Apparently it’s difficult to come up with a catchy name for a new product or platform, particularly if you are in tech-heavy industries like the cloud and virtualization space.
But, is it really that hard?
That question has been slowly circulating in my mind over the past few weeks, prompted by the recent launch of the Knative platform. The platform was developed by Google, Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP as a way to manage serverless deployments on top of Kubernetes.
With all of those companies and leading-edge technologies involved you would think that there would be dozens (hundreds?) of great names to choose from. And perhaps there were.
Knative was not one of them.
It’s not that I don’t understand the thinking behind the spelling of the name. Using the “K” makes sense because the platform is based on Kubernetes. And, with nearly every cloud provider ditching any reference to the letter “C” for “containers” in their nomenclature for the Kubernetes “K,” why not keep the ball running.
And the “native” part has an angle as well with this serverless platform built natively onto Kubernetes.
Knative is actually sort of clever.
But why pick a name with an unclear pronunciation that forces everyone that isn’t from one of the companies directly involved in creating the platform to question if they are saying it correctly?
It’s so unclear that the Knative GitHub page begins with a pronunciation guide.
(I am going to assume that every employee from Google, Pivotal, IBM, Red Hat, and SAP that mispronounces Knative has to put a dollar in some jar as an incentive to get the pronunciation correct.)
Some people I have talked to said that the initial pronunciation plan was to make the “K” silent and just say “native.” That would have been a nice way to keep conversations flowing. But cooler heads prevailed and they went the three-syllable Kay-native pronunciation route.
More Is Better
Sure, Knative is a vocal disaster, but it’s nothing compared to what Red Hat recently did to its OpenShift Origin platform.
As part of the general availability release of the OpenShift 3.10 platform, Red Hat decided to tack a whole sentence onto the name: “The Origin community distribution of Kubernetes that powers Red Hat OpenShift.”
Sort of rolls off the tongue. And would look great on a t-shirt.
Red Hat said that the move allows the platform “to better represent who we are today, and who we’ll be tomorrow.” I guess we can assume that Red Hat is a company that bought letters in bulk.
Red Hat does offer up “OKD” as the abbreviated version of the new naming architecture, but I think that’s a copout and hope that the full name is the one used by everyone all the time when talking about the platform.
Random person speaking to me: Have you heard about OKD?
Me: (Looking quizzical)
Random person speaking to me: You know, Red Hat’s open source upstream project for its OpenShift platform?
Me: Oh, you mean the origin community distribution of Kubernetes that powers Red Hat OpenShift. Yes, I have heard of the origin community distribution of Kubernetes that powers Red Hat OpenShift. What part of the origin community distribution of Kubernetes that powers Red Hat OpenShift would you like to talk about?
Random person no longer speaking to me: (Running away)
These naming challenges are nothing new. You can look through the SDxCentral news archives and see dozens (hundreds?) of company names that make no sense or are difficult to pronounce. (Though the best ones are the ones that both make no sense and are difficult to pronounce.)
I also remember from my old days of covering the wireless telecom space trying to initially figure out what a “Verizon” or “Cingular” was/were/is. Eventually it did not really matter and today those names have melded into normal conversation.
Perhaps that will be the case for at least one of the two examples I noted above. But I also hope this is not the end of naming disasters. Because what’s the use of a cool technology name if everyone can pronounce it?