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Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu, Parallels bet on virtualization's surprising successor

Libcontainer caught in open source Linux Containerization love-in

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DockerCon Docker has spun off a key open source component of its Linux Containerization tech, making it possible for Google, Red Hat, Ubuntu, and Parallels to collaborate on its development and make Linux Containerization the successor to traditional hypervisor-based virtualization.

The company announcement on Tuesday at Dockercon in San Francisco that it had moved the libcontainer execution engine into its own repository on Github.

"It's still part of Docker [but] it's now even easier to collaborate on it," explained Docker's chief technology officer Solomon Hykes in a keynote speech.

While a seemingly ornamental change, the decision has big repercussions, and has allowed engineers from Google, Red Hat, and Parallels to become core maintainers of the tech, and for Ubuntu's LXC development team to give it support as well.

"We want to make sure that that incredible explosion of [Linux Containerization] tools keeps on for years and years because that is good for us," Hykes said in his speech. "What we're doing is saying, 'Hey, this can continue, we just need a standard interface to it'."

Libcontainer is one of those interfaces. The tech is written in Google's favorite language, Go, and "specifies configuration options for what a container is," according to the project's Github page. "libcontainer provides many convenience functions for working with namespaces, networking, and management."

The tech was launched by Docker in March, and was designed as a way to more efficiently access underlying Linux kernel features.

"Thanks to libcontainer, Docker out-of-the-box can now manipulate namespaces, control groups, capabilities, apparmor profiles, network interfaces and firewalling rules – all in a consistent and predictable way, and without depending on LXC or any other userland package," the company said at the time. "This drastically reduces the number of moving parts, and insulates Docker from the side-effects introduced across versions and distributions of LXC. In fact, libcontainer delivered such a boost to stability that we decided to make it the default,"

So, now that Google, Red Hat, Parallels, and the Ubuntu community have said they will actively support Libcontainer, that means a significant set of the Linux development community is preparing to standardize around it for containerization, which will bring some clarity – and, hopefully, stability – to the burgeoning technology.

"We are standardizing around the Docker container image," said Google's VP of infrastructure Eric Brewer in a speech at the conference. "We do believe in open containers." ®

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