So lightweight it’s practically subatomic

Photon OS is a lightweight container host for the cloud

Jane Elizabeth
Photon OS
© Shutterstock / Gwoeii

Not quite faster than light, Photon OS is a lightweight open source container host designed for cloud-native applications and platforms.

Looking for a lightweight Linux container optimized for the cloud? You’re spoiled for choice: there are a lot of Linux distributions with those specs. But if you’re looking for a really minimally-sized container host, then Project Photon OS may be for you.

Photon OS

Project Photon OS is designed to be a lightweight container host, optimized for cloud-native applications, cloud platforms, and VMware infrastructure. It provides a secure environment for running containers. While it works best with VMware vSphere, but it’s also possible to use Photon on can be used on bare metal, Microsoft Azure, Google Compute Engine, Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud, or VirtualBox.

Photon OS is so light thanks to a minimal number of packages. By using only the necessary amount of packages for security and the Docker daemon, Photon OS can be tailored down into a mere 300 MB. This minimal version is intended to be a lightweight host for high-performance utilization of containers.

However, if that seems a little too minimal, don’t worry. There is also a full version of Photon OS with additional packages to develop, test, and deploy containerized applications.

SEE MORE: Containers, microservices and the power of modern IT

Key features

  • Optimized kernel – Photon OS performs best when run on VMware ESXi, but does well for a number of options
  • Security-hardened Linux – Follows the recommendations of the Kernel Self-Protection Project (KSPP).
  • Advanced lifecycle management – timely security patches and updates to container packages, such as Docker and Kubernetes keep your machine safe and secure.
  • Curated packages and repositories – Packages are built with hardened security flags.
  • Secure EFI boot – The operating system boots with validated trust.
  • Secure remote management – the Photon Management Daemon securely manages the firewall, network, packages, and users on remote Photon OS machines by using API calls over a command-line utility, Python, or REST.
  • Support for persistent volumes – Photon OS supports persistent volumes to store the data of cloud-native apps on VMware vSAN.
  • Project Lightwave integration – this security feature authenticates and authorizes users with Active Directory or LDAP

SEE MORE: Linux Foundation wants you to share data as easily as you share open source software

If you’re interested in Photon OS, then head on over to the project’s page to learn more about this interesting container host. Photon OS is available for download on GitHub. Like all open source project, this one thrives on community engagement and comments and critiques are very welcome.


Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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