Many of you are likely familiar with the concept behind virtual machines. A virtual machine is where an operating system and any necessary applications are run on a computer, but may be run in parallel with other virtual machines. The technology is used by a large number of organizations – for example, developers could create a virtual machine in order to test their new code, knowing that if it crashed the operating system it would not stop the machine but only that one instance. Virtual machines are an easy way to expand the capabilities of a server as it means one hardware box can perform the role of several, then dozens, then hundreds of individual server computers. Data centers took up virtual machines very quickly but as more and more services are moved into the cloud, the problem of managing all of these virtual machines becomes greater. Each virtual machine has its own operating system and share of existing server resources to be managed and remember: a new virtual machine must be booted and this can take several minutes.
The solution to this is called "Containerization," which is a cut down virtual machine. A container provides an isolated, ringfenced area for an application to execute, but without requiring its own operating system. This means that a large number of containers – up to thousands – can be run within one instance of the operating system. Containers can be created or removed in microseconds, meaning Containers are significantly more flexible and faster to use. The Google Cloud Platform, or GCP, makes use of Containers for running Google Services and also uses Docker, which is a container management service. Docker simplifies the process of moving Containers from one host to another (across either virtual or real machines).
Today, Google have announced a change in their preferred Container operating system for the Google Cloud Platform, or GCP. Google are replacing the Debian operating system with their own in-house Chromium OS platform, a new version of the Container-VM platform. The new Chromium OS software is designed to run Docker and Kubernetes and has been, in the words of Google, constructed "primarily for running Google services on GCP." The operating system is available for people who wish to run and manage Containers on the Google platform. The company's blog states that the new Container OS allows them "greater control over the build management, security compliance, and customizations for GCP." This is not a general purpose operating system – it is designed for managing and running containers: Google are joining both Amazon and Microsoft in offering companion operating systems for customers invested into their infrastructure.