IDG Contributor Network: What you need to know (now) about container standards

How do you know containers are going mainstream? In a word, “standards.” As more and more organizations adopt Linux container technology, standards are being developed to help communities and vendors innovate while retaining compatibility among container implementations. It’s all good, but it’s also important to understand how different standards do (and don’t) work together—and what they mean for your container deployments moving forward.

But before I talk about Linux container standards, I need to talk about Linux containers. There’s a lot of hype about containers these days—and rightly so—but the term “container” is starting to be coopted because it’s considered cool.

A true Linux container is a set of processes that is isolated from the rest of the system, running from a distinct image that provides all the files necessary to support the processes. An image that contains all of an application’s dependencies is portable and consistent as it moves from development to testing and, finally, to production.

I sometimes refer to it as “fancy files and fancy processes.” In the traditional computing world, a file is just a file—until it is a process. Indeed, when you think about it, a process is just a file that is loaded into memory. Likewise, a process is just a process—until you add extra security controls. Then it’s a container. So, all things being equal—and despite all the hype—a container is just a fancy process (or group of processes).

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