Struggling with distributed apps? Microsoft and Docker have a spec for that

Struggling with distributed apps? Microsoft and Docker have a spec for that

Docker, Microsoft and some anonymous friends, have launched a specification for building and managing distributed applications that they claim could be as significant as the open sourcing of the container platform five years ago.

The Cloud Native Application Bundles spec is described as “an open source, cloud-agnostic specification for packaging and running distributed applications”. The pair said it would allow the definition of resources that can be deployed to “any combination of runtime environments including Docker, Kubernetes, Helm, automation tools and cloud services.”

Jointly announcing the initiative at Dockercon and Microsoft Connect, the pair claimed that current setups mean all those environments have to be managed separately. This is clearly a potential headache for even the most enthusiastic devs, and the IT folk that have to support them.

While containers packed up all the requirements for an individual application component – libraries, layers, dependencies, etc – Docker chief product officer Scott Johnston said “CNAB does all of that for distributed apps.” It would allow the packaging of multiple containers, multiple resource dependencies, in a single artifact which can be moved through the value chain.

The initiative was a response to the challenges customers were facing managing distributed applications, he said.

“We’re working with organisations managing 1,000s of Compose files,”  Johnston said. He expected CNAB “to have as massive an impact as Docker when we open sourced it”.

Johnston said the genesis of the joint project  came, when “Microsoft came knocking about a year ago and were seeing the same challenges for their services.”

Docker said it would be “co-leading” the delivery of the spec together with Microsoft, and would also be the first to implement it via the Docker App tool. The next milestone will be the creation of a foundation with joint governance of the initiative.

Johnston said the pair were not alone in developing it with “three or four” other organisations involved. Asked if any of those were customers, he said they were all from the vendor side, but were reacting to what their customers were telling them.

Johnston was at pains to point out that CNAB is “not just for enterprises…The cutting edge cool kids have similar challenges from shipping code from developer laptops into production….It’s applicability is from early adopters to enterprise and in between.”