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Docker donates core container code to DevOps world's DMZ

Containerd plumbing shelters on neutral ground at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation

By Thomas Claburn, 15 Mar 2017

As it promised in December, Docker has bestowed containerd, its core container runtime, upon the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, putting an important piece of container infrastructure under neutral governance.

The open source software component – a "daemon" or automated process – controls runC, the container runtime that Docker released last year. Containerd manages the lifecycle of the host system, overseeing the transfer of container images, container execution, and the storage and network interfaces on Linux and Windows machines.

In a blog post, Solomon Hykes, founder, CTO, and chief product officer at Docker, credited recent industry innovation to "the adoption of containers with Docker." He said, "We believe that donating containerd to the CNCF will unlock a whole new phase of innovation and growth across the entire container ecosystem."

There's little doubt that interest in Docker and other software containers is growing among businesses. According to cloud monitoring service Datadog, Docker adoption increased 30 per cent from May 2015 through May 2016. Consultancy 451 Research meanwhile found "strong growth in production container use" among enterprises, and anticipates [PDF] the application container market will grow from $762m in 2016 to $2.7bn by 2020.

Where there are doubts, they seem to coalesce around Docker's revival of Facebook's former motto: move fast and break things. In a recent Hacker News discussion with Hykes following the introduction of Docker Enterprise Edition, developer Philip Deuchler expressed skepticism about Docker's commitment to backward compatibility and to accommodating enterprise caution.

"Docker has repeatedly made poor decisions with really poor optics both in the open source community and with [its] product," he wrote, "...and asking enterprises to just trust you now while not even providing the support terms most of the enterprise world demands is doing the exact opposite of inspiring trust."

Taking issue with some of the criticism, Hykes nonetheless acknowledged that Docker can do more to improve stability and backwards-compatibility.

In a phone call with The Register, Patrick Chanezon, a Docker developer, said the recent separation of Docker into two product lines – Community Edition (with monthly releases) and Enterprise Edition (with quarterly releases and backward support for a year) – represented an attempt to deal with enterprise desire for rock-solid software that has stood the test of time.

"We're trying to address all the Docker constituencies with that," he said.

By separating containerd from its container software stack, Docker is fending off challenges posed by alternative runtimes like CoreOs' rkt (which CoreOS donated simultaneously to the CNCF) and Kubernetes' runtime interface cri-o (which opens the door to runtimes other than runC) by making favored infrastructure common ground.

"This model allows Docker to innovate while allowing the community to work on something we consider boring infrastructure," said Docker SVP of marketing David Messina.

The fact that containerd had its own summit in February, attended by representatives from Alibaba, Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Rancher, Red Hat and VMware, suggests that such software isn't boring to cloud service providers. And if Docker continues to tread on the toes of enterprise customers, the friends it has invited to its container party will be happy to cut in. ®

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