Kubernetes may be all the rage among cloud providers and developers, but enterprises continue to struggle with the container orchestration platform. At least that is the vibe Dan Lahl, global vice president of product marketing for SAP Cloud Platform, said he has received from the company’s customers.
“From the companies we have talked to there is massive confusion when it comes to Kubernetes,” Lahl said, adding that the platform is still a “three-star wizard to figure out.”
Lahl said that SAP is a big proponent of Kubernetes, but that the ecosystem has so far failed to take into account the specific needs of large corporations.
“These massive companies have a huge backlog of equipment, integration work, and development teams, but are looking for clarity and for vendors to help them,” Lahl said. “They want to make this transition, but are just overwhelmed.”
Enterprises have historically had multi-year purchase cycles that while woefully outdated still exist. For these companies to even move from a three-year cycle in procuring networking equipment and software to a one-year cycle is a monumental task. Unfortunately for them the Kubernetes ecosystem is currently on a pace to deploy new updates every quarter.
“Enterprises, even the most forward-looking, are somewhat conservative – and as such are generally going to be running at least one release behind (in areas such as operating systems we frequently see upgrades, beyond security patches, running out at least 18 months and beyond),” noted RedMonk analyst Fintan Ryan, in a blog post on the evolving container ecosystem.
Lahl said that getting organizations over that adoption barrier and becoming part of the “big bump” in the market will require a serious re-think of current efforts. He said this includes the need for further abstraction for developers.
“We want to abstract and go after the big bump in the market,” Lahl said. “The propeller heads are just a small part of the market.”
Lahl noted that this model is being used for the recently launched Knative project that is using Kubernetes as the basis for serverless deployments.
“I think that Knative is a good step in abstracting some of the primitives away for the developers,” Lahl said of the project that SAP was part of forming. “It really looks like a good way to make it easier for developers to build and deploy at scale.”
Is Cloud Foundry the Answer?
SAP is a board member at both the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which houses Kubernetes, and Cloud Foundry, which is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) that allows for the building of cloud native applications. Lahl said Cloud Foundry is great in dealing with mature platforms targeted at enterprise customers. And he has been touting the need for closer collaboration between the two platforms.
“Internally we need to keep pushing the communities to work together,” Lahl said. “I have seen what we are able to do as a large vendor and with large customers. We can move the needle.”
Lahl noted that SAP was working with both organizations on a couple of projects. One of those would be to alter Cloud Foundry so it can be built and run on top of Kubernetes. This is different from the current model that has the projects running side-by-side using the Bosh layer at Cloud Foundry.
“Having Cloud Foundry on top of Kubernetes as the orchestration piece and providing the deployment piece is important,” Lahl explained. “The lifecycle management developer experience can run through Cloud Foundry and that would provide some clarity for users.”
Bosh was originally developed by VMware to make it simpler to deploy a distributed system. Since then, Google and Pivotal, a VMware sister company that curates a distribution of the Cloud Foundry PaaS, developed a new platform as an extension of Bosh that can be used to deploy Kubernetes.
That new platform was Kubo, which last year was renamed Cloud Foundry Container Runtime (CFCR). It was also made the organization’s standard approach for deploying containers using Bosh and Kubernetes.
However, Chip Childers, CTO at the Cloud Foundry Foundation, indicated that the organization was working through gaining more confidence in the maturity and direction of Kubernetes and how it would fit into Cloud Foundry.
“We don’t chase the shiny ball,” Childers said, noting that the organization was more focused on only adding components that will help developers.
Lahl hopes one of those components will be Kubernetes.
“We still think those groups need to do a better job of interacting with each other,” Lahl said. “Instead of fighting over the application developer, those things have to come together.”
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