Four Micro OSes You Should Know About


What are micro operating systems and why should individuals and organizations focused on the cloud care about them? In the cloud, performance, elasticity, and security are all paramount. A lean operating system that facilitates simple server workloads and allows for containers to run optimally can serve each of these purposes. Unlike standard desktop or server operating systems, the micro OS has a narrow, targeted focus on server workloads and optimizing containers while eschewing the applications and graphical subsystems that cause bloat and latency.

In fact, these tiny platforms are often called “container operating systems.” Containers are key to the modern data center and central to many smart cloud deployments. According to Cloud Foundry’s report “Containers in 2016,” 53 percent of organizations are either investigating or using containers in development and production. The micro OS can function as optimal bedrock for technology stacks incorporating tools such as Docker and Kubernetes.

The Linux Foundation recently released its 2016 report “Guide to the Open Cloud: Current Trends and Open Source Projects.” This third annual report provides a comprehensive look at the state of open cloud computing. You can download the report now, and one of the first things to notice is that it aggregates and analyzes research, illustrating how trends in containers, microservices, and more shape cloud computing. In fact, from IaaS to virtualization to DevOps, the report provides descriptions and links to categorized projects central to today’s open cloud environment.

In this series of posts, we will look at many of these projects, by category, providing extra insights on how the overall category is evolving. Below, you’ll find a collection of micro or “minimalist” operating systems and the impact that they are having, along with links to their GitHub repositories, all gathered from the Guide to the Open Cloud:

Micro or Minimalist OSes

Project Atomic

Project Atomic is Red Hat’s umbrella for many open source infrastructure projects to deploy and scale containerized applications. It provides an operating system platform for a Linux Docker Kubernetes (LDK) application stack, based on Fedora, CentOS and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Project Atomic on GitHub


A lightweight Linux operating system designed for clustered deployments providing automation, security, and scalability for containerized applications. It runs on nearly any platform whether physical, virtual, or private/public cloud. CoreOS on GitHub

Photon OS

Photon OS is a minimal Linux operating system for cloud-native apps optimized for VMware’s platforms. It runs distributed applications using containers in multiple formats including Docker, Rkt, and Garden. Photon on GitHub


RancherOS is a minimalist Linux distribution for running Docker containers. It runs Docker directly on top of the kernel, replacing the init system, and delivers Linux services as containers. RancherOS on GitHub

Learn more about trends in open source cloud computing and see the full list of the top open source cloud computing projects. Download The Linux Foundation’s Guide to the Open Cloud report today!