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Container Wars: Docker vs. Rkt

Tuesday Oct 18th 2016 by Gigi Sayfan

It will be very interesting to see how the container landscape evolves. Are developers going to stick with the incumbent, yet quickly innovating, Docker or are they going to flock to the supposedly superior newcomer?

Containers are making inroads into the mainstream. Many large organizations and startups deploy their software using containers and many other experiment with the technology or plan to do it. When talking about containers, Docker is the 800-pound gorilla. The recent awareness and popularity of containers for deploying complicated systems (often using micro-services architecture) can be credited in large part to Docker. But, Docker is not the only game in town.

There were a lot of complaints in the community about several aspects of Docker. In particular, it had serious security issues. Others are unhappy with the kitchen sink approach Docker is taking and its tendency to push out half-baked features. CoreOS is one of the harshest critics. CoreOS sees containers as a basic low-level infrastructure components. CoreOS developed a standard for application containers called appc and an implementation called rkt (pronounced rocket). Several large organizations and open-source projects support this effort. In particular, the Kubernetes Juggernaut, that competes with Docker swarm in the container orchestration area, has support for rkt containers. On the technical side, appc and Rkt have some benefits such as simplicity, performance and a clear specification.

It will be very interesting to see how the landscape evolves. Are developers going to stick with the incumbent, yet quickly innovating, Docker or are they going to flock to the supposedly superior newcomer? Are appc and rkt compelling enough for the mainstream developer to switch? I personally intend to dive into appc and rkt and find out for myself. The whole container scene is too young and fast moving to stick with Docker just because it was first.

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