Podman 5.0 released with native Mac hypervisor support, new features and breaking changes

Podman 5.0 released with native Mac hypervisor support, new features and breaking changes

RedHat has released Podman 5.0, with rewritten code for Windows and Mac, native Mac hypervisor support, removed CNI (Container Network Interface) networking, improved Docker compatibility, and other new features.

Podman is a container engine, primarily for Linux, with a command line interface (CLI) similar to that for the better-known Docker engine.

The release post states that the podman machine commands have been completely rewritten for this release, adding support for the Apple hypervisor on Mac and sharing more code between platforms and VM providers. Macs are popular with developers and the new release promises greatly improved “stability, boot times, and filesharing performance on Macs.”

A consequence is that existing VMs must be recreated and QEMU, an open source emulator, is no longer supported on the Mac. 

CNI networking support has been removed on most platforms, the reason given being the “ongoing support burden on the team, and the plans of CNI to change their architecture in future to focus on Kubernetes, which will prevent Podman from using it.” CNI is a CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) project. That said, it is still available for FreeBDS and RHEL 9. Podman 4.0 introduced the Netavark networking stack, written in Rust specifically for Podman, because of the divergent goals of Podman and CNI.

There are breaking changes and deprecations listed in the release notes, including format and output changes from some commands that may require existing scripts to be modified.

Podman is an alternative to Docker that runs without a daemon and has long supported containers without root access, which is good for security. Compatibility with Docker is not absolute though, which can be frustrating for developers. 

Podman Desktop 1.8 released in March 2024

There is another difference, which is that Podman and its companion Podman Desktop are completely free to use, whereas Docker Desktop is a licensed product. Podman Desktop 1.8, released earlier this month, includes a Kubernetes Explorer, originally an experimental feature but now released with additional features. The Kubernetes Explorer works with Pods, Deployments, Services, Ingresses and Routes, providing real-time status information and the ability to apply YAML configurations that create or update resources on a cluster.

Some developers are disillusioned with Mirantis Lens, a dashboard and IDE for Kubernetes, following a quiet but impactful decision to make the product closed source. According to a note on GitHub, “the open source version of Lens Desktop has been retired and is no longer maintained. The Lens Desktop product by Mirantis is still actively developed and supported by Mirantis, but contributions are now made through extensions using the Lens extension API, rather than directly to the core product.”

Podman Desktop with its Kubernetes Explorer is can be considered an open source alternative to Lens and may now attract refugees from there as well as from Docker.