Rancher Labs’ break from Docker as the basis for its orchestration platform is now officially complete as the company has pushed availability of its Kubernetes-based 2.0 platform to all. Rancher Labs CEO Sheng Liang said the general availability launch followed more than a year of development and more than six months of public trials.
The company initially announced public plans to move away from Docker last September. At that time, Liang said the decision was based on customer demand.
“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.”
Shannon Williams, co-founder and VP at Rancher Labs, said the move has been well received by customers looking to expand Kubernetes use through their organization.
“Inbound interest has been very strong,” Williams said. “Companies are trying to figure out how to leverage the technology outside of pockets within their organization.”
The move also differentiates Rancher Labs from a company like Docker Inc., which while having recently added Kubernetes as a core component to its Enterprise Edition platform, is still heavily linked to its Swarm orchestrator.
“If you are still hedging or promoting your own stuff, it’s hard to justify that or tell your customers where they should go,” said Liang.
One area of competition that might prove more challenging are the enhanced platforms being offered by the market’s large cloud providers. Analysts have noted that many enterprises are more likely to take a fully managed container or Kubernetes platform from their cloud provider instead of trying to tie in a management layer from a separate distributor.
Liang acknowledged that cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud do offer appealing, single-source options. But, organizations continue to need options that allow pricing control and redundancy.
“Our customers today like Disney or Fidelity are not putting all of their eggs in one basket,” Liang said. He also cited as an example the recent move by Netflix, which has been a poster child for cloud through a deal with AWS, to work with Google on the Spinnaker open source project. Spinnaker is designed to help enterprises run applications in the public cloud.
Building a Car
Liang noted that beyond just breaking free from Docker, the key for Rancher Labs’ platform update was to make using Kubernetes as easy as possible for enterprises. That effort has been central to many distributors working with the container orchestrator.
“Just a couple of years ago, Kubernetes was very difficult to install,” Liang explained. “Just creating an installer was pretty lucrative. Customers were paying a lot of money, not just for a license but in just consulting. A lot of vendors got into that and there are now more than 50 certified Kubernetes distros.”
That glut led Liang to view the base future of Kubernetes as an as-a-service platform that could then be built out to support production environments.
“Wherever you can get infrastructure you will get Kubernetes. And we don’t see any long-term value in that,” Liang said. “But, after we had been doing Kubernetes for so long we figured out there was so much more needed to make it production ready. Kubernetes is like a great engine, but you need to build a car around it.”
The Rancher Labs platform allows management of Kubernetes clusters under a single Rancher instance. This includes management of Kubernetes distributors and clusters on all clouds.
The platform includes three main components: the Rancher Kubernetes Engine, which is a Kubernetes distribution that can be deployed across any cloud or on-premises environment; a unified cluster management tool that is the centralized management platform to enforce security and administrative policies; and an application workload management interface for Kubernetes that includes an application catalog, monitoring, alerting, log aggregation, and integrated CI/CD pipelines.
Enterprises can use the platform as a central point of control and then parse out the use of Kubernetes on an as-a-service model. That central point of control also allows for a consistent security policy to be implemented across an organization.
The Kubernetes management also uses 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.
Like many Kubernetes distributors, Rancher Labs is offering free access to the basic platform. Enterprises looking for a level of support can sign up for a paid upgrade.