Linux’s package management headaches might be resolved by approach of containers, however specialists warn it’s solely 0.5 an answer

Conventional wisdom holds that containers are fast on their way to remaking everything from application deployment to the design of ultralean Linux distributions. That last part raises a question, though: Could container technologies like Docker be used to solve Linux’s long-standing conundrums with package management? Might containers provide a path away from dependency hell and competing (and incompatible) package standards?

In the yes camp: The folks at CoreOS, creators of the Linux distribution that revolves entirely around containers, not packages, as its basic unit of modularity.

CoreOS Senior Engineer and Chief Advocate Kelsey Hightower says the company’s giving is “living proof it isn’t solely potential, however will cause higher system style and potency.” However, he believes package management continues to be helpful, principally by “building Associate in Nursing software from a distinct set of elements that has to play well along. this can be a section wherever UNIX system package managers shine.” CoreOS itself doesn’t use a typical package manager, like apt or yum, he notes, however rather the Portage system.

Hightower claims that entirely exchange a system’s all-purpose package manager with lumper or different instrumentality managers would be tough, partially as a result of lumper does not have a dependency resolution mechanism. “Where lumper shines is in packaging and distributing applications,” he said. (Docker itself declined to retort for this text, citing time constraints.)

With Red Hat’s inflated stress on containers, it stands to reason the corporate may additionally see containers as a replacement for package management.

Lars Herrmann, top dog for Red Hat Enterprise UNIX system and Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization at Red Hat, believes it’s potential to switch package management with containers, “but it’s not the simplest course of action.”

Aside from dependency management, same Herrmann in Associate in Nursing email, package management provides 3 different boons: directions for wherever to put in software system during a system, structured data that creates it simple to inform what is put in wherever, and a mechanism for substantiating put in software system against the package manager’s data.

“These values still apply during a container-centric world,” he said, which means that those functions would all have to be compelled to be replicated by containers. “Additionally, there must be a simple thanks to ‘look’ within these containers to verify what is in there and to spot any acknowledged issues.”

Likewise, package management covers internal functions that containers themselves do not agitate. consistent with Herrmann, lumper “aggregates the packages for a whole application or microservice; it does not facilitate in obtaining the correct elements into a instrumentality during a approach that may work. Obviously, this task does not directly need the present package managers however they are doing an excellent job at it — therefore why not use them?”

Bryant Cantrill, CTO of Joyent — one more company up to my neck within the instrumentality world — conjointly sees containers and package management as serving separate functions, since “a lumper image is at a better layer of abstraction than Associate in Nursing apt or yum package,” he wrote in Associate in Nursing email.

That said, he thinks lumper will render packaging obsolete as package management itself rendered manually unpacked archives (such as TAR files) obsolete and become a brand new customary application format. “An engineer that I’ve acknowledged for a protracted time place it slightly differently: lumper is 21st-century ELF. (ELF is that the ‘Executable and Linkable Format’ that’s however binaries square measure delineate on OS systems.) Either approach, lumper appears poised to become the actual customary for the way systems square measure imaged — and that i assume that that is a transparent win for each developers and operators alike.”

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