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OMG, Containers Have Become Boringized!

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted February 5, 2018


Container technologies are becoming boring and standardized — or "boringized" — and that can only be good for the container movement as a whole.

That's the view of Brian Gracely, a director of product strategy at Red Hat. He says the idea that container runtimes such as Docker's or CoreOS's rkt are exciting no longer holds. That's because container runtimes have been boringized by the emergence of the Open Container Initiative (OCI) runtime specification.Virtually Speaking

Red Hat, and many others, have bet heavily on the emergence of the open source Kubernetes project for container orchestration and management. Kubernetes is significant because it has single-handedly boringized the field of container orchestration and management.

It may not be an official — or even a de facto — standard quite yet, but an estimated 40% - 50% of enterprises use it — through Red Hat's OpenShift, CoreOS's Tectonic, and other platforms — while competitors like Mesos and even Docker are used by less than 10%. So Kubernetes would appear to be winning the battle for mindshare and market share quite significantly.

For a while Kubernetes relied on Docker's container runtime, but when the OCI standard emerged there was pressure on Kubernetes developers to write the software to do the translations so that other runtimes could be used with the container management system.

What happened? The Kubernetes project went back to basics and created the container runtime interface (CRI), which is effectively a plugin mechanism so that any container runtime can be used with Kubernetes with a minimum of fuss.

The emergence of CRI-O — a module that allows OCI container runtimes to interface with Kubernetes — means that more and more of container management, using Kubernetes, at least, has been boringized.

Future Container Candidates for Becoming Boringized

So what's next to be boringized in the container world? "The next thing is probably image signing and scanning, so that I know where content comes from and I know I can trust it," says Gracely. "That capability exists now in several different forms, but it needs to be boringized."

He says there are enough signing and scanning implementations so the fact that there is no standard currently is not a show stopper for potential container users, but it is not easy to switch from one implementation to another without incurring significant costs. That's why he expects that those aspects of security will soon be boringized.

And that can only lead to one thing: the continuation of the extraordinary growth in container adoption that's been seen over the last couple of years, he believes. "I think we are getting to close to enough boringization for the next wave of (container) customers to be comfortable," he adds.

"Make them comfortable and they will come," could be the mantra. The basic infrastructure of containers has been almost completely boringized, and the next (or perhaps that should be the final) big wave of adoptees is about to arrive.

From now on things should get much less boring and much more interesting. That's because with a solid boringized platform to build on, the likes of Red Hat are apt to build some innovative container applications and services that deliver real business value.


Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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