Nowhere does time seem to fly faster than in the Information Technology industry and the Cloud computing ecosystem. Can you believe it was back in April of 2014 that Docker publicly declared its aspiration to be “radically open” with respect to container technology? That action set the stage for the next major milestone in the open containers journey, which came with the launch of the new Open Container Initiative (OCI) in June 2015 at the DockerCon event in San Francisco.

Open Containers Initiative logo

You can read a comprehensive recap of that event, as well as a bit about my role on the Docker Governance Advisory Board from my prior blog here.

In the second half of 2015, I worked closely with the OCI community on framing the details and identifying requirements to bring the initiative from concept to reality. I’m excited to see all of the collaborative efforts come together, as it’s important that we get this right for all our respective clients and the industry at large.

Today’s news is another significant milestone, as the Linux Foundation announces that a broad coalition of industry leaders have completed the charter and membership agreements, which makes official the open technical governance approach to containers. They also shared the list of founding and new members committed to the OCI. A Technical Developer Community has been formed, and a Technical Oversight Board will be appointed. You can read the full Press Release here.

Values of OCI

The Open Container Initiative will be focused on container format and runtime, areas where stability and standardization are more important, so that we can allow innovation to happen around the ecosystem. By creating a formal specification for container image formats and runtime, compliant containers will be portable across all major compliant operating systems and platforms without artificial technical barriers. The guiding values of the specification call for containers to be:

  • Composable: all tools for downloading, installing and running containers should be well integrated, but independent and composable.
  • Portable: the runtime standard should be usable across different hardware, operating systems and cloud environments.
  • Secure: isolation should be pluggable, and the cryptographic primitives for strong trust, image auditing and application identity should be solid.
  • Decentralized: discovery of container images should be simple and facilitate a federated namespace and distributed retrieval.
  • Open: the format and runtime will be well-specified and developed by a community to ensure code development leads specification development.
  • Minimalist: The OCI Specifications aim for simplicity, to ensure stability, optimize innovation and encourage experimentation.
  • Backward compatible: OCI Specifications and OCI Projects strive to be as backward compatible as possible with the prior releases.

Relationship with the CNCF, near-term future of OCI

Shortly after the OCI announcement in June, another Linux Foundation Working Group with the potential to pick up where the OCI leaves off was announced. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) mission is to create and drive the adoption of the “cloud native” paradigm based on containers that are optimized for emerging IT systems. The CNCF will complement the work of the OCI, and benefit end users as it creates a working framework for collaboration to drive a diversity of reference implementations for the delivery of containerized applications into production.

So, what’s next for the OCI? Well, with the support of traditional leaders like IBM, Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, and over 20 other companies including startups like Docker and CoreOS the expectations are high. Some areas of exploration include: Image Format – specification of a portable container image than can be run on any implementation of OCI; Discovery – allow applications within different containers to discover each other and share configuration information; and Signature – for authentication and enhanced security capabilities.

Want to learn more about open containers?

To learn more about IBM’s point of view on open technologies, check out this interview from OSCON July, 2015 with Dr. Angel Diaz on code, community, and culture.

What do you need to run multi-container cloud native workloads? See this @jrmcgee post on LinuxCon and ContainerCon in Seattle, August 2015.

How does the emerging open container ecosystem relate to the OpenStack Project? Check out this video from the OpenStack Design Summit Tokyo October, 2015.

Want to know more about the latest open source innovations from IBM? Check out IBM developerWorks Open, the place where today’s cutting edge developers have a unique opportunity to collaborate and create tomorrow’s big innovations.

But don’t delay, the clock is running. Tick tock!

2 comments on"The OCI – Open governance for containers"

  1. Jeff,
    excellent news and a great initiative!

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