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Industry Group Forms to Standardize Container Technology

Software containerization is about to get some order and standardization under the direction of a new industry consortium called the Open Container Project.

The revolutionary technology, pioneered and mainly driven by Docker Inc., has been characterized by The Wall Street Journal as "the hottest technology in Silicon Valley."

With it, developers can package their programs along with all dependent resources -- such as source code, runtimes, system tools, system libraries and so on -- to guarantee the portable bundle will run consistently on a variety of platforms.

While Docker has spearheaded the containerization effort, other industry efforts threatened to segment the technology, and Docker and a host of other companies today announced they're teaming up to form the OCP to create open standards and ensure interoperability.

"While the proliferation of ideas in this space is welcome, the promise of containers as a source of application portability requires the establishment of certain standards around format and runtime," the OCP says on its site. "While the rapid growth of the Docker project has served to make the Docker image format a de facto standard for many purposes, there is widespread interest in a single, open container specification."

That specification will have three key characteristics:

  • It won't be bound to higher-level constructs such as a particular client or orchestration stack.
  • It won't be tightly associated with any particular commercial vendor or project.
  • It will be portable across a wide variety of OSes, hardware, CPU architectures, public clouds and so on.

Docker will donate draft specs and its own code to help develop cornerstone image format and container runtime technologies for the OCP project, which will operate under the Linux Foundation. CoreOS, another major container player that led an effort to develop the App Container spec (appc) -- hosted on GitHub along with tooling -- that differed from Docker's specification, is a founding member of OCP and will provide its technical leadership to the project.

Docker will continue to work on its own client and other components that leverage the donated technologies. Other companies and projects can do the same.

In addition to Docker, CoreOS and the Linux Foundation, other founders of the OCP include Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, EMC, Fujitsu Limited, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat and VMware.

The OCP said Docker-based containers have been downloaded more than 500 million times in the past year, leading to more than 40,000 public projects based on the Docker format. The OCP will take that technology base and use it to develop real-world, practical specifications to form an open industry standard, using code familiar to a large developer community.

"Containers are revolutionizing the computing industry and delivering on the dream of application portability," said Linux Foundation exec Jim Zemlin. "With the Open Container Project, Docker is ensuring that fragmentation won't destroy the promise of containers. Users, vendors and technologists of all kinds will now be able to collaborate and innovate with the assurance that neutral open governance provides. We applaud Docker and the other founding members for having the will and foresight to get this done."

It will get done, the group said, within three months, by which a completed project is expected, with migrated code and a draft spec based on the donated Docker technology.

About the Author

David Ramel is the editor of Visual Studio Magazine.

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