Kubernetes entered the year as a sound alternative to the more established container orchestrators like Docker Swarm and Mesos. However, by mid-year, Kubernetes conquered those other options — at least in terms of mindshare among the container stakeholders.
The Kubernetes community did its part, running out a new iteration of the platform every quarter like clockwork. The latest launched in mid-December.
While it seemed by year-end that nearly everyone involved in the cloud ecosystem had to at least mention Kubernetes as part of their roadmap, a handful of significant announcements added real heat to the market.
Mesos, Docker Admit the Inevitable
At its highest level, Kubernetes is a container orchestrator. However, it was not the first. Both Mesosphere and Docker Inc. have been offering their own container orchestrators for years, and with great success.
But both companies within a month of each other announced plans to add Kubernetes support within their container ecosystems.
Mesos was the first to officially throw its arms around Kubernetes, announcing in September support for the container orchestrator alongside its Marathon product. The move allows users of Mesosphere’s DC/OS container platform to install, scale, and upgrade multiple production-grade Kubernetes clusters.
Mesosphere CTO Tobi Knaup said the move to add Kubernetes support was about offering its customers more choices in terms of their container orchestration needs.
“It’s important for us to understand our target customers are usually the operations teams,” Knaup said. “These folks offer platforms for all the developers at a company, sometimes serving up to 10,000 developers. They use a variety of software and can’t be limited to one option. Choice is very important.”
Edwin Yuen, analyst at Enterprise Strategy Group, echoed the sentiment, noting customer demand was increasing.
“I think this is continued strong momentum for [Kubernetes], as a vendor with a container management system in Marathon is now listening to customers asking for [Kubernetes] support also,” said Yuen. “We are seeing not only the strengthening of [Kubernetes’] position within the container community, but a realization from vendors and users that [Kubernetes] itself needs additional levels of management and support.”
Docker Inc. followed suit, adding native Kubernetes support within its Docker Enterprise Edition framework and alongside its own Swarm product. Docker EE had previously allowed customers to use Kubernetes as their container orchestrator, but it was not part of the embedded code.
Banjot Chanana, senior director of product management at Docker Inc., said the move was made to satisfy customer requests.
“This is really about having to choose an orchestrator off the table,” Chanana said. “The container space has been evolving for some time and changing a lot over the past few years. For enterprises that need the value of Kubernetes or just said they wanted the opportunity to choose and not be tied to a specific vendor, this makes sense.”
“We were hearing from customers that Kubernetes support was what they wanted,” said Sheng Liang, CEO and co-founder of Rancher Labs. “This request was a lot more than what we were hearing for Mesos or Swarm.”
AWS CEO Andy Jassy made the announcement during the company’s re:Invent 2017 show. He explained that the (catch your breath) Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) would ease the running of Kubernetes on top of AWS.
AWS had been setting the stage for its Kubernetes move for several months. Reports surfaced over the summer that AWS was “feeling threatened” by Kubernetes’ popularity “and they don’t own it.”
Then in August, AWS joined CNCF as a platinum member, linking the move to the growing use of CNCF projects running on AWS.
Microsoft, Oracle Cloud
AWS cloud rivals Microsoft and Oracle applied further pressure by both announcing deeper Kubernetes integration into their respective cloud platforms.
Microsoft’s move pushed the container orchestrator to the front of the line in terms of preferred options for its hosted Azure Container Service. It also changed that platform’s acronym from ACS to AKS.
Oracle, which is a distant rival to both AWS and Microsoft in the public cloud space, integrated Kubernetes into its Oracle Linux platform. Oracle also open sourced its Terraform Kubernetes installer for Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.
What about Google and its cloud platform, GCP? Well, Kubernetes has been there for some time as the container orchestrator originated within Google.
While these announcements showed strong support behind Kubernetes in 2017, an interesting move from AT&T showed where the platform could be headed in the future.
The telecommunications giant said it plans to use Kubernetes for management and control over its next-generation AT&T Integrated Cloud (AIC) platform. That platform is expected to begin rolling out next year.
Ryan van Wyk, assistant vice president of cloud platform development at AT&T, said the move will add agility and remove cost from running the AIC platform. He touted a number of operational benefits by going with Kubernetes inside of AIC. These included faster deployment, lower costs, greater control, and higher quality.
“The target is for us to have our next-generation AIC that we deploy next year to leverage [Kubernetes] as a foundation of our platform,” van Wyk said. “For our future AIC deployments, both the OpenStack and non-OpenStack components that make up our cloud will run on top of Kubernetes. This is not just an experiment.”
AT&T currently counts more than 80 OpenStack-powered AIC “zones” around the world, with plans to have more than 100 zones by year-end.
It’s hard to imagine Kubernetes being able to keep up this sort of pace in 2018. But with seemingly endless momentum behind containers, why not?