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Google Kubernetes Container Orchestration System Gaining Steam

By Paul Rubens (Send Email)
Posted October 30, 2015

The muttering about Google's Kubernetes container orchestration system has been getting louder over the last few months, and now the noise surrounding the project is becoming deafening.

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Why? Because it is rapidly becoming a key part of the container ecosystem. Virtually Speaking

Back in June, Google announced that it was joining the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), an open source collaborative project run under the auspices of the Linux Foundation. Its aim, in Google's words, is to "work with open source and partner communities to manage future development of Kubernetes, and to build new software that makes the entire container toolset more robust."

There's a pretty distinguished group of companies in the CNCF, including Cisco, Docker, server virtualization technology leader VMware, IBM and others.

One of the main points of a software foundation is it serves as an independent entity that can take ownership of intellectual property contributed by large organizations. The idea is that these organizations, which may compete commercially, are more likely to contribute to open source projects if the project comes under the auspices of a neutral foundation rather than being owned or managed by a competitor.

Anything that fosters the development of Kubernetes is probably good news for the container community, and the fruits of collaboration are rapidly becoming evident. Toward the end of July Google announced — on behalf of the community, it should be added — that Kubernetes has finally reached the v1 milestone.

Thanks to four hundred contributors, the software is now officially ready for production use in public and private clouds, according to the company. Companies already running portions of their infrastructure in private clouds using Kubernetes include Box, eBay and Red Hat.

Kubernetes will be a key building block of commercial container management systems going forward. For example, CoreOS will soon be offering a container infrastructure management system called Tectonic, which is built on Kubernetes. The company is currently running a free open preview of Tectonic before it goes on to general availability.

Kubernetes Productized in Google's Container Engine

And Kubernetes will be productized commercially by Google in its Google Container Engine, which is available in general release today as a free trial, with billing starting on November 1st.

From that date the service will still be free for clusters of up to five nodes. Clusters of six or more nodes will be charged at 0.15c per hour per cluster.

Google Container Engine allows companies to run applications in containers on Google's public Cloud Platform, creating a managed cluster that's ready for container deployment in a few clicks. Clusters are equipped with capabilities such as logging and container health checking, providing insight into how well an application is running. Container Engine also makes it easy to resize the cluster with more CPU or memory as an application's needs change.

"Container Engine schedules your containers into your cluster and manages them automatically, based on requirements that you declare," says Google. "Simply define your containers' needs, such as the amount of CPU/memory to reserve, number of replicas, and keepalive policy, and Container Engine will actively ensure requirements are met."

Even though Google wraps Kubernetes up in Container Engine, the company promises that container apps won't be trapped in Google's public cloud platform. That's precisely because Kubernetes is being integrated into the platforms of many other vendors — including Red Hat, Microsoft, IBM, OpenStack and VMware. And that means it will be possible to move workloads and take advantage of multiple public cloud providers easily, Google claims.

Overall, it appears to be a very healthy situation and one that is almost a textbook case study for open source projects: let the whole community collaborate on the vital stuff that goes under the hood, and let commercial organizations compete by adding different software and services to complement it and build it out into an enterprise-ready offering.

That way everyone wins, and the container software ecosystem goes from strong to even stronger.

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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