containerd is an industry-standard core container runtime that was initially released by Docker Inc. in December 2015 and contributed to CNCF in March 2017. We’ve received a number of questions about the project, so I thought I would provide you my perspective as well as some preliminary thoughts on how how Rancher Labs will leverage it.

Docker, Kubernetes, and containerd

The containerd project represents an important step in the evolution of the Docker platform. In the beginning, the Docker engine was quite simple. It merely consisted of the minimum support required to run Docker images on a single host. Over the last few years, however, the Docker Engine has evolved significantly. The Docker engine now includes sophisticated support for cluster management, multi-host networking, and scheduling. Today, Docker is actually closer to a platform like Kubernetes, even though Kubernetes was created to manage Docker. containerd is a simple container runtime built for the sole purpose of running Docker images on a single host. It is designed to be embedded in larger systems like Docker and Kubernetes, which add higher-level capabilities such as scheduling and orchestration.

Rancher and containerd

Rancher manages Docker and Kubernetes. It is a complete container management platform, which:

  1. Enables users to create multiple Docker Swarm and Kubernetes clusters (called “environments”)
  2. Ensures users can create environments on any infrastructure, including public cloud, private cloud, or data centers
  3. Includes a certified Kubernetes distribution, and automatically manages the install, upgrade, and on-going operation of Kubernetes clusters
  4. Implements a powerful set of management capabilities such as user authentication, RBAC, and security credentials and certificates
  5. Integrates with a wide variety of CI/CD, monitoring, and log aggregation systems
  6. Enables users to easily deploy and upgrade pre-packaged applications from a catalog

As the following figure shows, the Rancher platform’s role will not change when Docker and Kubernetes integrate with containerd. Rancher will continue to manage Docker and Kubernetes as it does today. containerd and
Rancher

RancherOS and containerd

RancherOS is a small footprint Linux distribution built for the sole purpose of running Docker containers. It contains two Docker daemons: system Docker and user Docker. System Docker plays the role of the init system (like systemd) and runs system services such as udev and DHCP. User Docker runs application containers. In the future, containerd will take over as system Docker. containerd provides sufficient capabilities to function as an init program. A smaller system Docker will result in an even slimmer RancherOS distro and a more robust system. containerd
RancherOS

Product Roadmap

Work is underway to build containerd 1.0 and the Kubernetes CRI (Container Runtime Interface) plug-in for containerd. Rancher and RancherOS will take advantage of containerd as it becomes ready for production. Stay tuned for product announcements.