Cloud

Microsoft, IBM, & Docker jump on Google's Kubernetes project for managing app containers anywhere

Hamburg harbor shipping crane Viktor Rosenfeld Flickr

It’s one thing for Google to work privately on its own low-level projects for running applications. But things become much more interesting when Google’s competitors get involved.

That’s what has happened since Google shared its Kubernetes tool with the world under an open-source license last month. The tool manages Linux containers that package up application code.

Now several companies that deal in managing infrastructure at scale have stepped up as contributors to the Kubernetes project, namely IBM, Microsoft, Red Hat, Docker, CoreOS, Mesosphere, and SaltStack.

Take the development as more proof that technology can now span a very wide variety of computing environments. Docker and its container technology have grown popular based on the notion that containers could be the basic unit of computing, and Kubernetes could be the tool to orchestrate all containers at the same time.

The new backing of Kubernetes could also be a turn away from more segmented and often proprietary hypervisor technology that sits on top of server operating systems and creates many virtual slices for running applications within each physical server. As developers and companies begin to try it, companies that sell hypervisor software, including VMware, could start to wonder how they should participate in the containerization movement.

Microsoft makes a hypervisor, Hyper-V. But the tech giant is participating in the Kubernetes project “to ensure that Kubernetes works great in Linux environments in Azure VMs,” according to a statement Google issued today, showing Microsoft already gets the beauty of containers, which can be more lightweight than the virtual machines a hypervisor maintains. If Kubernetes becomes stronger, companies could decide to use it to throw their containers onto Microsoft’s growing Azure public cloud.

Of course, Google also wants to “compete purely at the infrastructure level,” Google senior product manager Craig McLuckie told VentureBeat. With Kubernetes, people can throw containers onto Google’s public cloud and see what they think of it. It could be an on ramp, basically.

IBM, which has previously shown interest in integrating Docker, could be keen to get more workloads on its SoftLayer public cloud when those workloads come in containers.

But the real, potentially huge impact of this project lies in no one vendor’s territory. A common framework for cloud and non-cloud computing benefits developers and cloud providers alike. A multi-cloud technology could prevent companies from getting stuck with any one cloud provider or operating system provider. And as more cloud providers standardize around open-source Kubernetes as a management tier, a multi-cloud world could become easier to attain. Such a world is in the best interests of all cloud providers — except perhaps public cloud market leader Amazon Web Services, which may have more to lose than to gain from a multi-cloud environment. Amazon is notably absent from this announcement.

“Let me be very clear about what our mission here is,” McLuckie said. “We want to enable workload liberation.”

Meanwhile, it’s only natural for Docker and CoreOS to be in on the project. Docker has made containers the talk of the cloud community in the past year, and the company is interested in ensuring its Libswarm tool can stand on its own alongside Kubernetes. CoreOS, for its part, is looking out for its own technology, which can maintain Docker containers across distributed server environments.

And Red Hat, which has integrated Docker containers into its popular enterprise Linux software, has become a committer to the open-source Kubernetes project, with an eye toward helping customers manage containers running wherever they want.

The company wants to help companies “not just port those [workloads] but have those be deployable in a native way across on-prem and off-prem environments,” Mike Ferris, director of business architecture at Red Hat, told VentureBeat.

In the past few years, cloud computing has focused on supporting virtual machines in more places, but increasingly, containers are important, too. That’s especially true when infrastructure needs to be set up quickly and when applications need to be portable.

“Kubernetes orchestration will enable that to occur,” Ferris said.


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