Containers consolidation: Open Container Initiative 1.0 released

With Open Container Initiative 1.0, container runtime and image specs have been standardized.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Most companies are now exploring using containers. Some, especially in the government, have been reluctant to make the move and are waiting for container standardization. Their wait is over. The Open Container Initiative (OCI) has launched the 1.0 versions of container runtime and image specs.

While Docker gets most of the container headlines, under the surface there are a lot of small, but important, differences between container specifications. To bring rhyme and reason to containers, the Linux Foundation helped found the Open Container Project, and now, the Open Container Initiative.

It was a slow going. Usually, open-source projects upend the old standard-making process by letting the code decide the standard, rather than setting a standard first and then writing to the standard. When it came to container specifications, it was a little of both.

Open source container code, whether from Docker or CoreOS, already worked. It was normalizing the small, but important, differences that took time.

OCI executive director Chris Aniszczyk explained in an interview that the process took a long time - -by open source standards -- because: "Building standards is a somewhat different collaboration from building an open source project. Like any technical open-source project with companies making money in unique ways, there's always going to be different opinions."

In the end, though, the final result, Aniszczyk said, was "a set of common, minimal, open standards and specs around container technology to a reality, containing both the image format specification and the runtime specification for managing the lifecycle of a container. The openness of the specifications yields a set of truly shared standards across the industry, that reduce interoperability issues and fuel innovation."

Docker's code was the foundation for the specifications, and it's pleased with the result. Michael Crosby, Docker's chief maintainer, said, "I'm happy to see all the hard work that the community and maintainers put in over the past few years finally released. From the early days of libcontainer to the OCI 1.0 release, many of the original maintainers, as well as a few new contributors to OCI, have stuck with the project over the years to get us where we are today."

It was, to be fair, more than a few. Besides container leaders Docker and CoreOS, Red Hat and Huawei were major contributors, according to Aniszczyk. Fujitsu, Microsoft, Google, Oracle, Cisco, and Tencent also played major roles.

CoreOS CTO Brandon Philips blogged: "As chair of the OCI Technical Oversight Board, we appreciate the work the open-source community has done to reach this milestone. Users can expect the OCI to continue to help grow the market of interoperable and pluggable tools, giving them confidence that containers are here to stay."

That last part is important. While most future-forward companies are already moving to containers, other haven't. In particular, Aniszczyk said government agencies have been wary of moving to containers. With container standardization, he thinks doubts about containers will finally vanish. I think he's right.

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