Standards are coming for containers

Open Container Project aims to create container standards

containers vs virtual machines
Credit: flickr/Suresh BJ

A list of leading cloud, storage and virtualization companies are backing a new effort named the Open Container Project, which aims to create a set of standards for the fast-growing technology.

Containers have swept across the technology industry in the past year as a way for application developers to host code in operating system-level virtualization.

Containers can run on bare-metal servers or in virtual machines and have garnered much attention because of their potential to be portable across those environments. To achieve true portability, though, there needs to be some standards that vendors agree upon to define a container. The Open Container Project will attempt to make and govern those standards.

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Initial partners in the Open Container Project include Amazon Web Services, Cisco, CoreOS, Docker, EMC, Google, Goldman Sachs, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, Microsoft, Pivotal Red Hat and VMware.

“Part of the promise of Docker is that containers are portable, interoperable and can work in any environment with any tooling,” Ben Gollub, CEO of Docker, the company (Docker is also the name of an open source container technology) said last week. “There needs to be some agreement on the basics to ensure that.”

Docker, the company, will donate code from the open source project that dictates container image formats and container runtime specifications to the Open Container Project. The future development of that code will now be controlled by the broader project. The open source Docker project will continue to develop higher-level container functionality in the areas of networking and management. Docker the company will continue to commercialize and support that open source code.

The Open Container Project has three guiding principles for the development of containers, according to a press release announcing the project:

  • That they are not bound to higher-level platform or orchestration stack.
  • That they are not associated with any single commercial vendor or project.
  • That they are portable across a variety of operating systems, CPU architectures and public clouds.

Gollub used a train analogy: The Open Container Project is specifying the width of the tracks, but not the engines or passenger cars that run on it. Vendors can make their own products to help manage containers and integrate them with existing products, now there will just be an agreed-upon standard of what a container is in the industry.

The Open Container Project will be housed in the Linux Foundation, which hosts other open source projects like Cloud Foundry for platform as a service, Open Daylight for software-defined networking and the Allseen Alliance for the Internet of Things standards.

Docker, the company, announced the news today at Dockercon, a conference in San Francisco which is attracting thousands of container enthusiasts. 

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