OpenStack Startup Platform9 Delivers Managed Kubernetes Service

Platform9, a startup founded by a group of former VMware engineers, on Tuesday added a managed Kubernetes service to complement its existing OpenStack product.

The Sunnyvale, Calif.-based company delivers the Linux container orchestration technology, first developed at Google, through a Software-as-a-Service model, much like it does with the OpenStack cloud operating system. The Kubernetes product was first introduced at last year's DockerCon.

The new offering puts in the hands of partners a portable, turnkey solution for deploying the container technology that's often hampered in the channel by its operational complexity, said Sirish Raghuram, Platform9's CEO.

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While OpenStack and VMware solutions are popular among tech companies and retailers that run virtualized workloads, applications built in the last year, or that will be built in the next, are often taking advantage of containers for their scalability, fault-tolerance and cost reductions, Raghuram said.

Many existing and net-new Platform9 customers are looking to run container deployments side-by-side with OpenStack virtual machines, he said.

"OpenStack and Kubernetes are similar in some ways," Raghuram told CRN. "Both are distributed systems with a large community of developers, which means new challenges for IT operations that want to run them."

Enterprise IT teams have "never had to manage distributed systems like these. Upgrading, troubleshooting, monitoring and hardening tends to be a lot of work. Not everybody has Google engineers."

Platform9's Kubernetes product, in fact, feels very similar to Google Container Engine, which is a fully-managed container orchestration service. While Google offers "one of the best implementations of Kubernetes out there," Raghuram said, it only runs on Google's cloud.

The Platform9 offering is "exactly like Google Container Engine, but works for any infrastructure or cloud of the customer's choice, decoupling from underlying infrastructure." That includes on-premises infrastructure and other cloud providers like Amazon Web Services, enabling a multi-cloud strategy.

A close integration with AWS is already available that takes advantage of native capabilities like auto-scaling and load balancing, with work underway for Microsoft Azure and Google Cloud Platform.

Platform9 launched a channel recently, and partners can now take advantage of the technology to expand their container practices, Raghuram said.

"Partners often don’t have the skills to deploy Kubernetes on their own," he said. For that reason, to avoid the hassle, they turn to the public cloud for container projects, even when it makes more sense for the customer to scale on-premises.

"This allows partners to close a gap in the portfolio and expand the portfolio, but also fundamentally sell a value proposition to the customer, because in data centers they can reduce costs and improve the solutions," Raghuram said.

Jon Keller, field CTO for Technologent, an Irvine, Calif.-based systems integrator, told CRN that his company has been building a cloud practice for the last few years, and through Platform9's products, has been able to sell customers on complex but powerful open source technologies.

Looking to enable DevOps teams and deliver the experience of public clouds in on-premises environments, Technologent explored many solutions: Cisco OpenStack products like MetaPod and MetaCloud and other implementations of OpenStack, as well as Docker and Kubernetes.

But those products were too much for their clients' IT teams to keep up with, Keller said.

"You got to basically hit the ground running and have something you know is supported and trusted and isn't going to break," he said.

Platform9's OpenStack and Kubernetes solutions give customers "peace of mind the different pieces that need to work together are taken care of a company of experts," he said.

"Customers didn't have OpenStack expertise, they knew they wanted it," Keller said. "Kubernetes is the same. It's such a good fit because they literally aren't going to be able to hire enough people to do it themselves."