about the conference really caught my attention – it was called “Hallway Track”. Its aim is to help you meet other people you want to talk with during breaks or in the hallway in general. There’s an additional option in the DockerCon app, where you can add topics you want to chat about or see what others have added. Then, you ask the other person to meet and to agree on the time. That’s really cool! Such hallway talks are frequently the best part of any conference. Still, in a big event, it’s impossible to just walk randomly and ask every person met about what he or she is interested in. Personally, I tried to schedule two hallway track sessions. One of them worked pretty nice and we had a talk about using and deploying Kubernetes in production. The second one didn’t work out during the DockerCon, but we exchanged a few emails after the conference. They were really useful, as I got some first-hand experience about using Kubespray to deploy Kubernetes. I really enjoyed that Hallway Track and support included in the mobile app for it.

One more remark: conference’s location. Copenhagen is really a very nice city, expensive, rainy and worth seeing. Check just this single photo of one of the most famous streets in the city – Nyhavn. Also, they have fully automated metro trains, with no human driver. That really shows how far automation has reached, even outside our IT world 🙂

Nyhavn in Copenhagen
Nyhavn in Copenhagen

DockerCon EU 2017 – Day 1

The first day started with a general session and was focused on two main topics: the MTA program and the big announcement about integration with Kubernetes.

Let’s start with MTA: it’s Docker’s TLA (the most important stuff in naming: Three Letter Acronym) for “Modernize Traditional Applications”. This is also a clear and welcome shift in Docker’s attitude. A year back, maybe a little bit more, Docker was like “solution for the new stuff”. Microservices, lightweight containers, that can easily be plugged into CI/CD pipeline – that was the main target. If I remember correctly, there was not a single word about them in the general session now. Docker stresses the support for a transition from legacy applications to heavy containers shaped after old deployments to finally more lightweight ones. As a result of the process, you should get some advantages immediately, while moving closer to microservices architecture in the process. They have now four big official partners that provide consultancy and support for starting this transition.

In my opinion, this is definitely a good move, as it’s where money is – for both Docker and their clients. For Docker, because they can sell Docker Enterprise Edition and consultancy services to enterprises and for the customers as even the first transition from bare metal or even virtual machines to containers gives a very realistic chance of cutting roughly 50% in operational cost. That number was confirmed by Finnish Railways during the general session, but also by us (Aurea team) during our session.

After the MTA talk came the actual big announcement. Just a few days back I was wondering what will be a Docker’s response after all the big players, including now AWS, Microsoft and Oracle joined the CNCF and de facto the Kubernetes project. I missed the traffic by Docker employees in Kubernetes’ repo on GitHub, so the announcement about Docker EE supporting Kubernetes took me by surprise. Instead of fighting Kubernetes with Docker Swarm, which already seemed to be a “lost battle”, they just decided to support what the community has chosen. There’s a saying that if you can’t beat your enemy, you should join him. And I think it’s a smart move for Docker. Docker EE will be still “the driving wheel”, just letting users select between creating Swarm and Kubernetes clusters.

It was not very clear from the announcement how it will be done technically. Because of differences between Swarm and Kubernetes, I was expecting some form of wrapper or translation layer included in Docker EE and forwarding requests between users and Kubernetes. Fortunately, during one of the breaks, I had a super interesting talk with Daniel Hiltgen (@dhiltgen) from Docker. He is one of the engineers working directly on Kubernetes integration and he was answering patiently to a bunch of my questions (thanks, @dhiltgen!). The most important thing is this is pure API integration: there will be no magic glue to keep Swarm and Kubernetes together. Docker was working on adjusting both Swarm and Kubernetes APIs to make them somewhat “compatible”. The end state is that the user interface and/or main API for creating and managing clusters will be still in Docker EE. From there, it will be possible to create both Swarm and Kubernetes clusters, but you won’t be able to mix them. It was still not clear if requests to Kubernetes API will be sent by clients directly to Kubernetes’ API server or proxied through some Docker component, but it is expected to deliver “pure” Kubernetes API anyway. The good thing and the selling point is that users will get a single point of management for both of them. Docker EE will provide clusters management platform and share users and credentials database across all of them, both Swarm and Kubernetes. To get more details, I guess we have to wait for the integration to at least reach the public beta stage – currently it’s not even there. But you can subscribe for early beta access and get your hands on this cool new version when the beta is released.

Out of the all other sessions of the day, I made the following choices (remember that you can watch videos of all the sessions online):

  • What Have Syscalls Done for You Lately?” by Liz Rice @lizrice from @aquasecteam. This was a pretty introductory session about what syscalls are and how can you use tools like AppArmor to restrict which syscalls can be used by different processes.
  • LinuxKit Deep Dive” by Rolf Neugebauer. I was never really sure what’s the idea behind LinuxKit, so I chose this session. It shows some interesting capabilities for building multi-arch system images, but I’m still not convinced if it’s a good fit for general system image building – probably not.
  • Container relevant upstream kernel development” by Tycho Andersen. OK, this one was in-depth and if you’re not into kernel code and internals it might be really hard to grasp.
  • Dockerizing Aurea” by Matias Lespiau (@matiaslespiau) and – well – me. I was driving the technical part of the session. I was trying to target 2 major problems we had when dockerizing legacy applications: custom networking and configuration policies compliance. Give it a try and let me know what you think!
Matias Lespiau and me during "Dockerizing Aurea" session
Matias Lespiau and me during “Dockerizing Aurea” session

The whole day ended with an afterparty, which was held in an old huge train workshop. It would have been very nice if not… music. I really totally don’t get the point of running very loud dance music on a party full of IT people, where I haven’t seen a single person dancing, yet everyone was trying to chat. We were hiding in the corners to be able to talk to each other.

DockerCon EU 2017 – Day 2

The second day started again with the general session. This time, there were no big surprises. The major part was again about the MTA program and IBM joining the big consultancy companies that have Docker’s blessing to provide MTA service to customers.

As for sessions I chose for myself for that day, I went to:

  • Cilium – Kernel Native Security & DDOS Mitigation for Microservices with BPF” by Cynthia Thomas. That one was really interesting! The cilium project is trying to provide an application and/or container level security definitions (as opposed to the classic L3/L4/L7) for clusterized and containerized applications. During the session, Cynthia was also showing really interesting performance comparison between different packet processing paths in the kernel and the kproxy mechanism.
  • Deeper Dive in Docker Overlay Networks” by Laurent Bernaille. This one was also very good.  Laurent showed multiple approaches to constructing overlay networks for connecting docker containers running on multiple hosts.

  • Docker EE to support Kubernetes” by Daniel Hiltgen (@dhiltgen) and Alex Mavrogiannis.  This was titled in the pre-conference agenda as “Gordon’s secret session” – they didn’t want to spoil the integration of Kubernetes into Docker EE in the agenda. Basically, it was a longer version of the talk I had personally with Daniel you can read about it above.