Would containerized virtualization à la Docker work better if it didn't depend on the Linux kernel? That's the question startup Cloudius Systems is asking as it promotes OSv, a competing open source operating system designed specifically for the cloud. (Hint: Its answer is "Yes.")

The major difference between OSv and cloud-oriented Linux distributions is that "OSv developers created the kernel with one thing in mind: Speed," Cloudius said recently in an email to the press. That means that "unlike Docker, which runs on top of Linux, Cloudius OSv works much like the popular containerization app; however, OSv is its own unique OS in itself."

OSv has been around for a litte while already. Cloudius (which joined the Linux Foundation last December) launched in September 2013 and has been pushing out alpha releases of OSv over the last several months. Now it is offering the software as a private-beta release for interested parties.

The company's recent efforts to promote OSv as an ideal platform for container virtualization are notable, however, because they signal an expansion of OSv's initial purpose, which was to be a platform for cloud computing that would be faster and easier to deploy than Linux and OpenStack. Container virtualization is emerging as an important type of strategy for deploying cloud apps, but containers are about more than the cloud writ-small, and by making containers part of its purview, Cloudius seems eager to take on Docker, too.

To be sure, trying to beat the Linux ecosystem is a big ambition, and Cloudius has its work cut out for it, especially if it's now aiming to be better than not just the Linux+OpenStack combo, but also Linux+Docker.

That said, Cloudius holds a strong hand by emphasizing speed. The company recently reported that OSv can boot in under a second, which will impress a lot of people—maybe enough to make them think about whether Docker is crippling itself by depending on the Linux kernel rather than a leaner, purpose-build kernel such as that of OSv.