SaltStack expands container support for Docker and beyond

The cloud automation system's newest release beefs up its Docker features, but also is ready for the rise of other container technologies

Salt, the systems management tool known for its high scalability and resilient design, has wisely stayed current with the latest wrinkles in enterprise technology -- namely, Docker.

Helium, the most recent release of SaltStack, shows that the company understands how valuable Docker is to many enterprise development environments. Beyond that, SaltStack sees that enterprises don't want to wait around for Docker to deliver solutions to the problems that come with the use of containers. But it doesn't view Docker as the only containerization game in town, either.

SaltStack is calling Helium "the largest Salt release ever," not simply because of the container features. It also includes a new queuing transport system called RAET (Reliable Asynchronous Event Transport) that can be used as a replacement for the default ZeroMQ messaging system, support for the Red Hat 7 family of Linux distributions, a revised and now highly granular scheduling engine, and better support for Amazon AWS, including features like Route53 and autoscaling.

The application container features are the real attention-grabbers. Aside from entirely exposing the Docker API to Salt, Helium includes CPU tracking for container loads, plus a data store for application containers that can be used to register network and port data (an amelioration for some of Docker's networking issues).

That said, SaltStack seems aware that Docker is not alone in the container game. Both Docker and LXC -- the underlying containerization technology used by Docker -- have been targeted separately for new features in Salt.

Also, SaltStack is making a point of keeping the door open to possible future competing standards for containers, while at the same time staying abreast of Docker's advances. According to SaltStack CTO and founder Thomas Hatch, "[SaltStack] will support other containers like CoreOS Rocket to help IT operations organizations avoid the container version of VM sprawl."

CoreOS Rocket, an alternate container format devised as a more secure and less sprawling alternative to Docker, has questioned whether Docker's problems can be solved through incremental revisions or require a clean-slate fix. SaltStack does not appear to be waiting for a clear winner, but instead supporting as demand dictates -- and Docker and LXC are most in demand for now.

Copyright © 2014 IDG Communications, Inc.

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