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Docker containerd finds an open source home alongside Kubernetes

Docker donated its containerd open source code to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, which has surprised some Docker fans as it attempts to solidify a container consensus.

IT pros can look forward to increased consistency between container orchestration products with the donation of Docker containerd to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Docker will donate its containerd container runtime utility, which lives deep inside the plumbing of Docker, beyond where most IT shops tinker, to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Its availability to the wider container orchestration open source community indicates the industry has chosen a broader container standard.

"This is good for the container market as a whole," said Gary Chen, an analyst at IDC. "There's more agreement and more standardization on the core parts of what a container is, and it'll allow more people to get involved in its development."

The containerd move must be approved by the CNCF Technical Oversight Committee -- but Docker customers said they are relieved this matter now appears to be settled.

"We shouldn't have to worry about this stuff," said Cole Calistra, CTO of Kairos, a provider of human facial recognition and analytics algorithms for developers in Miami. "You don't want too much drama going on at that level."

Another upshot for enterprise IT shops is that the promise of universal container portability draws ever closer when more container orchestration and management tools share common components, Chen said.

Docker's selection of the CNCF, which began with Docker swarm mode competitor Google Kubernetes as its seed project, has grabbed the attention of some Docker customers.

"There's a perceived rivalry between Docker and Kubernetes," Calistra said. "If Docker had gone to some other consortium it wouldn't have surprised me, but I think this is the right choice."

Docker and Kubernetes will still compete, Chen predicted, and this decision by Docker shouldn't be read into as any kind of unification with Kubernetes specifically.

A counterpoint to CRI-O?

Industry-watchers warned of a low-level schism in the container standards market, in part with the emergence of an early-stage project in the Google Kubernetes incubator called the Container Runtime Interface using Open Container Initiative runtimes (CRI-O).

When Docker revealed in December its intent to donate containerd to an open source foundation, Docker CTO Solomon Hykes said that containerd addresses the same needs as CRI-O, namely that the open source community wanted more say in the development of containers than they had with what Docker had previously open sourced.

"CRI-O may have been a message to Docker that some people need different things," Chen said. "Probably now it won't turn into anything."

A container market unified behind Docker containerd is in everyone's best interest, Chen said -- but other industry insiders believe nobody's seen the last of CRI-O yet.

Docker containerd can now compete with CRI-O without affecting Docker's business, said one industry source close to the project. Previously, at least in theory, Docker had to compete with alternatives such as CRI-O because containerd was bundled into swarm mode for Docker. Now, swarm could take a more neutral stance while containerd squares off with CRI-O head-on.

"Theoretically you could have swarm orchestrating [CoreOS] rkt and CRI-O," the source said.

CRI-O was described by Docker's Hykes as a proof of concept in December, but "make no mistake -- Docker wouldn't have done containerd if CRI-O was DOA [dead on arrival]," the source said.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at bpariseau@techtarget.com or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

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