October 21, 2017

Red Hat is moving to implement System Containers to reduce the number of components a developer needs to manage when employing a lightweight distribution of Linux.

Lightweight distributions of Linux are being employed more widely because more of the software required to deploy an application is now embedded in a container. But there are elements of that software stack that can be provided by the operating system as a series of System Containers that eliminates the need for developers to package that code in a container themselves.

Red Hat this week announced that it is adding a build service to the Fedora distribution of Linux it uses to test new technologies before employing them in the distribution of Linux it provides enterprise IT organizations. Matthew Miller, project lead for Fedora, says the Fedora Layered Image Build Service in the beta release of Fedora 27 Atomic Host will make it easier for developers to employ System Containers incorporating Kubernetes, Flannel and etcd by default. Developers can take advantage of Docker images that Red Hat is making available via System Containers as well.

The goal, says Miller, is to try a define a category of functions that can be implemented as System Containers that run on top of Fedora Atomic Host that can be reused without having to add any additional weight to the underlying operating system. Those System Containers will also make it simpler to run different versions of Kubernetes, for example, as required, says Miller.
Other additional container functionality being added to Fedora Atomic Host includes OverLay FS, a file system that is specifically optimized for container environments. Miller says the OverLay FS complies with the Open Containers Initiative (OCI) specification spearheaded by The Linux Foundation.

With this release of Fedora 27, Red Hat has also updated its command line interface (CLI) and added support for dashboards to the Cockpit monitoring tool employed to monitor Fedora. There’s also a new beta release of Fedora Workstation that Miller says developers should test. In addition, Red Hat expects to have a new release of Fedora Server ready in the next month.

The rise of containers is forcing organizations of all sizes to rethink the role of the operating system. Many of the functions that used to be delivered as part of an operating system are now packaged up by developers as part of a container to make applications more portable. At the same time, Miller says asking developers to manage all those elements is waste of their time. Miller says via System Containers Red Hat is trying to strike a balance that doesn’t require developers to repackage the same components over and over.

The degree to which other providers of operating systems will follow suit remains to be seen. Some developers may also resist System Containers that might not be as portable as Docker containers between operating systems. Other developers might be wary of using technologies that could bind them closer to the operating system. The one thing that is for certain is that operating systems as we once knew them will never be the same.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.