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Governance Model for Open Container Initiative

The Open Container Initiative (OCI) unveiled its technical governance model this week. The nascent coalition of industry leaders and users seeking to establish common standards for software containers is just over six months old, and the establishment of a governance model is a big step in its evolution.

At the core of the OCI model is a Technical Developer Community (TDC) consisting of nine maintainers who have been working on the specification since the coalition was formed. The TDC will be responsible for maintaining the project and handling the releases of both the runtime and the spec. The community is currently made up of both independent developers and employees of founding companies, such as Docker, CoreOS, Google, and Huawei.

The model also includes a Technical Oversight Board, some members of which will be elected by the TDC, and others by the wider OCI membership. That board will work closely with the TDC to ensure cross-project consistencies and workflows. And there's a Trademark Board, which will oversee the development and use of the OCI's trademarks and certifications. A representative from each of the member companies will serve on that board.

"The maintainers are very technical and neutral," said Patrick Chanezon, a member of the technical staff at Docker who has been working on OCI from the beginning. Docker donated a draft specification for the base format and runtime to the OCI, as well as the code associated with a reference implementation of that spec, known as runC. The company donated the entire contents of its libcontainer project and all modifications needed to make it run independently of Docker. libcontainer provides a standard interface for making containers inside an operating system.

The OCI has released two versions of the OCI spec so far (0.1.1 and 0.2), and Chanezon expects several more releases on the road to version 1.0. He was careful to avoid promising a release date. And there have been six releases of runC.

The OCI was formed in the spring of this year and published its charter in July. Its membership roster currently includes, among others, Amazon, Google, IBM, Oracle, Microsoft, Red Hat, EMC, Goldman Sachs, Apcera, Apprenda, AT&T, ClusterHQ, Datera, Dell, Fujitsu Ltd., HP Enterprise, Infoblox, Intel, Joyent, Kismatic, Kyup, Mesophere, Midokura, Nutanix, Pivotal, Polyverse, Portworx, Rancher Labs, Resin.in, Scalock, Sysdig, SUSE, Twitlock, Twitter, Verizon and Weaveworks.

With this announcement, the coalition also published a list of "values," which actually read more like requirement, and which I think are worth including here:

  • Composable: all tools for downloading, installing and running containers should be well integrated, but independent and composable.
  • Portable: the runtime standard should be usable across different hardware, operating systems and cloud environments.
  • Secure: isolation should be pluggable, and the cryptographic primitives for strong trust, image auditing and application identity should be solid.
  • Decentralized: discovery of container images should be simple and facilitate a federated namespace and distributed retrieval.
  • Open: the format and runtime will be well specified and developed by a community to ensure code development leads specification development.
  • Minimalist: The OCI Specifications aim for simplicity, to ensure stability, optimize innovation and encourage experimentation.
  • Backward compatible: OCI Specifications and OCI Projects strive to be as backward compatible as possible with prior releases.
  • A Linux Foundation Collaborative Project, the OCI aims to host an open source, technical community, and build a vendor-neutral, portable, and open specification and runtime for container-based solutions. So there's a big emphasis on openness in its governance model. The OCI's technical roadmap, which was developed by the current members of the TDC, is available on GitHub. And any developer or end user can make contributions to the OCI.

Posted by John K. Waters on December 9, 2015