RancherOS: A simpler Linux for Docker lovers

Rancher Labs takes the container paradigm to its final destination with a completely Dockerized operating system

Become An Insider

Sign up now and get FREE access to hundreds of Insider articles, guides, reviews, interviews, blogs, and other premium content. Learn more.
At a Glance

Like the various Linux server and desktop distributions, the container-oriented Linux distributions mix and match various projects and components to construct a complete container infrastructure. These distros generally combine a minimal OS kernel, an orchestration framework, and an ecosystem of container services. RancherOS not only fits the mold, but takes the minimal kernel and the container paradigm to extremes.

RancherOS is a container infrastructure platform that runs Docker directly on top of a reduced footprint (20MB) Linux kernel. Rancher’s take on a minimalist OS is unique in that even the init process is a Dockerized service container. Likewise, traditional system level services, like NTP and DNS, have been replaced with containerized equivalents.

Minimal operating systems have several advantages in production. Removing unnecessary packages and libraries makes for faster booting, easier version management, and a smaller attack surface, which means fewer security patches. RancherOS takes “updates” a step further and distributes all system services as Docker containers. A security update simply means downloading a new image and restarting the container, a process that takes just a few seconds with no downtime for the service.

As an OS designed for containers, RancherOS will be hardly recognizable to someone coming from a traditional Unix background. Only a small subset of the kernel is preserved—everything else is done in containers. But if you are familiar with Docker, you’ll feel right at home in RancherOS.

Designed for Docker

To continue reading this article register now