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Docker, Tech Giants Team on Open Container Project

Containers have quickly become crucial tools for rapid-scale application development, and a new project aims to protect their usefulness by establishing common standards for software containers. Among the companies joining forces for the Open Container Project announced today are Docker, Amazon Web Services, Cisco, EMC, Google, Microsoft and VMware.

The Open Container Project will be run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. Docker called the effort “one of the more significant [announcements] in the history of containerization.”

Among the other organizations participating in the project are Apcera, Fujitsu, Goldman Sachs, HP, IBM and Red Hat. Docker will be donating both its base container format and runtime to the project to help form the cornerstone for the new technology, said Docker CEO Ben Golub.

Portability Among Platforms

“Containers are one of the most important innovations in software development,” Jim Zemlin, Executive Director of the Linux Foundation, said Monday in a blog post. “This project will prevent fragmentation and enable application portability among platforms, which are the ingredients developers require in order to build and deploy everything from retail and banking applications to streaming media services.”

Golub noted in a separate blog post on Docker’s Web site that the scope of the project is “intentionally minimal” despite the large number of organizations participating in it. That’s why it’s being structured as a “lightweight project” under the Linux Foundation, rather than as a large and separate foundation, he added.

“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,” said Solomon Hykes, founder and creator of the Docker open source initiative. “This coalition is just another example of the community coming together to create a standard that will create stability while fostering greater productivity.”

Rival Concepts Starting To Converge

Launched in March 2013, Docker’s platform allows developers to run multiple applications independently of one another and to test changes easily in real time in a virtual, distributed server environment. The approach has won rapid and widespread adoption by users seeking to reduce server workloads and speed up deployment of new apps.

Containers based on the company’s image format have been downloaded more than 500 million times over the past year, according to Docker. The Open Container Project image format will be backwards-compatible with the Docker image format and “will include efforts to harmonize with other container efforts in the community.”

Among those other efforts is one led by the Linux-focused CoreOS, which has also joined the Open Container Project. In December, CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi said he believed Docker was taking container technology in the wrong direction. At that time, CoreOS had just released Rocket as an alternative to the Docker runtime and also announced the launch of its App Container specification.

With the kickoff of the Open Container Project, Polvi said, “We are starting to see the concepts behind the App Container spec and Docker converge.”

Polvi added, “We created App Container to kickstart a movement toward a shared industry standard. With the announcement of the Open Container Project, Docker is showing the world that they are similarly committed to open standards. Today Docker is the de facto image format for containers, and therefore is a good place to start from in working towards a standard.”

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