A Linux Foundation project, the Open Container Project will hold the specification and basic run-time software for using software containers.

Companies supporting the effort include: Amazon Web Services, Apcera, Cisco, CoreOS, Docker, EMC, Fujitsu Limited, Goldman Sachs, Google, HP, Huawei, IBM, Intel, Joyent, the Linux Foundation, Mesosphere, Microsoft, Pivotal, Rancher Labs, Red Hat, and VMware.

The Open Container Project is a lightweight, open governance structure, to be formed under the auspices of the Linux Foundation, for the express purpose of creating open industry standards around container formats and runtime,” according to a press release.

OpenSource.com blogger Sergio Russo explained it in a blog post 

A quick way to sort the space in your head: first there were virtual machines. Virtual machines are a way to stack more compute resource on computers that had excess capacity. While VMware made the process easy on Intel architectures, the idea goes back to IBM mainframes in the 1970s and 1980s. And virtual machines in a datacenter need to be managed and orchestrated. Think of managing as a per machine (real or virtual) process for provisioning (what’s running), starting and stopping individual machines, and orchestrating as a way to talk about a collection or cluster of machines (real or virtual) together.

The specification will be available at https://github.com/opencontainers/specs. The newly expanded team of maintainers (both original libcontainer maintainers and the appc maintainers) are preparing the first draft of the specification, and intend to release it in 2-3 weeks.

Docker is donating its container format and runtime, runC, to the OCP to serve as the cornerstone of this new effort. It is available now at https://github.com/opencontainers/runc.