Docker to users of Free Team orgs: One month to pay up or we freeze account and images go [Updated]

Docker to users of Free Team orgs: One month to pay up or we freeze account and images go [Updated]
Cloud dollars

Update on Friday, March 17: Docker has apologized for the way it communicated its scrapping of free accounts for teams, and sought to clarify the situation in a mea culpa. Most importantly, the container company said public images “will only be removed from Docker Hub if their maintainer decides to delete them.” Some software developers remain unhappy with the changes. See our friends at The Register for more details. DevClass’s original report follows.

Docker has riled users of its legacy Free Team organizations by giving them just one month to convert to a paid subscription, or have the account suspended and images deleted.

An email to Free Team users stated that “this tier included many of the same features, rates and functionality as a paid Docker Team subscription … access to paid features – including private repositories – will be suspended … if you don’t upgrade to a paid subscription, Docker will retain your organization data for 30 days, after which it will be subject to deletion.”

The issue is not only the withdrawal of the free service, but the impact of removing images used in continuous integration build scripts. Open source projects such as Egeria (open metadata standard) and Kind (Kubernetes testing with containers) have been forced to respond at short notice.

“Without any action, this will break people’s CI pipelines, as the old images will no longer be available on Dockerhub (at least not at the same location). Cost to get a paid team is $300/year,” said a maintainer of the Mamba open source package manager, on GitHub.

In mitigation, there is a Docker Sponsored Open Source (DSOS) programme by which appropriate projects can get free Team subscriptions, and in Mamba’s case this was quickly arranged. The program has restrictions though, including that it must not have “a pathway to commercialization”, and some projects have found it difficult to get admitted.

“We had applied for the OSS program years ago,” posted Neil Hanlon, lead engineer at the Rocky Enterprise Software Foundation, regarding images in the rockylinux namespace, “and heard nothing. We applied again a few months ago after prompting but have similarly not heard anything from that application either.”

Tim Perry, creator of a project called httptoolkit, commented: “I’m running a tiny open-source project but with some income (just enough to make development sustainable with one developer) which means it seems I’m not allowed into the open-source scheme either.” The impacted images “are widely used by others, referenced in all sorts of docs & CI builds, and embedded in software running all over the place, so implying that all these images will stop being accessible in 30 days is a massive problem,” he said.

A common complaint is that Docker appears to be inflexible about solutions other than converting to a paid or DSOS Team. “Being able to convert my organization account into a personal single-user free account with the same name and images would be a reasonable solution,” said Perry, as would allowing redirects so that images could be hosted elsewhere. Hosting the images elsewhere is easy but “doing that now doesn’t solve my problem because the existing Docker hub URLs are widely used all over the place already.”

Developers were also concerned about their namespace being hijacked by others after deletion, making it vulnerable to malware distribution, but Docker said that “any organizations suspended or deleted will not release the namespace, so squatting previous namespaces will not be possible.” Docker also promised not to suspend an organization while a DSOS application was under consideration.

A Docker spokesperson told us that “Docker emailed a small subset of affected users to notify them of the sunsetting of a previously-available Docker plan called ‘Free Teams’, and allow them to plan their next steps.” Docker added that “Users with specific issues “are welcome to open a Github issue so we can help guide them through the specifics of their situation.”