Tech Giants Boost Open Source Container Collaboration

The Linux Foundation this week announced the formation of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a consortium dedicated to developing a new set of common container technologies and driving their adoption.

CNCF aims to make it easier for businesses to build and deploy containerized cloud applications oriented to microservices. The goal is to develop cloud-native applications that allow Internet companies to make scaling their businesses more practical.

The group’s founders — more than two dozen major technology companies — include AT&T, Box, Cisco, Docker, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Red Hat, Twitter and VMware. Additional members will join the group in the coming weeks.

Open source container-packaged applications are easier to create, manage and deploy, said Rob Enderle, principal analyst at the Enderle Group.

“Faster time until value is achieved is a clear competitive advantage. There may be security advantages as well,” he told LinuxInsider, which is “a major advantage in open source deployments, in particular, at the moment.

Overlapping Spaces

The announcement of the new technology foundation comes on the heals of another major Linux Foundation-sponsored group. CoreOS and Docker last month announced the formation of the Open Container Project, a nonprofit coalition of 21 industry leaders aiming to establish minimal common standards for cloud storage software containers.

Many of the companies banding together in OCP also signed on to found CNCF. The goals of CNCF, however, appear broader than those of OCP.

For example, OCP focuses on creating a single standard to guide continued innovation with cloud storage containers. CNCF, on the other hand, is pushing to create a common standard not only for containers, but also for the stack of technologies around them.

The goals of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and the goals of the Open Container Project are different, said CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi.

“The goal of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation is to ensure that Kubernetes is donated to the foundation so it can continue to live forever as distributed systems plumbing,” he told LinuxInsider, “as well as ensure that together as an industry we deliver Internet scale technologies. The goals of the Open Container Project are to bring together the industry to agree on a standard container format.”

Wider Reach

The new group’s role is to foster collaboration among developers and operators on common technologies for deploying cloud native applications and services, said Jim Zemlin, executive director at The Linux Foundation — that is, applications or services that are container-packaged, dynamically scheduled and micro services-oriented.

To ease the process for businesses and developers, CNCF aims to drive alignment among technologies and platforms, enhancing the benefits of Internet-scale computing by improving the overall developer experience, paving the way for faster code reuse, improving machine efficiency, reducing costs, and increasing the overall agility and maintainability of applications.

“Our goal as founding members is to be a steward to the open source community and make sure that the technology decisions remain vendor neutral and benefit the larger community,” said Poliv.

Collaborative Concept

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation will work under the organizational umbrella of the Linux Foundation, with a structure similar to the Open Container Project.

No one wants to be left out of an initiative designed to drive alignment between the different container efforts, observed Enderle. If it looks like it is going to gain critical mass, no major company wants to be the one that didn’t participate.

“Sadly, many of these firms may be in this effort to make sure someone else’s container technology does not get a competitive advantage,” he said.

Conductor’s Role

CNCF initially will assess open source at the orchestration level. Then it will look at the integration of hosts and services by defining APIs and standards through a code-first approach to advance the state of the art of container-packaged application infrastructure.

The organization also will work with the recently announced Open Container Initiative on its container image specification.

CNCF aims to assemble components to address a comprehensive set of container application infrastructure needs, according to the Linux Foundation.

Ultimately, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation is responsible for stewardship of the projects. Its objectives include developing new open source tools, APIs, and standards for containers and cloud infrastructure. The goal is to foster growth and evolution of the ecosystem, promote the technologies, and serve the community by making the technology accessible and encouraging wide adoption.

CNCF’s role also includes serving as a technical oversight committee and an end user advisory board to ensure alignment of needs between the technical and end-user communities.

All About Containers

One of the driving reasons for CoreOS to join CNCF is that company leaders believe Kubernetes is the right way to manage containers, said Polvi.

“We also want to ensure that the technology continues to live on as distributed systems plumbing,” he added.

Open source container-packaged applications are a vital technology. The biggest users of containers today are large hyperscale companies, including Google, Facebook and Twitter.

“There is a massive benefit around utilization, ease to deploy and ease to scale,” said Polvi. “There are other value props as well, but these are major ones.”

Containers To Go

There has been rapid growth in both interest in and usage of container-based solutions over the past two years, according to David Messina, vice president of marketing at Docker.

“Almost all major IT vendors and cloud providers have announced container-based solutions, and there has been a proliferation of startups founded in this area as well,” he noted.

“The interest in containers has been driven by the fact that organizations can fully commit to container technologies today without worrying that their current choice of any particular infrastructure, cloud provider, devops tool, etc., will lock them into any technology vendor for the long run,” Messina told LinuxInsider.

Instead, they can choose the best tools to build the best applications they can. Of equal importance, they will benefit by having the industry focus on innovating and competing at the levels that truly make a difference, he explained.

Open source container-packaged applications are important, Messina emphasized. They give organizations moving from building monolithic applications to a distributed application a way to separate applications from the constraints of the infrastructure.

Jack M. Germain has been writing about computer technology since the early days of the Apple II and the PC. He still has his original IBM PC-Jr and a few other legacy DOS and Windows boxes. He left shareware programs behind for the open source world of the Linux desktop. He runs several versions of Windows and Linux OSes and often cannot decide whether to grab his tablet, netbook or Android smartphone instead of using his desktop or laptop gear. You can connect with him onGoogle+.

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