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Container standards: What's next for the Open Container Initiative

Chris Aniszczyk Vice President, Developer Relations & Programs, Linux Foundation
Container shops

Interest in open-source container technology has grown significantly over the past few years, and container-based systems have proliferated. They're the future of cloud computing because they allow developers to more quickly and easily package applications to run across multiple environments.

But to do this consistently and successfully, you need a set of common container standards. That's why the Open Container Initiative (OCI) has promoted a set of common, minimal, open standards and specifications around container technology, specifically the container format and runtime. This open standardization of container runtimes and image formats has been essential to helping to enable portability in a multi-cloud ecosystem. And there's more coming. Here's a brief look at what OCI has accomplished so far, and what's coming next.

Warm-up act: Rise of the OCI runtime and image format specifications

OCI developers have been busy in the 16 months since the project launched. The initial scope—which included just the Runtime Specification—was expanded to also include the Image Format specification project.

We also released new developer projects, such as runtime-tools and image-tools. These serve as repositories for conformance testing tools and have been paramount in preparation for the upcoming v1.0 release.

More recently, we’ve released the go-digest project, which provides a strong hash-identity implementation in Go and serves as a common digest package across the container ecosystem. We also released the go-selinux project, which aims to be a common SELinux package that you can use across the container ecosystem

Coming soon: What's next for OCI

Early industry adopters include Docker, which recently announced plans to port its core container runtime functionality into a standalone component as part of its contatinerd project. Containerd will be donated to a neutral foundation sometime this year, with full OCI support.

Other early adopters include the Cloud Foundry community, which embedded runc through Garden as the cornerstone of its container runtime technology. And the rkt community, which is already implementing OCI technology, plans to leverage the reference OCI container runtime runc later this year.

Kubernetes, part of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), is conceiving a new Container Runtime Interface (CRI) that adopts OCI components through implementations such as rklet and CRI-O.

We’re also seeing support from the AWS community, which announced its support of draft OCI specifications in a recent EC2 Container Registry release. Strong commitment to the OCI draft specs also comes from IBM, with live adoption in place as part of its IBM Bluemix Container Service. And the Apache Mesos community is also working on its own support for the OCI image specification.

The community is close to issuing a milestone release of the OCI Runtime and Image Format Specifications. OCI version 1.0, which hopefully will be available in late 2017, will draw the industry closer to standardization and true portability.

Following that release, OCI will launch an official OCI certification program so users can be confident that their OCI-certified systems meet a high standard for delivering interoperable, agile solutions.

Look for updates at KubeCon, DockerCon

With so much still to be done, the OCI community will be onsite at several industry events, including KubeCon and DockerCon, throughout the year.  Interested in contributing to the OCI? Join the OCI developer community, which is open to everyone. You can also join as a member if you’re already building products on OCI technology, or participate in the upcoming certification program. You can follow OCI on Twitter at @OCI_ORG.

Want to learn more? Drop in on my panel discussion: The Open Container Initiative (OCI) and the Future of Container Standardization, at the Linux Foundation's CloudNativeCon + KubeCon Europe 2017 conference in Berlin. 


Image credit: Flickr

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