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Why the Open Container Project is good news for CIOs

Paul Rubens | July 24, 2015
A Linux Foundation project to create a single standard for containers means CIOs can invest in container technology without fear of running in to compatibility problems.


Application container giant Docker and upstart rival CoreOS have ceased hostilities following the announcement of the Open Container Project (OCP). The project will work to develop industry standards for a container format and runtime software.

As a starting point, the OCP standards will be based on Docker technology: Docker has donated about 5 percent of its codebase to the project to get it going.

The OCP will run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, and its sponsors include AWS, Google, IBM, HP, Microsoft, VMware, Red Hat and HP as well as Docker and CoreOS. So this can be seen as an industry-wide initiative to ensure that containers meet the following criteria:

  • They are not bound to higher-level constructs such as a particular client or orchestration stack.
  • They are not tightly associated with any particular commercial vendor or project.
  • They are portable across a wide variety of operating systems, hardware, CPU architectures and public clouds.

Fragmentation sidestepped
The announcement is timely and good news for the increasing number of enterprises that want to make use of containers, because the technology had started to fragment as competing systems emerged.

With the threat of fragmentation neatly sidestepped, Docker and CoreOS (and other vendors) will be able to continue to compete by building platforms that manage and run containers. As long as their products are implementations of the OCP standard then enterprises will be able to use any vendors' products without any compatibility worries.

Although Docker is the dominant player in the container space, CoreOS announced its App Container (appc) specification and rkt container runtime to rival Docker's de facto standard standards last year. At the time CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi called Docker's design "fundamentally flawed" and said its security model was "broken."

Joining forces
But CoreOS is now enthusiastically embracing OCP as the way forward, even though the starting point is Docker technology. At the OCP announcement, Polvi said: "When we started the appc spec our goal was to have a well-designed software container specification that is modular, portable across platforms and is secure. Today we join forces with Docker and other industry giants in an effort to unify this goal."

Kelsey Hightower, CoreOS's product manager and chief advocate, points out that when there were competing systems some companies were reluctant to get involved with containers. "Now that things have settled down it makes it easier for people who had been sitting on the fence," he says.

Hightower adds that companies that want to provide software that augments the container ecosystem will also find it much easier to do so now that a standard has been established especially if they want their products to work with Docker.


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