Standardization through Containerization

Entering 2015, the Linux container ecosystem was faced with the very real danger of fragmentation, as competing standards and formats threatened to undermine the application portability promise presented by containerized applications and supporting infrastructures. This technological siloing could easily lead the IT industry back to the bad old times of expensive, custom-built technologies and limited if any, interoperability between many competing solutions.

This concern of fragmentation and lack of interoperability caused some customers to slow their own technology explorations down, from adoption to "wait and see." To continue pushing adoption forward and achieve wider enterprise recognition, Linux containers required standardization, preferably the creation of standards built from open source principles and backed by the larger IT industry. This, however, was easier said than done.

Rather than allow fragmentation to quell the momentum of Linux containers, the IT industry at large rallied around two industry organizations, which both aim to set standards for their respective aspects of the Linux container stack:

  • The Open Container Initiative (OCI), which aims to codify and standardize container formats and runtimes and;

  • The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) which formed around the full stack needed to support modern applications delivered as a composition of containerized (micro-) services. CNCF plans to leverage OCI for container image and runtime definition, and is including Kubernetes for container orchestration.

Standards are powerful forces in the software industry. They can drive technology forward by bringing together the combined efforts of multiple developers, different communities, and even competing vendors.

It’s important to note that standards in the IT world often carry the reputation of being slow to evolve, overly complex or not grounded by implementation experience, and controlled by only an elite. We are working to change this by bringing together the best of open standards and open source development practices.

Through the open source nature of containers and the technology’s supporting projects, normally competitive organizations, individual enthusiasts and users/customers can collaborate directly at the technology level by leveraging the very nature of open source: code can be quickly written, reviewed with transparency and have standards established based on it in a fraction of the time it would take to amend early computing standards.