Our Most Productive Year Ever? 5 Ways Sylabs Strengthened its Container Leadership in 2022.

By Staff

Jan 18, 2023 | Blog

What a difference a year can make; after a couple consecutive years of pandemic-related uncertainties, the world has finally turned the page. And as we kick off 2023, the team at Sylabs couldn’t be prouder of all the progress we made with everything from new offerings to product innovations to exciting new partnerships. In some ways, we still haven’t gotten back to the “normal” level of trade shows, conferences, and user groups that keep us connected to the community, but now it’s just a matter of time. In the meantime, it’s worth revisiting 5 key developments that made 2022 a year of renewal and growth.

1) Appointing a new CTO. In March, Sylabs appointed Adam Hughes as our new CTO. Aside from his twelve years of experience in the five-eyes intelligence community developing offensive and defensive cyber capabilities, and a specialist background in real-time operating systems, carrier-grade telecommunications systems, and large-scale distributed systems, Adam has contributed thousands of lines of code to Singularity. Adam has not only taken the reins on our technology strategy, but he’s still active in development, including making key contributions to Sylab’s X.509 certificate and software bill of materials (SBOM) efforts. Having Adam in the CTO’s seat is a great plus for Sylabs and the Singularity community at large.

2) Introducing SBOM support to Singularity containers. Adam’s work dovetails nicely into the recent collaboration with Anchore to integrate Syft, an open-source tool for generating SBOMs, with the Singularity Image Format (SIF). Software supply chains have become a big issue in the developer community and our team has wasted no time to provide the Singularity ecosystem with tools to help address the issues. Today, Singularity users can not only rely on Syft to understand the make-up of container packages, but they can also use Anchore’s Grype vulnerability scanner to scan SBOMs for vulnerabilities and ensure containers are clean of potentially dangerous exploits in alignment with White House directives.

3) Increasing SIF adoption. Over the years, SIF has become the de facto container file format for HPC and performance-intensive computing – across the board! The work that Sylabs and the Singularity community is putting into SIF is being employed broadly by other open source projects as well as companies that provide computing resources and technologies to the growing number of compute-driven ecosystems. The downstream SIF ecosystem includes Apptainer, which has gotten great utility out of SIF this year, along with Red Hat, which in 2022 expanded Podman to support SIF-formatted containers. Additionally, SIF has had long-running support by NVIDIA NGC, the hub for GPU-optimized software, and SIF support in ORAS compatible registries such as Azure Batch Shipyard. SIF containers are often preferred in performance-intensive environments for their portability, easy transportability and immutable runtime properties. The wide-spread adoption of SIF reinforces the growing importance of the work that Sylabs and the Singularity community is doing to build and support it. SIF is the beating heart of the Singularity ecosystem and Sylabs remains as committed as ever to being dutiful stewards of its development.

4) Simplifying container usage. Major efforts have been made to continue to make it easier for organizations to leverage the entire Singularity ecosystem of products – from open source SingularityCE to Sylabs’ supported options, SingularityPRO and Singularity Enterprise. This past year, the release of SingularityCE version 3.10 helped to significantly improve compatibility with OCI (Open Container Initiative) standards. The update makes significant steps towards allowing SingularityCE to natively run OCI-based container workflows. Singularity is the go-to runtime for containerizing HPC (high-performance computing) workloads, whether they are in OCI format or not, however with these new updates we are improving the compatibility and user-friendliness of OCI-based workflows for Singularity users. In addition, the update introduced the ability for users to apply resource limits, such as RAM and CPU, to individual containers, making it easier to develop and test scientific software and optimize the productivity of multiple containers within a single HPC job. Expect to see more work in 2023 to make it easier to use Singularity in both enterprise and high-performance environments.
5) The inclusion of SingularityCE in the Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux (EPEL) repository. Extra Packages for Enterprise Linux is a library of additional software packages that are built for Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) and its compatible derivatives, such as Alma Linux, CentOS, Scientific Linux and Rocky Linux. The purpose of EPEL is to provide a repository of high-quality, add-on packages that are built for these platforms, and that are not already available in the default package repositories. Adding Singularity to the EPEL library makes it easier for users of RHEL and its derivatives to install and use Singularity on their systems while helping to ensure that the version of Singularity available in the EPEL repository is well-maintained and up to date.
As we head into 2023, Sylabs plans to keep our foot on the gas pedal in pursuit of improvements to Singularity. We look forward to working with the open source community, our customers, and partners, as we continue to invest in simplifying and securing containerized workflows and bringing forward new technologies – to lead the way in container-based solution innovation.

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