Red Hat gets serious about supporting container-style virtualization

Containers aren't quite virtual machines, but with recent advances in Linux, they can do many of the same jobs as a VM while using far less memory.
Written by Steven Vaughan-Nichols, Senior Contributing Editor

Red Hat has announced a new application certification program: LXC containerized applications. This Red Hat Container Certification (RHCC) program ensures that application containers built using Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) will operate seamlessly across certified software hosts.


LXC, according to its official site, "is often considered as something in the middle between a cheroot on steroids and a full-fledged virtual machine (VM). The goal of LXC is to create an environment as close as possible to a standard Linux installation without the need for a separate kernel." What this means for businesses, datacenters, and cloud providers is they can run more applications on legacy servers without adding resources.

Red Hat claims that RHCC has been "designed with the needs of independent software vendors (ISVs), service providers and their enterprise customers in mind, the certification extends the confidence customers have with RHEL , which currently supports thousands of certified applications, to certified containers running on certified container hosts. The pending release of RHEL 7 and Red Hat’s OpenShift Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) offering will both be certified container hosts, with Docker as its primary supported container format."

Docker, as its founder Solomon Hykes explained on the developer site StackOverflow, adds numerous high-level tools to make LXV more useful. These include portable deployment across machines, easy application deployment, and an application programming interface (API) for automating and customizing the creation and deployment of containers.

As LXC and Docker have matured together, Red Hat stated that "Linux Containers have emerged as a key open-source application packaging and delivery technology, combining lightweight application isolation with the flexibility of image-based deployment methods. Developers have rapidly embraced Linux Containers because they simplify and accelerate application deployment, while many PaaS platforms are built around Linux container technology."

Red Hat's correct. Containers, thanks to the fact that they don't need an operating system kernel of their own, are much lighter on system resources. The net result is that system administrators can get more applications running on their existing servers.

In RHEL's case, application containers are deployed as software packages that include the application and all of its required runtime components. The benefits of this include:

  • Instant portability. The certified application container can be deployed across any certified container host.
  • Minimal footprint. You avoid the overhead of virtual machine images, which include a complete operating system.
  • Simplified maintenance. This reduces effort and risk by patching applications along with all of their dependencies.
  • Lowered development costs. You can develop, test and certify applications against a single runtime environment.

Paul Cormier, President of Red Hat's Products and Technologies, said in a statement that just as RHEL revolutionized  enterprise IT with a reliable business Linux, "Today, the trust that independent software vendors (ISVs) place in RHEL can extend to containerized applications with the RHCC, ensuring that containers built on RHEL will work as intended across certified hosts, delivering unprecedented application flexibility, lowered costs and simplified maintenance, all backed by the support and expertise expected from Red Hat."

To support this newly announced container, Red Hat is also announcing the container certification Partner Early Access Program (PEAP). PEAP will run through late spring and provide the ability for ecosystem partners to participate in early testing, integration, and feedback of the tools and resources required for containerization, prior to the official launch of the certification and partner program (currently planned for mid-2014).

If you're an ISV who builds business Linux server programs you really should enroll in PEAP immediately. There's little doubt that containers are going to be popular and it behooves you to have your applications ready for them. 

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