BACKGROUND IMAGE: iSTOCK/GETTY IMAGES
Kubernetes is fast becoming a cornerstone to Google's ambitions around extending its reach into IT infrastructure, even if that means going outside Google Cloud Platform.
Last week Google became a sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation and this week it spearheaded a new Linux container orchestration and management standardization project called the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Both of these moves center on the future of Kubernetes, the open-source cluster scheduling tool Google has now declared production ready.
Kubernetes has the potential to allow developers to easily move workloads between on-premises workloads and the cloud without Google having to offer all of those services itself, said Jillian Mirandi, senior analyst with Technology Business Research (TBR), Inc., in Hampton, N.H.
"It seems to be right at the center of what will be their hybrid cloud strategy, especially if all these vendors are going to support Docker through Kubernetes," Mirandi said.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has the huge customer base, but Google may have a leg up by opening its code and extending its reach to other areas that fit the current IT demand for hybrid cloud environments, Mirandi said.
Descartes Labs, Inc., a machine learning AI startup in Los Alamos, New Mexico, processes satellite imagery and uses Kubernetes for portions of its distributed applications through Google Container Engine. Kubernetes remains a fast-evolving work in progress, said Tim Kelton, co-founder and head of cloud architecture. It still has shortcomings for things such as scheduling containers at specific times, but it's great for Descartes' front-end websites, persistent back-end databases or for calling up pods of containers.
"There are plenty of people coming up in this space, so it changes quickly, but the Kubernetes tools are at least on par with everything else I've looked at," Kelton said.
Google has used containers internally for years, and deploys billions each week. Kubernetes is an externalized version of its own tools, Borg and its newest iteration, Omega. Google's ability to use these tools to operate at such a massive scale is one of the reasons Kubernetes has stood out in a crowded and fluid space, said Jay Lyman, research manager, cloud platforms, at 451 Research LLC, based in New York.
"The fact that it's Google and the fact that it's managing and orchestrating at Google's scale, that makes it significant in its own right," Lyman said.
It also helps that Kubernetes has the backing of some of the biggest players in the space, including Red Hat, Inc., which has incorporated it into OpenShift, its platform as a service offering. And a little over a year after its introduction, Google this week has put out the 1.0 version of the software and announced some high-profile users, including Box, eBay and Samsung SDS.
Another cloud foundation
Coinciding with the production-ready release, Kubernetes is being used as the initial reference architecture for the new Cloud Native Computing Foundation.
The Linux Foundation will be the steward for the new project, which will more broadly focus on cloud-native applications that are container-packaged, dynamically scheduled and microservices oriented. The goal is to build tools that will allow more traditional users to emulate, to a lesser degree, some of the computing practices of the world's largest Web-scale companies without an army of engineers to build and maintain.
The new foundation contributors include AT&T, Box, Cisco, Cloud Foundry, CoreOS, Docker, eBay, Goldman Sachs, Google, IBM, Intel, Joyent, Inc., Mesosphere, Red Hat, Twitter and VMware, Inc..
The new foundation shouldn't be confused with the Open Container Project, which was founded last month around establishing core image specs of container images and has since been renamed the Open Container Initiative. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation will rely on the results of the Open Container Initiative, but it will focus on the orchestration level and the integration of hosts and services through defined API's.
There are a number of other orchestration and management tools available, including, Docker Swarm, Apache Mesos and Mesosphere DCOS. The stacks that result from this foundation's efforts won’t be perfect, but the model of computing that's envisioned here isn't about being monolithic, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of The Linux Foundation.
"These are components that will probably happen in multi-reference stacks, but what's important is for them to be complimentary and coupled together quickly because that's what advances the architecture," Zemlin said.
Indeed, the language used to describe the project moved from a more Kubernetes-centric approach to a more agnostic one as other vendors came on board. And unlike the Open Container Initiative, two key vendors are absent from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation -- Amazon, by far the largest public cloud vendor, and Microsoft, broadly considered the second-largest.
Google backs OpenStack
This new collaborative effort comes just days after Google became an official sponsor of the OpenStack Foundation. Taken collectively, they represent Google’s most vocal acknowledgement yet of the hybrid model most customers are deploying.
"Our aspiration is to bring these tools together with very strong and clean transfers between what we're doing here and what is being done in traditional infrastructure services," said Craig McLuckie, Google product manager.
Google was on stage during the keynote sessions at the OpenStack Summit in Vancouver recently and is slated to talk at an upcoming OpenStack conference in Silicon Valley. The OpenStack Foundation has been agnostic about container orchestration and has its own container project, but this does provide an opening for Google, the first of the so-called hyper-scale cloud vendors to support OpenStack.
"It's not a surprise from that perspective, but this is clearly an opportunity for Google with its Kubernetes software to make containers more viable within OpenStack," said Al Sadowski, research director, service providers, for 451 Research.
The OpenStack sponsorship brings to mind Ubernetes, another open-source project being spearheaded by Google as a means to migrate pods of containers across clouds using Kubernetes, Kelton said. Descartes Labs uses petabytes of data, and those data sets that aren't in the cloud are too expensive to transfer between environments. It's that potential for migrating between environments that has Kelton most excited.
"Long-term that's what I’ve been hoping for all along, and it looks like the tools are starting to fall into place," Kelton said.
Trevor Jones is a news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.