This week, Red Hat will deliver a beta version of its first instance of Docker container software, which is intended to provide an alternative to the hypervisors that make applications more portable across hybrid cloud computing environments.
Speaking last week at the Red Hat Summit 2014 conference, Paul Cormier, president for products and technologies, said that containers essentially split operating systems into two components. The lower level manages traditional operating system functions such as systems resources. The upper level provides a portable set of run-time engines where application images are managed.
To promote the adoption of containers, Red Hat has created two new container projects. Project Atomic is a community intended to facilitate the development and adoption of Docker container technology on Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL). GearD is another project through which Red Hat will promote the development of container-aware applications based on the company’s OpenShift platform as a service (PaaS) environment. Among the first application vendors to announce support for the evolving Red Hat PaaS strategy is SAP.
The ultimate goal, says Cormier, is to deliver Red Hat Enterprise Linux Atomic Host, which is a new member of the RHEL product family optimized for containers that Red Hat will deliver when it makes RHEL 7 officially available. IT organizations will then have the option of acquiring the core version of RHEL 7, a version that includes Red Hat Kernel-based virtual machine (KVM), or the version of RHEL 7 that is optimized for containers.
Cormier says that it is conceivable that another type of image format will emerge in time that Red Hat will want to support. In the meantime, Red Hat envisions Docker containers as being the most efficient way to guarantee application portability across public and private clouds in a way that more dynamically maximizes server utilization.
Red Hat intends to also provide both tools for automating the conversion of existing applications into a Docker-compatible format along with extensions to its CloudForms orchestration software, which will make it easier to manage container images.
While containers won’t formally be available until Red Hat delivers RHEL 7, the core technology has been around for decades. It’s only been with the emergence of a Docker container open source project that containers have started to gain momentum as a cross-platform approach to preventing application lock-in to specific hypervisor environments in a way that is more economically efficient from the utilization of IT infrastructure perspective.
The degree to which containers will replace hypervisors, of course, remains to be seen. The current focus appeals to developers who are looking for a more efficient way to navigate various cloud platforms. But it’s only a matter of time before that appeal extends to IT organizations that are growing disenchanted with the never-ending hypervisor wars between proprietary and open source virtual machine software.