PHILADELPHIA – An interesting side topic at this week’s Cloud Foundry Foundation Summit is the growing influence Knative could have on Cloud Foundry’s future. Most agreed that it was still in the early days for the Kubernetes-based serverless platform, but some noted that it could follow Kubernetes in shaping how Cloud Foundry evolves.
That influence was highlighted by a panel at this week’s event that had an intriguing title – “Knative vs. Cloud Foundry: Where are the Overlaps and What are the Differences?” The session laid out how the two platforms compared across a handful of deployment scenarios, including managing, debugging, and their enterprise readiness.
The presenters half-joked that since this was a Cloud Foundry Foundation event, it was obvious that Cloud Foundry would score more “points,” which it did, but they also noted that Knative provided a compelling option despite its youth.
“In less than a year, here is a new PaaS [platform-as-a-service] with really cool features and nearly matching what we have with Cloud Foundry,” said Michael Maximilien, CTO of cloud advocacy at IBM, and one of the panel moderators.
Google unveiled Knative last July with a focus on using Kubernetes as a bridge between enterprises and serverless deployments. Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP were all also part of the Knative development process.
Knative is an open source set of components that allows for the building and deployment of container-based serverless applications that can be transported between cloud providers. Basically Knative is using the market momentum behind Kubernetes to provide an established platform on which to support serverless deployments that can run across different public clouds. It can act as the “infrastructure” layer for the deployment of functions-as-a-service (FaaS) similar to how Kubernetes is being used as the infrastructure layer for broader network applications.
“People are trying to figure out what to do with Knative at this point,” said Troy Topnik, senior product manager for SUSE’s Cloud Application Platform, at this week’s Cloud Foundry Foundation event. “It’s an interesting build block platform like Kubernetes.”
Knative also plays into the growing use of Istio and Envoy as service mesh and sidecar connections into Cloud Foundry deployments. Both platforms have been heavily referenced at the Cloud Foundry Foundation event.
“Knative could be the next step in stripping away abstraction and going more direct to the developer,” said Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers. “Knative is not a FaaS, but its tooling presumes Kubernetes and Istio to build FaaS.”
While Cloud Foundry just this week moved closer to Kubernetes by touting the progress of the Eirini Project, Topnik said that it could make sense for Cloud Foundry to become cozier with Knative.
“How far are we as Cloud Foundry from being a serverless platform? Perhaps Cloud Foundry could end up being built on top of Knative instead of just Kubernetes,” Topnik said.
Not so FaaSt
While Knative appears to have plenty of positive momentum, most noted that it was still very early in the game. The platform itself has only recently hit its version 0.5 release. But, the Knative community recently stated that it was looking to have new release versions based on a six-week cycle.
“Knative is not nearly as far along as some people think it is,” Topnik said. “It’s an excellent tool kit to build on Kubernetes, but it still needs a lot of work.”
Topnik said one of the keys to serverless is its ability to scale rapidly to zero on demand. This means that when not being used, serverless-based applications do not need resources, which can cut down on costs and energy consumption. However, there is a slight performance penalty at start up as that application needs to begin from zero.
“Our customers want FaaS and also want some advice on which FaaS platform to use,” Topnik said. “We, in turn as a vendor, want to support an option that provides the most options.”