YOU PROBABLY HAVE a Google search engine running on your phone. But it doesn’t just run on your phone. It works so well for you—and for millions of others—because it’s really running on thousands of machines in data centers across the globe. The same goes for Facebook and Amazon and, well, all of the Internet’s most popular services. In the modern age, this is the only way to build an app—the only way to serve a worldwide audience that expects an instant response at all times.
The thing is, running software across thousands of machines is incredibly difficult. And running it efficiently—without each machine burning unnecessary amounts of energy and money—is even more difficult. Google and Facebook needed years to get things right, with help from some of the brightest minds in computer science.
Minds like Solomon Hykes’. He created Docker, a new means of building Internet-based software. Docker gives businesses a simpler way to run software with ultrahigh efficiency across hundreds, thousands, even tens of thousands of machines. “The individual machine becomes less important,” says Hykes, a French-educated software coder who launched Docker from inside a tiny startup in San Francisco. “The collection of machines is what matters.”
Just two years after its debut, Docker’s impact on computer science is already enormous. More than 100,000 applications now use the technology, and it’s backed by a who’s who of the tech industry, from Google to Amazon to Microsoft to IBM. Nonetheless, it’s a hard thing to grasp. But let’s try.
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