The following is a contributed article by Lars Herrmann, general manager of the Integrated Solutions Business Unit at Red Hat
Container technology is helping organizations of all sizes meet demand for increasingly complicated applications – applications that must be delivered faster than ever before based on growing consumer expectations and demand. But containers are not just changing the way in which companies create and deploy applications; they are fundamentally changing the way we think about the operating system (OS) itself.
In a containerized world, operating systems serve two key roles in the enterprise software stack:
Despite the two-pronged importance of the operating system to container deployments, some industry watchers and vendors point to containers as minimizing the OS to the point of irrelevancy. The truth could not be more different, as containers, especially at scale, make the OS even more important than it is in traditional computing environments. In large-scale deployments, hundreds, if not thousands, of containers will share a single Linux kernel, making the reliability, stability and security of the underlying operating system paramount. At the same time, containerization leads the way to the future of the OS, enabling multi-tasking and multi-tenancy for diverse applications in a distributed OS spanning clusters of hosts.
That said, traditional, single-instance OSes were not built to meet the demands of massive container infrastructure; in their place, a new breed of operating systems, designed for running the next generation of enterprise applications, is now emerging to answer this call.
Enter the Container OS
Linux containers package apps with the libraries and other binaries on which they depend. What containers don’t contain is an operating system kernel. This makes containers lighter in weight than virtual machines, but it also means that all containers on a host must use the same kernel. Linux containers can use any Linux distribution, but traditional distros can simply be too “big” to effectively manage in a containerized environment. Just as you wouldn’t run Mac OS X on an iPhone, it doesn’t make sense for containers to access a full Linux distribution targeting a very broad range of use cases.
Enter container OSes – a subset of the operating system technology category with a growing number of entrants. In fact, the number of these OSes is rising in direct proportion to the popularity of Linux containers in the enterprise, effectively making every container vendor a custom Linux distributor and maintainer.
This presents a kind of good news/bad news situation. The good news is that companies have a great deal of choice when it comes to container OSes. The bad news is that it can be confusing to determine which container OS will enable your organization to best meet customer demand while also satisfying security, compliance, privacy and other enterprise needs.
Here are five things to look for in a container OS to strike that critical balance:
While containers are the new “it” technology, they are following a predictable pattern:
Ultimately, organizations should look for an OS that delivers on the container promise with an enterprise-hardened container platform, providing the best of both worlds when it comes to innovation and enterprise-grade technology.