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Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes opens DockerCon in Seattle June 20, 2016. (GeekWire Photo /Dan Richman)

Docker, the venture-backed maker of the most popular offering for creating containerized applications, is donating a vital piece of its software to a community project administered by five public-cloud companies, in an effort to promote the creation of non-Docker container products.

The company will donate a component of the Docker Engine called “containerd” (pronounced “container-DEE”) to a group that includes Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google, IBM and Microsoft. Those cloud companies have committed to maintaining and contributing to the project. “Collaboration and contribution will be done in the open, with strong support from third-party maintainers,” Docker pledged in a news release. By April 1, containerd “will be donated to a neutral foundation that will oversee governance, trademark and trademark enforcement.”

GitHub pulls of Docker have increased to 8 billion this year, from 1 billion last year and 1 million the year before. (Docker image)

Containerd “is a core run-time component of Docker Engine that provides the industry with an open, stable and extensible base” for transferring container images, container execution and supervision, low-level local storage and network interfaces, across both Linux and Windows, Docker said. It uses the Open Container Initiative’s run-time, image-format specifications and reference implementation, and plans call for pursuing OCI certification when it is available.

Docker Engine is a complete container platform for end-users and includes the Docker API as well as Docker commands and services. Containers wrap a piece of software in a complete filesystem that contains everything needed to run — code, run-time, system tools, system libraries, and anything else that can be installed on a server. The containerd repository on GitHub is available here.

“This is the result of months of close collaboration and input from thought leaders in the Docker community,” said Solomon Hykes, founder, CTO and chief product officer at Docker, in a statement. “We think it will unlock a whole new phase of innovation and growth across the entire ecosystem, which in turn will benefit every Docker developer and customer.”

The cloud companies have signed on to the agreement because “containerization has become a critical aspect of cloud growth,” said David Messina, a Docker senior VP. “They see value in collectively collaborating on a core infrastructure component.”

AWS’s Deepak Singh, general manager of the EC2 container service, said that “a high-quality, stable container runtime is critical for our customers.”

A  containerd summit in February is planned but not yet scheduled, Docker said.

Docker, which started as DotCloud in 2011 and changed its name in 2013, is backed by $180 million in venture funding. It claims use by “millions of developers across thousands” of organizations, including ADP,  the BBC, GE, Goldman Sachs, Groupon, ING, Spotify and Yelp.

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