Popular Docker Software No Longer Free to Enterprise Customers

Docker, the leading provider of open-source container technology, recently announced licensing changes surrounding its previously free Desktop software, which will go into effect on January 31, 2022.


Docker had historically made their software free to use, but at the end of the August, it unveiled licensing changes that require paid subscriptions from companies with more than 250 employees or $10M+ in revenue. Current Docker customers have until January 31st, 2022, to achieve compliance under the new terms. (If you’re familiar with Oracle’s Java licensing changes, the Docker changes present a similar scenario.) Docker claims the subscription charges are necessary to improve business sustainability; despite Docker’s popularity, the vendor has yet to achieve profitability.


Containerization has become widely used for its ability to package and deploy software with efficiency, agility, security, and ease of management; it is estimated that over half of all professional developers now user Docker (Stack Overflow Developer Survey 2021). Containerization is the process of bundling application code with all related configuration files, libraries, and dependencies required for the application to run. The result is a single packaged piece of software called a “container” which can be built to include any application, run on any operating system, and deployed anywhere.

Since the late summer announcement, several clients have contacted ClearEdge to discuss the impact of the imposition of subscription licensing, and the various tiers of the licensing. One client has between five and six thousand Docker Desktop users and is being required to purchase the Business Version (see tiers here), which is 3x the price as the Team license, and includes advanced security features.


What Customers Can Do


Our first recommendation is to compete the Docker spend. Considering Docker’s current financial vulnerability, we expect that introducing competition could generate significant buyer leverage. Some of the alternative vendors and their products include:


o Red Hat - OpenShift

o VMWare - Tanzu

o IBM - Cloud Kubernetes Services


We also recommend that clients consider engaging container security providers. We believe that introducing container security vendors rather than upgrading to the Business tier may motivate Docker to offer pricing concessions to improve a Business tier upgrade deal. Container security vendors include Aqua, Palo Alto (Prisma), Sysdig, and Qualys.


Lastly, we urge clients to leverage Docker’s 12/31 fiscal year end in their deals. Vendors tend to be more flexible when negotiating up against a deadline, and this fact may be compounded by the financial pressure Docker is experiencing. Conversely, if clients wait until the last minute to resolve this issue, they will likely be paying list price.


To learn more about building leverage, contact your ClearEdge representative, or download our blog titled “Leverage: The Key to Every Deal”.


- Bryce Boylan is a ClearEdge Analyst.