The basic units of OpenShift Online applications are called containers. Linux container technologies are lightweight mechanisms for isolating running processes so that they are limited to interacting with only their designated resources.

Many application instances can be running in containers on a single host without visibility into each others' processes, files, network, and so on. Typically, each container provides a single service (often called a "micro-service"), such as a web server or a database, though containers can be used for arbitrary workloads.

The Linux kernel has been incorporating capabilities for container technologies for years. OpenShift Online and Kubernetes add the ability to orchestrate containers across multi-host installations.