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Open Container Project Signals End to Container Wars

The wrap up of DockerCon on Tuesday also marked the ushering in of a new era for the convention’s namesake company and the containerization ecosystem in general. One visible, real-world sign of the shift came when Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes and CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi met on stage to shake hands and announce the launch of the Open Container Project.

Being led by the Linux Foundation, the Open Container Project includes a large number of other participants, including Amazon Web Services, Google, HP, IBM, Intel and Microsoft. The effort was established to ensure common, open and platform-portable standards for software containers.

Docker CEO Ben Golub called the effort “one of the more significant [announcements] in the history of containerization.” Polvi, who has in the past criticized the direction Docker was taking, welcomed the project as a sign that Docker was “similarly committed to open standards.”

Still ‘Early Times’ for Containers

A growing rift in the container market — which offers a virtualized and distributed server environment for rapid application development and testing — had emerged over the past year, with CoreOS’s Polvi noting in a blog post in December that Docker “is not becoming the simple composable building block we had envisioned.”

To ensure a container design that remained open, secure and composable, and one that allowed for simple discovery of container images, CoreOS launched Rocket as “an alternative to the Docker runtime,” Polvi said. It also released its App Container specification that resembled “a variant of Amazon’s AMI, but created for a container world.”

During the announcement of the Open Container Project on Monday, Linux Foundation Executive Director Jim Zemlin said the new effort will “prevent fragmentation and enable application portability among platforms.” Hykes added the project would help “create a standard that will create stability while fostering greater productivity.”

We reached out to Polvi to learn more about what the project means for CoreOS, Docker and the container environment. “This is a win for both users of containers and our industry at large,” he said. “We are still in the early times of containers. As containers are adopted by more and more companies, it is imperative to build specifications to continue the momentum. In using the analogy of the successful international shipping container standard, we are uniting to make a shared, well-designed specification for software containers, too.”

CoreOS was a founding partner in the project with Docker and other participants because it sees the effort as a way to converge the concepts behind Docker and its own App Container specification, Polvi added.

“With one standard backed by the industry, composability, simplicity and interoperability are possible for users,” he said. “This means code can be repurposed and maintained by developers beyond the creators of it. A unified container format means success for both users of containers and our industry at large.”

Launch of Docker Trusted Registry

On Tuesday, the last day of the DockerCon event in San Francisco, Docker also announced the general availability of its Docker Trusted Registry, an on-premise registry server that will let IT teams store and share Docker images. A beta test with access for early adopters launched in December attracted such users as Booz Allen, the U.S. General Services Administration, Capital One, Disney and GE Appliances.

Docker added that IBM has become the first partner to fully integrate the Docker Trusted Registry software with its own DevOps and cloud offerings.

IBM said that “containers give developers flexibility to build once and move applications without the need to rewrite or redeploy their code.” Its Docker-based containers provide a more efficient environment for integration with and access to analytics, big data and security services, the company noted.

The new Docker Trusted Registry will support a bundle of commercial solutions — including Docker engines, image registries and commercial support — to help enterprise customers deploy distributed, business-critical applications.

Other DockerCon announcements included a new networking system for Docker Engine, a Docker 1.7 update with new plugin systems, and the debut of DockerCon Europe, scheduled for November 16 and 17 in Barcelona.

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