Key Concepts:

macOS Containers

Linux and Windows containers exist, but what about macOS?

Key points:

  • As of today, there is no such thing as a macOS container.
  • There are alternatives available that use macOS virtual machines to approximate the experience of using containers.
  • The open source community is working hard to change this situation and bring native container support to macOS.


Container support on macOS (or lack thereof)

Container technology is supported by a wide range of operating systems, including FreeBSD, Solaris, Linux and Windows. However, the macOS operating system does not feature native support for containers, and its underlying XNU kernel lacks a number of the isolation primitives required to implement container support with features equivalent to those found on other platforms. Apple has not indicated any intent to add first-party container support to macOS, nor have they made any public statement regarding their position on this topic. There is a great deal of community speculation regarding the underlying reasons for this, although the prevailing theory seems to be a perceived lack of market demand.

Container alternatives using macOS virtual machines

There are a number of open source and proprietary systems that enable the use of macOS virtual machines inside Linux containers, which can then be managed using existing container tooling:

The macOS Containers initiative

The macOS Containers initiative is an effort by the open source development community to bring native container support to macOS without requiring any modifications to the operating system itself. The initiative is still at a very early stage and has not yet produced a working implementation.