The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has quickly found itself at the center of the open source container world thanks to the recent addition of big-name cloud providers.
Over the past several weeks, CNCF has attracted both Microsoft and Amazon Web Services (AWS) into its ranks. The two large cloud players add significant might to the Linux Foundation-based organization.
CNCF was formed in mid-2015, coming out of the gate with 22 members, including AT&T, Google, IBM, and Twitter. The organization has a focus on orchestration interoperability, using application programming interfaces (APIs) to link disparate container services and applications.
CNCF currently hosts 10 projects, including Kubernetes for container orchestration; Prometheus for monitoring; Open Tracing for application flow monitoring; Fluentd for logging; Linkerd for service mesh; gRPC for remote procedure calls; CoreDNS for service discovery; Containerd and Rkt for container runtimes; and CNI for container native networking.
It’s the Kubernetes project that has garnered the most attention for CNCF.
CNCF Executive Director Dan Kohn said Kubernetes has been the anchor tenant for the foundation. When it started it had two of the five largest cloud providers involved — Google and IBM — but has now attracted all five of the big cloud providers.
“We do see this as an important step in the life of the foundation,” said Kohn, in regards to Microsoft and AWS joining the group. “We look at it as the end of the beginning of CNCF.”
Kubernetes has emerged as the most popular container orchestrator being used by enterprises. According to a survey conducted as part of a recent SDxCentral report on container and cloud orchestration, 64 percent of respondents said they were using Kubernetes, 36 percent said they were using Docker Swarm, and 18 percent said they were using Apache Mesos. Those surveyed were allowed to select multiple answers.
“It’s a significant announcement, primarily because of the growing role of containers and Kubernetes in particular, and that’s really the ‘aha’ in this,” said David Smith, analyst at Gartner, on AWS and Microsoft joining CNCF. “It’s one of those things that was inevitable. It just made sense that they would eventually join…It’s a big win for CNCF, for open source, and for Kubernetes.”
Clifford Grossner, senior research director at IHS Markit, concurred on the positive impact for CNCF in gaining Microsoft and AWS as members. More importantly, he said it adds to the momentum behind Kubernetes.
“I see more widespread adoption of Kubernetes, and from discussions I have had think Kubernetes has made a lot of progress,” said Grossner, adding that the moves could reinforce the notion of Kubernetes as being the “de facto” standard in terms of container orchestration.
“Choice and competition in the market is a good thing for innovation, and I think we have seen that in regards to container orchestrators,” Grossner said. “But, that’s a fine balancing act. Sometimes too many choices can hinder progress…I think in terms of support behind Kubernetes we are seeing both progress and innovation.”
Another example of the pull Kubernetes and CNCF is having in the cloud space is Juniper Networks looking to expand its reach into the community.
Randy Bias, vice president of technology and strategy for cloud software at Juniper, said the company is attempting to get its OpenContrail platform adopted into CNCF. OpenContrail is an open source software-defined networking (SDN) controller.
“It’s been clear to us for the past year that Kubernetes is winning in the market and we want to bet on that,” Bias said. “We think it’s a real community and primed to succeed in ways other have not. A lot of people in OpenContrail are excited about CNCF.”
In making the move closer towards the open source community, Bias said it would allow Juniper to play in a much bigger ecosystem.
“We are moving from being in a pond to a lake to an ocean,” Bias said. “That’s where the opportunity lies. We realize if we are successful we will be a bigger fish in a bigger ocean.”
Despite the size and potential influence Microsoft and AWS could bring to the CNCF community, the organization looks prepared to handle the challenge.
Kohn explained CNCF has been very focused on ensuring that all members are properly represented within the rapidly expanding organization.
“The biggest thing we have going for us is that we have come latest,” Kohn said. “We have been able to learn from others and our aspirations have been to make new mistakes instead of replicating past mistakes.”
As an example of that focus, Kohn said CNCF has a technical oversight committee that is the only place where decisions are made in terms of letting in new projects. That committee is separate from CNCF’s governing board that includes member representation and accompanying funding.
Kohn also said CNCF requires each of the projects to have a neutral governance process.
“We are very comfortable that each project is run independently,” Kohn said. “We provide a set of services to those projects, but to the highest degree possible we don’t try to govern those projects.”
Juniper’s Bias noted this governance model should allow CNCF to forge a stronger growth path.
“We have heard concerns about larger members in CNCF, and I think it’s mistaken,” Bias said. “They are taking what happened to OpenStack and extrapolating that into CNCF, and that’s just not true.”
Bias’ citing of OpenStack has historical significance. He founded OpenStack startup Cloudscaling years before the OpenStack Foundation was formed and was also the inaugural director of the newly formed OpenStack Foundation in 2012.
While OpenStack was and remains crucial to industry SDN efforts, the organization has been tagged as of late for failing to live up to its potential.
A number of carriers that jumped in early on using OpenStack for their SDN plans, are now seeing the vendor community unable to provide the needed solutions.
Bias placed some of the blame for OpenStack’s issues on its inability to deal with the differing needs of some of its larger members.
“OpenStack suffered from many other problems and still does today,” Bias said “A lot of those problems should have been solved.”
Countering what the OpenStack community attempted to do, Bias said CNCF allows for more leeway in vendors adding on top of products and letting the community decide their usefulness.
“They can live or die on their own merits,” Bias explained. “The OpenStack community artificially propped up platforms that were dying.”
Kohn admits Kubernetes has been on an explosive growth trajectory. Managing that growth could prove to be the organizations biggest achievement.