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Container Self-Driving Technology Gets Turbo-Charged in Tectonic

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted March 30, 2017


Google has been busy over the last few years working on self-driving cars, and the attraction of them is obvious: imagine a stress-free journey where you get into a Google vehicle and relax while it takes care of your safety and gets you to where you want to be.

But cars are not the only self-driving technologies Google is connected to. There's also Kubernetes, the open source container management system that was originally designed by Google (and subsequently donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation).Virtually Speaking

This probably needs a little deeper explanation, so here goes. CoreOS, a container software company, has built a commercial container management system called Tectonic on top of Kubernetes. The open source software sits at the heart, with CoreOS's proprietary software wrapped around it.

And one of the things Tectonic delivers is pure un-patched upstream Kubernetes with what the company is calling self-driving capabilities.

In this context this means Kubernetes automatically updates itself with the latest patches, upgrades and vulnerability responses. That way users can be sure they have the most up-to -date, secure version of Kubernetes running in production.

This may scare some people — just like taking your hands of the wheel and letting a car do the driving is undoubtedly unnerving — and CoreOS is aware of this. "Like the self-driving features of a modern car, we have made the functionality available as an option," said Alex Polvi, CoreOS's CEO. "It is available today in CoreOS Tectonic as a preview feature that can be enabled using an install option."

Tectonic Self-Driving Will Now Automatically Update to All Future Versions of Kubernetes

When the self-driving feature was first announced in December it had limited ability to upgrade the underlying version of Kubernetes, but with the latest release of Tectonic (which arrived on January 31), it can automatically update to all future versions of Kubernetes.

And in the near future the company promises to be able to update not just Kubernetes but also etcd and third party add-ons like the open source monitoring system Prometheus, and Dex, CoreOS's open source standards-based identity provider and authentication solution.

Tectonic Now Free to Use?

While Kubernetes is free (as in speech) open-source software, Tectonic is not. But with the latest release, CoreOS has announced that Tectonic is free, as in beer, to use with up to ten nodes for anyone to try out. Along with the most current release of Kubernetes, Tectonic also includes installers to help users get up and running quickly, a console to visually investigate clusters, and security features to allow integration with existing security frameworks.

One more change that's been going on at CoreOS is in the naming of its operating system. The company offers an open-source, ultra-lightweight version of Linux, designed for containers, which it called CoreOS Linux. But now, ostensibly to differentiate the operating system from the name of the company, CoreOS has changed the name of CoreOS Linux to Container Linux.

That's a much better name in that it does exactly what it says on the tin, even if it shows a remarkable amount of chutzpah — implying, as it does, that it is the "official" operating system of containers. But then CoreOS has never been short of chutzpah, and it's a trait that continues to suit the company rather well.


Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.

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