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Rackspace serves up free Carina Docker-based container-as-a-service beta on OpenStack

Using the native Docker API and tooling, the Carina container service aims to enable users to spin up containers quickly and easily.

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Rackspace CTO John Engates: It should be almost brain-dead simple to spin up a container. Image: Rackspace

Until its probable general availability next year, the beta version of the Carina container service unveiled today by Rackspace will be free.

It offers developers, data scientists, and operators what the web-hosting firm says is a quick way to create and deploy a cluster for containerised apps.

Demonstrated at this week's OpenStack Summit conference in Tokyo, Carina is designed to widen the use of container clusters, employing the native Docker API and tooling, such as Swarm for orchestration, to move applications between dev, test, and production environments.

"What we've done, using our OpenStack public cloud and technologies around Docker, is create a container service where a customer can very quickly -- in seconds -- spin up a container. It's a container-as-a-service platform," Rackspace CTO John Engates said.

"They can spin up a container using their native Docker tools. Behind the scenes OpenStack is orchestrating everything to provision those containers -- and those containers can be provisioned on top of bare-metal servers, virtual machines, or even other containers underneath the platform."

Docker is the most popular technology for automating the creation and deployment of apps in containers -- a lighter-weight form of virtualisation. Containers use far less compute resources than typical virtual machines and also offer greater availability and scaling.

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Bare-metal performance refers to the greater speed achieved by containers installed directly on a server without a hypervisor.

"What we've done is simplified the creation and management of those containers in a service. One of the key elements is that you can use your Docker tools to interact with it," Engates said.

"So it should be very familiar to developers who are already using Docker. It should be almost brain-dead simple to spin up a container."

Carina will be using technology based on the OpenStack Magnum Project, which offers orchestration engines for deploying and managing container technology.

"It's not 100 percent of the technology that's here today because we started working on this long before Magnum existed. But it's the same team at Rackspace that's working on Magnum that's working on Carina," Engates said.

"What Magnum will be used for eventually is to extend Carina to go beyond just the Docker capability and maybe include things like Kubernetes or Mesos or other technologies that customers might want to use to orchestrate their containers."

Engates said that Carina is not just for the public cloud but will also extend to firms using private clouds.

"We know that OpenStack is adopted primarily today by customers that are looking to build private clouds. What we want to do is give them the same experience of deploying containers, whether it be public cloud, containers as a service or private cloud," he said.

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"We want them to have that same experience and so we're extending the technology into both places and it will be identical."

With the Linux and Docker technology underlying Carina well proven, a number of Rackspace customers are already using it for production applications, according to Engates: "What we also try to do is create a more fine-grained deployment model where customers don't have to commit to a large amount of infrastructure," he said.

"When they're in test mode, dev mode, or even in production, they can use just what they need when they need it. Then they can throw it away very quickly because containers are much quicker to deploy and much quicker to tear down.

"The performance is also better because, again, we can deploy these containers on bare-metal servers. So it's really any developer, any architect or engineer who's building a modern application. It doesn't have to be massive."

Engates likened Carina to a turnkey service that provides the requisite performance, security, and reliability without the user's intervention, along with as much insight into its workings as possible.

"The early platform-as-a-service models, where developers could get a turnkey infrastructure environment and just drop their code on it - that's exactly what they wanted. But it never played out that way because it abstracted way too much of the power of the platform, or too much of the control over the platform," he said.

"What containers are doing is bringing back some of the mindset of 'I want turnkey, I want as a service but I want control, I want the ability to tune things and I want to put my own code in there and understand what's running and where it's running and be able to direct and orchestrate some of that myself'. This is a good happy medium between those two."

The OpenStack open-source project was started in 2010 by Rackspace and NASA to create components for building public and private clouds on standard hardware.

It is now supported by more than 540 firms, including vendors such as Cisco, Dell, HP, IBM, Intel, Oracle, Red Hat, and VMware, with a large developer community working on a range of loosely-coupled projects.

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