Open Container Initiative Makes Progress

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Since being launched last June, the Open Container Initiative (OCI) has been viewed as the best hope for avoiding the fragmentation of container technologies that many organizations have come to view as the most significant technical advance this decade. Looking to continue building on the initial wave of support for OCI that now includes most major vendors, the Linux Foundation that oversees OCI today announced that a formal technical governance committee has now been established for designing a standard way for executing a run-time environment.

At the core of the OCI initiative is a draft specification for the base container format and run time submitted by Docker along with code that serves as a reference implementation of that specification. Since the OCI’s inception, there have been two releases of the specification and six releases of the run-time engine. Docker has pledged to integrate the latest version of runC into future releases of Docker, while Cloud Foundry has implemented runC as part of its Garden project.

Patrick Chanezon, chief developer advocate at Docker, says that these efforts collectively show a level of commitment to OCI that should mask any of the underlying vagaries of container architectures from IT organizations implementing containers.

But CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi, whose company arguably forced the formation of OCI by proposing rack as a more secure alternative container architecture, today said that while CoreOS continues to support the OCI framework, that effort only represents a fraction of the work that still needs to be done concerning container standards.

It may still be in the early days as far as containers are concerned, but the possibility of being locked into a single container format is starting to become an issue. It’s not clear how much of this container interoperability issue is theoretical versus something IT organizations need to proactively worry about today. But like most things in IT, it’s generally better to keep one’s options open before making a decision that the organization will regret later.