Virtualization News

Healthcare Applications to Benefit from OCI Container Standard

Introducing open standards for containers can help organizations support healthcare application management and interoperability.

healthcare applications

Source: Thinkstock

By Elizabeth O'Dowd

- The Open Container Initiative (OCI) announced its Distribution Specification project to standardize container image distribution based on the specification for the Docker Registry HTTO API V2 protocol. Containers are a key part of ensuring healthcare applications remain accessible and secure.

The standard supports the pushing and pulling of container images and will support interoperability throughout the cloud-native and container ecosystem. The Docker r registry protocol has become the “defacto standard across the container registry world,” according to the projects abstract.

The standard is the result of an open source development project made up of contributions from over 100 developers with the initial maintainers being from Red Hat and Docker, along with contributors from Stanford, Google, IBM, and AWS.

“With the booming development in container and cloud native technologies, the community needs a reliable industry standard for distribution to allow for increased interoperability along with a neutral home to evolve the specification,” Executive Director of OCI Chris Aniszczyk said in a statement. “OCI contributors and maintainers have been hard at work to collaboratively drive the adoption of specifications for the container standards community and will start the journey for container distribution.”

Healthcare organizations are using containers for application development, sharing resources, versioned runtime environments, operating system environments, and to replace virtual machines (VMs).

Virtual containers act much like they do in the physical world, by separating data from other data based on predetermined characteristics. When migrating from one cloud storage model to another, it’s much easier to move data if it is contained in one place or separated from data that does not need to be moved.

When data is contained, developing applications to access that data becomes easier because it’s already isolated from unrelated data. Containers can be duplicated, moved, and act independently of each other.

The rate of container adoption is growing as organizations continue to realize their benefits in an increasingly digitized IT environment, according to a Cloud Foundry report conducted in 2017.

“As these organizations search for tools to enable their digital transformation, they increasingly land on containers as a technology to enable that shift to cloud native application architectures,” the Cloud Foundry survey authors stated. “Organizations are moving from the use of containers as a means of increasing density in existing infrastructure, to using them to increase the velocity of application development as well as the scalability of applications.”

Containers provide heightened security by design by separating data. Containing access to protected health information (PHI) by clearance level or department protects data in other containers. While the data in the breached container is still compromised, the other containers are virtually separated and unaware of each other, making cross-penetration impossible.  

While containers have many clear benefits, organizations still have challenges deploying them. Containers can sometimes be too complex to integrate into existing environments or too many skilled staff are needed to manage the containers, the Cloud Foundry report found in terms of potential challenges.

Integration into legacy IT infrastructures is also a concern. Certain infrastructure solutions can be in place for years and still function as needed, but containers and virtual machines may not function as desired due to bandwidth restrictions, potential incomparability of physical servers, or lack of cloud platform deployment.

“Containers are being used as a tool by organizations to initiate continuous delivery practices as they embark on their digital transformation journey. While containers alone are not going to provide continuous delivery, they are a good start,” the Cloud Foundry report stated.

Despite these challenges, containers are expected to grow significantly over the next several years as the technology continues to mature. As the container adoption rate grows, it becomes more important for the technology to have a standard. The standard will ensure that the containers are consistent and secure.  


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