Software Container Companies Open Up, Work Together

The growing popularity of server-side software container platforms like Docker and CoreOS could have been hurt by market fragmentation. But instead of letting that happen, a number of tech-industry players joined forces in the newly launched Open Container Project, which has the Linux Foundation's backing.

Don’t know what a software container is? Fine. But trust us: It’s a big deal—big enough for an industry group of its own.

The rise of software containers—safe spaces where server-based applications such as WordPress, MongoDB, and NodeJS can run securely inside a virtual computing environment—has been fast and furious in recent years. It’s a big business, too: One of the top producers of these platforms, Docker Inc., had a funding round in April that put its valuation at around $1 billion.

The benefits of containers are pretty massive: Effectively, you can take an entire system, save its current state, run it on an entirely different server, and integrate with other systems seamlessly. In the age of cloud computing, such use cases have become increasingly compelling.

We believe the timing is right to create a common standard that would ensure compatibility and encourage innovation throughout the ecosystem.

But with so many players getting into the space—beyond Docker, the Linux-based CoreOS is similarly gaining momentum—the potential for incompatibilities rose. Considering that portability is one of the primary benefits of using software containers in the first place, that made software containerization a prime candidate for its own nonprofit group.

The Open Container Project, which will be formed with the help of the Linux Foundation, has backing not just from CoreOS and Docker but also from other key players in the hardware, cloud computing, and operating system spaces. Major cloud players Microsoft, Amazon, and Google are all on board, but so are mainframe and networking experts such as Intel, IBM, and Cisco.

“Containers are revolutionizing the computing industry and delivering on the dream of application portability,” Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said in a news release. “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.”

Docker founder Solomon Hykes noted that his company was giving up control of its format—which has become a de facto standard—as a starting point to build an actual standard that would avoid such fragmentation.

“After receiving feedback from the community, partners and customers, we believe the timing is right to create a common standard that would ensure compatibility and encourage innovation throughout the ecosystem,” Hykes said in a news release.

In comments to TechCrunch, Google Cloud Platform Product Manager Craig McLuckie noted that the new collaboration was beneficial for pretty much everyone in the cloud space—from those building applications to the cloud providers hosting said apps.

“It will ensure that innovation does indeed happen, and happens in a way that benefits everyone and is free of vendor specific ties,” he notes.


Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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