Serverless computing played an interesting subplot at the recent KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 event in Seattle, where a number of keynotes and panels were dedicated to the topic of how these systems will impact the evolution of cloud native.
Most of the attention, not surprisingly, centered on the Knative platform that relies on Kubernetes as an orchestration layer for serverless workloads. The platform was developed by Google, Pivotal, IBM, SAP, and Red Hat, and launched at the Google Next event in July.
Knative is an open source set of components that allows for the building and deployment of container-based serverless applications that can be transported between cloud providers. It’s focused on orchestrating source-to-container builds; routing and managing traffic during deployment; auto-scaling workloads; and binding services to event ecosystems.
It’s basically a way to use Kubernetes to liberate management of serverless platforms from specific cloud providers. Many of the current serverless platforms are based on and tied to a specific cloud platform, which can lead to vendor lock-in for an organization adopting one of those platforms. Those include AWS Lambda, Microsoft Azure Functions, and Google Cloud Functions. Knative can break this lock-in by providing a platform that can be accessed regardless of the underlying cloud.
“This portability is really important and what is behind the industry aligning behind Knative,” explained Aparna Sinha, group product manager for Kubernetes at Google, during her keynote address at the KubeCon event.
Jason McGee, vice president and CTO for IBM’s Cloud Platform, told attendees that Knative was an important project in unifying the dozens of serverless platforms that have flooded the market.
“That fragmentation, I think, holds us all back from being able to really leverage functions as part of the design of our applications,” McGee said during his keynote. “I think Knative is an important catalyst for helping us come together to bring functions and applications into our common cloud native stack in a way that will allow us to move forward and collaborate together on this common platform.”
He added that Knative also teaches Kubernetes how to deal with building and serving applications and functions, which makes it an important piece in the cloud native landscape.
Despite the growing hype, most also took time to mention that serverless platforms, and more specifically Knative itself, remain relatively immature. Modern serverless platforms themselves are less than five years old, and Knative only recently released its 0.2 version.
Dan Berg, a distinguished engineer at IBM’s Cloud Kubernetes Service, told SDxCentral in an interview that while interest around Knative has surpassed expectations, maturity of the platform remains a significant challenge to broader adoption.
“I think maturity is where Knative needs to really evolve over the next year,” Berg said. “The interest is there, but it’s just still too early.”
That maturation is expected, with some already predicting that Knative was in line to become the serverless platform of choice to run on Kubernetes.
“Knative will almost certainly become the standard plumbing for functions-as-a-service on Kubernetes,” wrote James Governor, analyst and co-founder at RedMonk, in a blog post shortly after the platform was announced.
Photo: Jason McGee, vice president and CTO for IBM’s Cloud Platform, during his keynote address at the recent KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 event in Seattle.