It’s hard to believe that the container orchestration platform Kubernetes is just over three years old. Since it was initially started within Google in mid-2014, the now open source project has become the leading orchestration platform for the burgeoning container space.
Just this week, the Kubernetes project unveiled its latest 1.8 iteration. As part of the launch, the Kubernetes team highlighted a recent survey from RedMonk that showed 54 percent of Fortune 100 companies were running the platform “in some form.” Containers in general were being used by 71 percent of those companies surveyed.
Before Kubernetes became a household name – at least within container households – it was led by a small number of Google engineers, including Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda. Prior to their work on Kubernetes, McLuckie and Beda also worked to create Google’s Compute Engine (GKE).
Kubernetes was the first pet project taken under the wing of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) when it formed in mid-2015. The container orchestration platform was donated by Google to CNCF, having emerged from Google’s Borg project.
Beda and McLuckie eventually left Google, and last year teamed up to form Heptio. The company was launched under the guise of making Kubernetes more accessible to developers running apps on-premises or in the public cloud.
Heptio has since launched a handful of projects targeted at that goal, including the most recent unveiling of its Sonobuoy Scanner. The product is a web-based tool designed to ensure Kubernetes clusters are properly configured.
The firm last month closed on its latest funding round, pocketing $25 million to add to the $8.5 million it attracted in its initial round of financing.
Beda, who serves as CTO at Heptio, recently provided insight into how the company participates in the Kubernetes ecosystem. He also gave his views on the evolution of the container orchestration platform and challenges facing ongoing development and adoption of the platform.
What is Heptio, and where does it play in the container ecosystem?
Beda: Craig McLuckie and I founded Heptio in October 2016 to make it easier for businesses to use Kubernetes and related cloud native technologies. The company’s training, support, and professional services speed integration of Kubernetes and related technologies into the fabric of enterprise IT, while its products reduce the cost and complexity of running these systems in production environments. Beyond this, we are committed to investing in and contributing to the open source community to ensure long-term health of the project.
What’s your view on the evolution of the ecosystem?
Beda: It has been amazing to see the growth of and excitement in Kubernetes. Moving forward, the key thing, in my mind, is around responsible growth and stewardship of the project. As a leader on the project, I’m focused on solidifying the boundaries of what is part of the Kubernetes project and creating opportunities for folks to innovate in the larger ecosystem.
Have you been surprised by the rate of Kubernetes adoption?
Beda: For sure, when we started the project we hoped it would be popular. We knew from our experience at Google that there was a different way to go about packaging, describing, and managing applications. This experience weighed heavily as we first defined the core concepts and abstractions. But there was no guarantee that the things that worked inside of Google would apply to a wider audience. It is gratifying to see that we hit the mark and, with the Kubernetes community, were able to build something that looks like it’ll be around for a while.
What are some of the bigger challenges facing the ongoing evolution and adoption of Kubernetes?
Beda: I’m thinking about this from three different directions.
First off, I think that from a Kubernetes project point of view we need to get good governance of the project established and continue to invest in making the developer community function well. This is happening now with the current election of the Kubernetes Steering Committee. As we’ve grown and the project has changed, we need to make sure that the way we run the project gets better.
Second, from the point of view of a cluster operator we need to make it easier to install, upgrade, troubleshoot, backup, and secure your cluster. These issues face folks no matter where they run. Hosted services like Google Container Engine (GKE) or Azure Container Service (ACS) will help users in many situations, but the promise of Kubernetes is that it can run anywhere. We need to continue to invest to make that true.
Finally, we need to continue to invest in making Kubernetes easier and more approachable from the point of view of a user of a cluster. This includes making it easier to understand the core concepts; making it so that users don’t have to know all of those concepts to get going; making it easier to create and manage the configuration (the ‘wall of YAML’ problem); and guide users to creating a whole solution to their problems versus just concentrating on Kubernetes.
This is going to be a long journey but, thankfully, we have a lot of people across the Kubernetes community that are working on these problems.
How do you view the current management of Kubernetes within the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)?
Beda: Kubernetes is a relatively independently run project. There is some great support coming from the CNCF around making sure the Kubernetes project has the resources it needs to fulfill its mission. The day-to-day governance of the project (how code gets submitted, architectural decisions, defining conformance) is all being driven from within the Kubernetes community itself with a big emphasis on ‘project before company.’
What impact do you expect from the recent number of large cloud providers into the ecosystem?
Beda: It is exciting to see so many big cloud providers getting involved. We welcome and look forward to them rolling up their sleeves and helping make Kubernetes better. From a Kubernetes community point of view, we’ll be looking for them to not only make Kubernetes work with their proprietary products but also invest in the core project. We are just at the start of their involvement, so we’ll be watching that commitment very carefully.
What are some of the bigger challenges facing the broader container market?
Beda: Across the container and cloud native market I think the biggest challenge that we face is making this technology accessible to a much wider set of users. We need to do that by focusing on solving problems versus focusing on any single technology. Beyond that, I think that there are challenges in balancing investment in open source products versus building products to sell and support a company.