The Open Container Initiative sounds like an outdoor keg party, but is actually a collection of cloud-computing companies working on a common specification for container runtimes. Docker kicked off the initiative back in 2015 by donating its image format and container runtime technology — key pieces in how containers are created and deployed — to the project, and just about every major enterprise cloud player is involved, including the Big Three public cloud providers and companies like CoreOS, Red Hat, and VMware.
Container technology lets software developers build their applications using lightweight packages of code — and all the information needed to execute that code — that can be deployed independently. They are becoming very popular with software developers because they let developers run multiple containers on a single operating system, which requires far less processing overhead than virtual machines, which were the critical darlings of the enterprise computing set a decade ago.
The 1.0 release addresses standard ways to specify how containers are used, but it’s similar to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (another Linux Foundation project) and its cautious attempts at standards setting around container orchestration and DevOps tools. In a blog post, the OCI made sure to call its work “developing common, minimal, open standards and specifications around container technology without the fear of lock-in.”
So while this effort helps companies build applications around technology they can theoretically deploy to multiple clouds, it’s not as codified a standard as something like Bluetooth. Still, the fact that all the major cloud players are involved in the effort — which can’t be said for the Cloud Native Computing Foundation — means that building applications around OCI 1.0 is a pretty safe bet.