ROI of Docker Desktop vs. DIY: Considerations, Risks, and Benefits for Business

Docker simplifies application development and removes complexities for developers. This allows software teams to accelerate their productivity and spend more time on delivering value that’s core to their business. One of the ways we do this is by providing a magically simple developer experience with Docker Desktop.   

We wrote about the magic behind the scenes of Docker Desktop back in September. In that blog, Ben Gotch outlined many of the ways Docker Desktop handles the tedious and complex setup for developers, allowing them to focus their time on writing code.

But this brings up a good question: How can businesses evaluate the ROI of purchasing a Docker subscription with Docker Desktop vs. trying to build their own DIY (do-it-yourself) alternative? 

In short, businesses and software leaders should consider a number of factors when evaluating ROI.      

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Solving for Speed and Innovation

Every organization is exploring ways to accelerate its software innovation. Why? Because software innovation leads to better business results. One study showed that companies who excel at delivering software innovation grow their revenue 4 to 5 times faster than their peers.  

But creating innovative software is complex and difficult. Businesses have to balance a number of competing priorities including developer velocity, team culture, tooling, budgets, and more. And one of the most common decisions businesses face to successfully drive innovation is how to ensure developers have the tools that simplify their work and enable them to create value vs. spending time on work that’s not core to the business and only adds to the complexity.  

Build vs. Buy Considerations

Companies spend a tremendous amount of money on technology every year for infrastructure, security, IT services, and software. The global pandemic and shift to remote work have only accelerated this spending with companies investing $793 million on enterprise software alone in 2021. They are predicted to spend significantly more on enterprise software in 2022. 

These figures indicate that most businesses have a strong preference to buy commercial software, rather than trying to build their own. However, there are certain scenarios when taking a DIY with OSS approach might make sense and even offer some advantages. But let’s take a look at a few key factors to consider when trying to make a build vs. buy decision when it comes to commercial software: 

  • Cost of Time
  • Opportunity Cost
  • Time to Value
  • Cost of Security Risks
  • When DIY with OSS Makes Sense

Cost of Time

One of the most common ways an enterprise evaluates a software purchase is the cost of time. Here’s a simplified example, using the cost of a Docker Business subscription, which includes Docker Desktop vs. a developer’s time to build a DIY alternative: 

Assume a developer makes $100,000 per year. That’s about $50 per hour. The cost of a Docker Business subscription is $21 per user, per month for a fully packaged developer experience tool. 

If a developer spends only 1 hour per month building and maintaining an alternative solution, you’re already at a loss of $29. 

If you multiply that out across a large team of 25,000 developers, that’s $29 * 12 months * 25,000 developers = $8.7 million lost by taking the DIY approach compared with purchasing subscriptions for Docker Business.      

Opportunity Cost

Another way businesses evaluate ROI is opportunity cost, or the value of what you could have created instead to drive revenue growth. When organizations are considering a DIY approach, it’s important to ask if it will distract developers from solving core business problems that have a greater impact on the bottom line? Development teams need to be able to focus on delivering value to customers, and one way to do that is by offloading any undifferentiated heavy lifting. 

Here’s an example from Gartner, again using Docker Business: “If you are looking at alternative solutions, you must include the opportunity cost of using this solution for your engineering resources. For example, a 100-seat annual subscription to Docker Business without any discounts is currently $25,200. Supporting 100 seats with an open-source alternative is likely to significantly exceed this cost due to the level of engineering resources required to maintain the solution. If you decide to pursue open-source alternatives, you must ensure doing so is a worthwhile use of your engineering resources.”

Time to Value

When companies accelerate their pace of innovation they grow their customer base, outpace their competitors, and deliver better business performance. They also reduce their time to value or the time it takes to get a return on investing in delivering new innovation. However, if developers are spending time on DIY software development projects that aren’t core to the business, it could have a big impact on time to value and ROI. 

Here’s another way to look at time to value: many software development projects fall outside a development team’s comfort zone and end up over budget and behind schedule. One report estimated that about 19% of software development projects fail, costing roughly $260 billion dollars in losses each year in the US alone, up 46% from 2018. Docker Business and Docker Desktop reduce time to value for businesses by enabling developers to focus on delivering innovation that’s core to the business vs. the business taking on a risky DIY software development project.

The Cost of Security Risks

The cost of security risks to an organization is one of the most difficult to quantify because security breaches can have far-reaching effects beyond lost revenue, including damage to your brand, regulatory fines, the cost of remediation, and more. IBM’s 2021 Cost of a Data Breach Report showed that data breaches cost the surveyed companies $4.24 million per incident on average.  

This cost shouldn’t be overlooked when you’re evaluating a build vs. buy software decision. Using Docker Desktop as an example, it has a secure lightweight Linux VM that Docker manages for you. As well as setting up this VM with secure defaults, Docker Desktop keeps this VM, and all other components, up-to-date for you over time by applying kernel patches or other security fixes as required. If you’re considering a DIY with OSS and Docker Engine approach, it’s important to consider whether or not your software teams and engineering resources are prepared and equipped to keep all the components of a DIY solution updated, and all vulnerabilities patched over time. 

When DIY with OSS Makes Sense

There are scenarios where DIY with OSS makes sense for some businesses. For example, if the commercial software that’s available doesn’t meet the needs of your business’s specific edge cases, it might make sense to look into building your own custom software. This would allow you to have complete control over the roadmap of the software but it could also make you more susceptible to disruptions from developer turnover. 

If you’re considering a build-your-own approach, it’s important to plan for enough people, time, and resources to see the project through to completion, even if it goes over budget and beyond schedule. It’s also important to ensure your team has the appropriate skill set and capacity to handle the complexities that often come with OSS custom software development.  

Another example, using a Docker Business subscription again, is taking the cost approach to figure out when a DIY alternative would be the more cost-effective solution. In this case, you’d need the commercial software to cost greater than $50 per month vs. spending 1 hour per month of an engineer’s time who makes $100,000 per year.   

The Choice for Better Business Outcomes

Every organization is in a pursuit to deliver better business outcomes, and top performers are leveraging software innovation to make it happen. Inevitably, while managing many competing priorities, software leaders will be faced with a build vs. buy decision at some point. When you take into account several factors including the cost of time, opportunity cost, time to value, the cost of security risks, and when DIY with OSS makes sense, the data shows that most organizations will be better off buying commercial software vs. building their own alternative solutions. Offloading the undifferentiated work reduces distractions and enables developers to focus on delivering value to customers. 

Docker removes complexities for developers and helps them achieve greater productivity. We are continuing to invest in creating magically simple experiences for developers while also delivering the scale and security businesses rely on. Docker offers subscriptions for developers and teams of every size, including our newest subscription: Docker Business.  

To learn more be sure to attend or watch on-demand our Management and Security at Scale with Docker Business webinar on Tuesday, November 16, 2021 at 9am PT.


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