A push to reinvent the way developers create applications for the internet has gathered significant momentum, catching even some of its most ardent supporters by surprise.
But even as the popularity of infrastructure based on the Kubernetes platform and microservices surges, the adoption has inevitably brought to light the massive challenges big businesses and large organizations face in overhauling unwieldy infrastructure. To help IT managers navigate this transition, products and services that enable simultaneous management of legacy and new systems are gaining in popularity.
Such “hybrid” products will be one of the main themes of the Red Hat Summit that runs today and Wednesday, a recognition of how critical this area has become to companies trying to modernize their cloud-based infrastructure. Speaking on the eve of the event, Red Hat’s Joe Fernandes said he’s among those excited by the progress being made by microservices, but he remains realistic about the challenges such a shift presents.
“This evolution is happening even faster than I expected,” said the vice president of Red Hat’s Core Cloud Platforms. “If you look at the adoption of containers, or Kubernetes, compared to past innovations, like virtualization back in the early 2000s, it’s really grown tremendously fast just over the last five years.”
So-called microservices, aka cloud native computing, break applications into smaller, self-contained units or “containers,” which can significantly reduce costs and time needed to write, deploy, and manage each one. Proponents say such an approach to web development is faster, more stable, more open, and makes it easier for users to change cloud platforms.
Kubernetes, originally a Google project and now an open source service managed by the Linux Foundation’s Cloud Native Computing Foundation, has become one of the most popular tools for managing containers. Born of the open source movement, Red Hat was one of the earliest supporters of Kubernetes.
In 2015, Red Hat released the first version of its OpenShift Container Platform, which incorporates that hybrid approach to manage web infrastructure. At today’s summit, the company announced OpenShift 4.4, which includes new metric and monitoring tools that centralize reporting across multiple cloud operations. The company also unveiled Advanced Cluster Management for Kubernetes, which aims to simplify deploying and managing clusters of Kubernetes-based applications that are running across several cloud services.
Fernandes said that as tools like Kubernetes and microservices become more prevalent, companies are more comfortable running applications across different services such as Google Cloud, Microsoft Azure, and Amazon Web Services. While that helps them avoid becoming overly reliant on a single partner, it also creates challenges in continuing to manage the multi-cloud approach.
“The new challenge becomes how to manage all of these environments,” Fernandes said. “Now from a single management console you can import or inventory all these different clusters.”
OpenShift will also begin offering a preview of a new virtualization feature that’s designed to help companies ease the transition from apps running on virtual machines to Kubernetes.
“Companies have been adopting containers over the last several years and moving apps that were previously running in virtual machines to containers,” Fernandes said. “But virtual machines aren’t going away. So what we wanted to do is explore how you could use Kubernetes to manage both types of workloads. And this allows them to migrate VM-based apps to containers over time.”
As quickly as things are moving, Fernandes said it’s important to recognize that overhauling a company’s web development infrastructure is a massive undertaking that will take years even in the most motivated enterprises. And that means the hybrid approach will by necessity be the default for the foreseeable future.
“These large organizations have tens of thousands of applications right now,” he said. “They can’t turn over their application portfolio overnight. They end up with a hybrid collection of applications that span from very traditional to very modern and cloud native. And they need to be able to manage both for now, and we see that being the case for a long time.”