DevOps, Docker, and Empathy

Just because we’re using containers doesn’t mean that we “do DevOps.” Docker is not some kind of fairy dust that you can sprinkle around your code and applications to deploy faster. It is only a tool, albeit a very powerful one. And like every tool, it can be misused. Guess what happens when we misuse a power tool? Power fuck-ups. Let’s talk about it.

I’m writing this because I have seen a few people expressing very deep frustrations about Docker, and I would like to extend a hand to show them that instead of being a giant pain in the neck, Docker can help them to work better, and (if that’s their goal) be an advantage rather than a burden in their journey (or their “digital transformation” if we want to speak fancy.)

Docker: hurting or helping the DevOps cause?

I recently attended a talk where the speaker tried to make the point that Docker was anti-devops, for a number of reasons (that I will list below.) However, each of these reasons was (in my opinion) not exactly a problem with Docker, but rather in the way that it was used (or sometimes, abused). Furthermore, all these reasons were, in fact, not specific to Docker, but generic to cloud deployment, immutable infrastructure, and other things that are generally touted as good things in the DevOps movement, along with cultural choices like cross-team collaboration. The speaker confirmed this when I asked at the end of the talk, “did you identify any issue that was specific to Docker and containers and not to cloud in general?” — there was none.

What are these “Docker problems?” Let’s view a few of them.

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