The company, which builds open source software to deploy and manage containers in production, is replacing Docker with Kubernetes as the basis for its Rancher 2.0 container management platform. Rancher Labs’ 1.0 platform was based on Docker, with the company citing more than 10,000 Docker clusters powered by the initial version. Those clusters included more than 1,000 based on Kubernetes.
Sheng Liang, CEO and co-founder of Rancher Labs, explained that moving forward all clusters created by the Rancher platform would be based on Kubernetes.
“We were hearing from customers that Kubernetes support was what they wanted,” Liang said. “This request was a lot more than what we were hearing for Mesos or [Docker] Swarm.”
This demand is also being seen by the vendor community, with an increasing number of players adopting Kubernetes into their platforms.
“What’s really happening is that Kubernetes is being offered as infrastructure by everyone,” Liang said. “VMware, Microsoft, Google, they are all using Kubernetes. And now with AWS [Amazon Web Services], it’s just getting easier to use.”
The 2.0 platform, which is now available for technical preview, allows management of Kubernetes clusters under a single Rancher instance. This includes instances created in the Rancher platform and those imported from existing clusters created in hosted container services like Google Container Engine (GKE).
Kubernetes management is helped by the use of role based access control (RBAC) capabilities to provide shared cluster and host access to users. Rancher Labs also expanded its catalog to support Docker Compose, Kubernetes templates, and Helm charts to provide access to more containerized applications.
To differentiate itself, Liang said Rancher Labs is focused on providing additional capabilities on top of Kubernetes to make it easier to deploy and manage.
“The value of a pure distribution will be minimized without additional capabilities,” Liang said. “It’s much better to add value on top of Kubernetes to stand out.”
As Easy As Docker
While it might be ditching Docker as its main container orchestration platform, Rancher Labs is not throwing out the baby with the bath water.
“The challenge was in how do we make Kubernetes as easy as Docker,” Liang said. “Users don’t even have to learn Kubernetes. If they know containers, then they can use Rancher and get apps running.”
This extensibility was important, as Liang explained many large enterprises have only recently become familiar and comfortable with Docker as their container platform of choice.
“In large enterprises, many are still more used to Docker, and Docker is very simple,” Liang said. “Rancher is exactly what bridges the knowledge gap. Anyone with a basic knowledge of Docker can get going without need to read any documentation.”
That enterprise affinity for Docker can be linked in part to its perceived superior security architecture compared with other container orchestration platforms. At the recent Black Hat USA event, one presenter said Docker’s Swarm was the “gold standard in orchestration security” due to the tightness of the default settings.
Liang said he thinks the Kubernetes ecosystem has made up a lot of ground around security when compared to Swarm, with ongoing development expected to continue improving the breed.
Rancher Labs earlier this year scored an international deal to support NTT Group’s plans to provide container services to enterprise customers in Japan. Rancher Labs is supplying its container management expertise and technical assistance, and noted this was its first managed service provider licensing model to a cloud service provider in Japan.