What is the Open Container Initiative OCI

OCI is working on an open container image format

The Open Container Initiative (OCI) is broadening its horizons and has started specifying a container image format. The project, which is located under the umbrella of the Linux Foundation, is taking the wind out of the sails of critics who accused the initiative of primarily dealing with runtime aspects, but not with container images.

Expanded focus of the Open Container Initiative

Under the leadership of the Linux Foundation, Docker, CoreOS, IBM, Red Hat, Microsoft, AWS and a few others came together in the Open Container Initiative last summer to develop open industry standards for container formats and their runtime environments. It is intended to ensure that all container formats and engines are based on principles such as openness, security and backward compatibility, thus guaranteeing users a certain degree of interoperability and portability.

Docker's container format and its runtime environment had previously developed into the de facto standard. However, alternative projects such as the appc and rkt promoted by CoreOS had tried to uncover weaknesses in Docker and offer suggestions for solutions. The move to work together towards an open standard should counter the fragmentation of the container market.

The beginning has been made

The new specification can be found on the GitHub hosting service. It takes Docker's Docker 2.2 image format as the starting point for developing an open container image format, but the best idea from Docker's competitor CoreOS should also work in the new project.

In a first step, any technical concerns should be examined before the actual drafting of the specification can begin. It is already foreseeable that the future format will serve up to four different layers. In addition to the already existing basic format, there are plans to add further layers that address issues such as integrity and content addressing, image signing and federated naming based on DNS. Representatives from Docker, CoreOS, Google, Microsoft and Red Hat are involved in the project.

Dockers and containers today

With Docker and comparable technologies, applications and their dependencies can be packaged in so-called containers, in which they can later be easily passed on and executed. Compared to virtual machines, the containers are more economical in their use of resources and can start faster. After the Docker container, which was just three years old, quickly aroused the interest of many developers, the aim is now to be able to meet the requirements of the rest of the company's IT.

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