OCI Member Spotlight: IBM

By February 15, 2017Blog

The OCI community comprises a diverse set of member companies that are committed to creating open industry standards around the container image format and runtime. This blog series highlights OCI members and their contributions to building an open, portable and vendor-neutral specification.  

Name: Jeffrey Borek
Title: WW Program Director, Open Technology
Company: IBM

Why did you join OCI?
IBM has a long history (over 15 years) of working collaboratively in OPEN operating system, virtualization, and container technologies, but the complexity of some of the technologies has remained challenging.  We became very interested in the emerging ecosystem around next-generation containers that grew out of the efforts of a number of innovative companies – led by the initial open sourcing of the Docker project (v0.9) by Docker, Inc. in March of 2013. When Docker announced their contribution to help form the Open Container Initiative (OCI)  mid-2015, IBM was pleased because bringing together both open source and open governance is important for our clients.

How is your organization involved in OCI?
IBM is one of the founding members OCI. I’m the newly elected Chair of the OCI Trademark Board, and have co-chaired the Certification Working Group for the past year. IBM has been consistently among the top companies contributing code to the project. We have three active contributors and additional technical resources investing time in the community so that these fundamental components can live/grow beyond the success or failures of any one single company.

How do you plan to use the runtime spec and/or image format spec?
IBM plans to work on adopting both the core container runtime and image specifications to ensure choice with consistency across IBM Cloud and multiple product and services teams. You can see the fruits of the OCI draft specifications live today as part of the IBM Bluemix Container Service. In addition, we are part of the OCI Certification Working Group (CertWG) that is working to help establish a basic certification process to promote portability and interoperability, fostering more rapid adoption across the ecosystem and industry environments.

How will these specifications help your business?
IBM believes hybrid solutions are the future of the Cloud, allowing clients to more quickly and easily package and deploy applications to run across environments. The open standardization of container runtime and image specifications will further jumpstart the “container-native” cloud computing revolution by enabling portability in a multi-cloud ecosystem. The IBM Systems Group is also working to ensure that our clients who want to leverage high-performance hardware platforms can effectively run open container technologies on IBM Power and z Systems.

How do you anticipate OCI changing the container technology landscape?
Imagine a scenario in which the OCI was never established. It is likely that multiple, competing container runtime packages would have continued to emerge – resulting in a lot of duplication of effort in a portion of the stack that many think about as “plumbing”. Multiple, cascading problems would then follow in the areas of container portability, compatibility, and interoperability. Ultimately, this would freeze the marketplace as clients would ‘sit on the sidelines’ and wait until a shakeout occurred. Having multiple container leaders from across industry come together in the OCI, we can establish common standards under open governance. We can also avoid most of the pitfalls described above, and foster more rapid adoption.

What do you believe the benefits of using a runtime and image spec based on the OCI standard are for hosting providers?  For small ISVs, application developers? For end users?
In one word, freedom. For hosting providers, they can build for the future with the freedom from worry over investing in infrastructure that could become obsolete because of proprietary issues. For ISVs and application developers, they are free  to leverage common foundational container components based upon open standards – so they can focus on their unique value-add. For end users, there’s freedom in knowing that by adopting OCI-based technology they have less risk of vendor lock-in.

What advice would you give to someone considering joining OCI?
Please do! As we enter 2017, there is still good work to be done. The latest spec releases  (Runtime v1.0.0-rc4 & Image format v1.0.0-rc4) still have room for improvement. Think of areas such as continuing to expand the cross-platform capabilities (Solaris, FreeBSD, Windows, etc.) and multi-architectural support, validating the OCI image interoperability across runtimes and platforms, and more.

If you are looking for some additional background on the OCI, check out my blog on the OCI from this time last year. If you are already convinced, join the community now! Feel free to follow and DM me @jeffborek if you have any questions. Hope to see you at an OCI meeting soon.