Exploring Containerization: What’s the Definition of runC?

48361956 - Exploring Containerization: What's the Definition of runC?

Dive into the world of containerization with our comprehensive examination of runC. Unpack the definition, benefits, and practical applications of this pivotal tool in the tech industry.


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    As the industry of software development grows, adopting new and effective mechanisms is essential for developers. One such recent development is the introduction of runC, which has emerged as a key component in containerization. According to a report published by MarketsandMarkets, the global container technology market is projected to reach $4.98 billion by 2023, growing at a CAGR of 32.9% from 2017 to 2023. This highlights the importance of understanding runC and its applications. In this glossary page, we will delve into the definition, workings, benefits, use cases, best practices, and recommended resources for runC.

    “Containers are the future of software infrastructure, and runC is a key building block that helps us harness their full potential.” – Solomon Hykes, Docker Co-founder

    What is runC? Definition of runC

    runC is an open-source, lightweight, and portable container runtime designed to manage and execute containers according to the Open Container Initiative (OCI) specification. As a low-level container runtime, runC focuses on spinning up and tearing down containers while ensuring efficient process isolation and resource management. runC was initially developed by Docker Inc., and its development is currently led by OCI — a collaborative project under the Linux Foundation that aims to maintain a standard for container formats and runtime across various platforms.

    ℹ️ Synonyms: containerd-shim-runsc, runC binary, runC tool, runC execution, runC Docker container runtime

    How it Works

    As a container runtime, runC works by initiating, managing, and executing containers using the OCI container runtime specification and image format. Once provided with the specification file and the root filesystem, runC carries out the following steps:

    1. Set up the container’s namespace, which includes PID, mount, network, IPC, UTS, and cgroup.
    2. Launch and execute the container’s process tree.
    3. Manage resources, such as CPU, memory, and I/O, according to the cgroup configuration.
    4. Clean up the container after its termination.

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    runC allows developers to directly create and manage containers without relying on higher-level tools, such as Docker or Kubernetes, while still being able to integrate with these systems if needed.

    Benefits of using runC

    There are several advantages of using runC, some of which are:

    • Lightweight: runC is designed to be a small, fast, and portable runtime for containers, making it suitable for various platforms and devices.
    • Compliant with OCI Specification: By adhering to the OCI runtime and image format specifications, runC ensures compatibility and interoperability among different container tools and platforms.
    • Customization: With runC, developers can customize the settings and behaviors of their containers according to their specific requirements.
    • Integrable with other tools: runC works seamlessly with other containerization tools, such as Docker, Kubernetes, and Containerd, providing flexibility to developers in choosing the right tools for their projects.
    • Active Development: Being part of the OCI project, runC is backed by a community of active contributors, ensuring continuous improvements and updates to the runtime.

    runC use cases

    Various industries and developers can leverage runC to meet their containerization requirements, such as:

    1. Cloud providers: runC enables cloud providers to offer efficient and interoperable container runtime solutions to their customers, adhering to the OCI standards.
    2. Developers: Application developers can use runC to create and manage containers directly, without relying on high-level container tools.
    3. Container orchestration systems: Projects like Kubernetes can utilize runC to manage containerization, offering a lightweight and compatible runtime for their users.
    4. IoT and embedded systems: runC’s lightweight and portable nature makes it suitable for resource-constrained devices, such as IoT and embedded systems.

    Code Examples

    import runC from 'runc-lib';
    const containerOptions = {
      rootfs: '/path/to/rootfs',
      cgroupsPath: '/my-container',
    const processOptions = {
      args: ['/bin/bash', '-c', 'echo Hello, runC!'],
    runC.createFromBundle('my-container', containerOptions, processOptions)
      .then(container => container.start())
      .then(process => process.wait())
      .then(exitCode => {
        console.log('Process exited with code:', exitCode);
      .catch(err => console.error('Error starting container:', err));

    Best Practices

    When using runC, developers should ensure that they are familiar with the OCI runtime and image specifications to build and manage their containers effectively. It is also important to monitor and maintain the container’s resources, such as CPU, memory, and I/O limits, to prevent any performance degradation or resource contention issues. Additionally, understanding the integration possibilities with higher-level container tools, like Docker and Kubernetes, can help developers choose the right toolchain for their projects without being locked into a specific ecosystem.

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    Most recommended books about runC

    For those keen on learning more about runC, here are some recommended resources:

    1. Containerization with LXC: A practical guide to using LXC, LXD, and OCI runC on Linux systems by Senthil Kumar Sundaraman.
    2. Mastering Kubernetes: Level up your container orchestration skills with Kubernetes to build, run, secure, and observe large-scale distributed apps, 3rd Edition by Gigi Sayfan.
    3. Container internals: A practical guide to containerization technologies by T.K. Radhakrishnan.


    As containerization continues to gain traction in the world of software development, understanding and leveraging tools like runC has become essential for developers. By being lightweight, OCI-compliant, and highly customizable, runC offers a powerful solution for managing containers directly or integrating with high-level container tools. As the technology evolves, developers will need to stay up-to-date on best practices and relevant resources to make the most of the runC runtime.

    Tags: applications, cluster, containerization, containers, deployment.

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    Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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    li profile Lou Reverchuk

    IT Entrepreneur

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    4 months ago

    I appreciate how Echo Global’s glossary section goes beyond technical explanations and includes thought-provoking insights. The articles discuss the implications and future trends associated with various tech terms, sparking critical thinking and stimulating further exploration. It’s a refreshing approach that fosters a deeper understanding of the tech industry.

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