Inside the Open Container Project: Docker sings kumbaya

Linux Foundation-led effort promises a single spec for all

A reference implementation for all

That independence has already allowed runC to evolve beyond the current state of Docker itself. It has a number of features that today's Docker Engine doesn't, and Docker plans to add more. Most notably, all of the work Microsoft is doing to get Docker containers running on Windows Server is going to go straight into runC, which Hykes said would make it "the first container runtime to support both Linux and Windows natively."

Over the long term, the OCP members want the standard to support a wide range of operating systems, processor architectures, public clouds, and so on – without being tightly associated with any.

It may seem odd, then, that OCP will be overseen by the Linux Foundation. But according to Hykes, the decision to work with the Foundation has less to do with the Linux operating system itself and more to do with the project's core values and system of governance.

"They're helping us setup the right structure to have an independence governance model that works, that is independent, but that's also lightweight and doesn't actually get in the way of the engineers doing their work," Hykes said.

All aboard

Joining Docker in the OCP effort are Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, CoreOS, EMC, Fujitsu, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, the Linux Foundation, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher, Red Hat, and VMWare, it was announced on Monday. All of them will contribute to funding the project.

The initial technical leadership of OCP will consist of the current maintainers of Docker's libcontainer container execution environment, plus two prominent maintainers of the appc spec. The group includes employees of CoreOS, Docker, Google, Red Hat, and a few independent developers.

There will also be a technical oversight board composed of vendor-neutral individuals who will oversee the work and make sure the technical leadership is doing its job in ways that are consistent with the project's stated values.

"We are not trying to define a large stack, become a big marketing organization, throw large conferences, etc," the group's FAQ explains. "We are focused on container format and runtime, areas where stability and standardization are more important, so that we can allow innovation to happen around us."

The real test of any standard is how widely it is adopted and used. But there are already encouraging signs for OCF. In a Monday blog post, Polvi said that despite having developed appc independently of Docker, CoreOS will now turn its attention to OCP's shared, open standard.

"We will work hard to ensure that users of appc will have a smooth migration to the new standard," Polvi said. "Open standards only work if there are multiple implementations of the specification, and we will develop rkt into a leading container runtime around the new shared container format." ®

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