Docker Buys Kitematic, a Startup Focused on Making it Easy to Run Docker on Macs

Docker, Inc., the company behind the Docker application container software, has acquired Kitematic, a startup that provides a Graphical User Interface for Docker that helps Mac users build, ship and run Docker containers in just minutes.

Kitematic helps those new to containers build and run a container in less than five minutes. Since launching on GitHub in September, Kitematic has received more than 2,600 stars.

Kitematic uses Docker Machine (a utility for creating Docker hosts) to essentially configure a developer’s Mac system as a “Docker host” and then subsequently install and run the Docker Engine, Docker’s runtime and packaging tool. They can then choose from a library of images such as Nginx, Minecraft, and Redis that they can use to build, ship and run as Docker containers on their laptop.

Docker’s motivation behind the Kitematic acquisition is to enrich the developer experience, according to Justin Stepka, director of product management at Docker.

He notes that developers find Kitematic easier to use than command line, and that this opens up containers to a wider range of developers simply because it’s easier. And this seems to be true for other platforms given that around half of all people using GitHub or Bitbucket use a GUI.

However, Kitematic users also have the power of being able to use both command line and GUI. “They are complementary,” he said to The WHIR. “Any changes you see in the command line is reflected in the GIU. Any changes in the GUI is reflected in the command line.”

This also helps new users see what command line functions are executed when they make actions through the GUI, helping them learn how commands like mapping ports, mounting volumes. and SSHing into particular containers look. This is also important, given that not all commands (such as Docker Compose functions) can be run by users through the GUI, so command line is still needed for complex actions for the time being.

Stepka said Docker plans to keep Kitematic open source, and expand the team behind the product, which is necessary to further develop the software in specific ways that will make containers easier for developers to use.

“According to the short-term roadmap, the next features, are the ability to pull private containers off of Docker Hub, and porting the application to run on Windows machines by mid-year.”

Kitematic was developed by three students at the University of Waterloo in Canada who were initially interested in ways of simplifying developer environments. They eventually built software around container development environments that was funded by their university and the government, and that developed an enormous user base among Mac users.

Stepka said, “We reached out to them, and the more we talked with them, we realized we had similar goals. We really wanted to open up Docker to everybody on the desktop and make it easy for them to learn containers, and after getting to know the guys and them getting to know us, we found it to be a really good fit, and the entire team is moving to our San Francisco office.”