Container Commotion: 6 Hot New Products Aimed At Capitalizing On The Kubernetes Juggernaut

The Kubernetes Juggernaut

Just in the past two months, several enterprise software powerhouses and closely watched startups have introduced container management platforms that go further in embracing Kubernetes as the technology powering their underlying cluster orchestration layer.

The industry is clearly standardizing on Kubernetes, an open-source project stemming from Google's internal Borg container scheduling system. Google open-sourced the highly developed, battle-tested technology four years ago, just as application containers were gaining steam thanks to Docker's container runtime.

Rival orchestrators, most prominently Docker Swarm and Mesos, still are commonly used in production environments and have their share of boosters. But these six new products illustrate Kubernetes is clearly winning the day and evolving into de facto standard infrastructure for the container stack.

Microsoft AKS

Microsoft escalated an intense battle among cloud providers this week with the introduction of an entirely managed Kubernetes service aimed at saving customers both operational headaches and money.

AKS (Azure Container Service), released in preview, delivers the popular container orchestration technology with a simplified user interface and hosted control plane. Clusters are self-healing and the software automatically upgrades, Brendan Burns, a distinguished engineer at Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft, said in a webcast presenting the new offering.

AKS builds off Azure's existing ACS (also Azure Container Service) without charging for the new management functionality, said Burns, who previously led efforts to develop Kubernetes when he worked at Google.

Docker Enterprise Edition

Docker, in a highly revealing move, introduced a comprehensive integration of Kubernetes into its enterprise container management platform to simplify adoption of the orchestration technology for its customers.

The new native functionality of Docker Enterprise Edition, Docker's commercial Containers-as-a-Service product, tackles deployment and management of an orchestrator for containers that's commonly considered a rival to Docker's own.

Docker founder and CTO Solomon Hykes announced his company's embrace of Kubernetes in kicking off the DockerCon Europe conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, in October.

Docker offers an alternative to Kubernetes in Docker Swarm and had previously done little to support Kubernetes. However, the San Francisco-based startup that reinvigorated application containers never saw the Swarm and Kubernetes orchestration technologies as competitive, according to Banjot Chanana, Docker's director of product management.

Mirantis Cloud Platform

Mirantis, once a pure-play OpenStack vendor, took its first step out of the data center in September by leveraging investments in Kubernetes to stretch into the public cloud.

The latest version of Mirantis Cloud Platform, which offers an integrated container management service, will allow users to provision Kubernetes clusters both on their private infrastructure and in Amazon Web Services.

"It's kind of a big deal for us because it marks the first thing ever we're doing as a company not just focused on-premises but extending also into the public cloud," Boris Renski, the company's co-founder and chief marketing officer, told CRN.

The embrace of container tech, and now the public cloud, is part of the Mountain View, Calif.-based startup's transformation from being an OpenStack company to an open cloud company, Renski said.

Pivotal, Google, VMware PKS

VMware and Pivotal Software teamed with Google Cloud to develop technology that will offer Kubernetes containers as a service at massive scale.

The new Pivotal Container Service, PKS, was presented to partners at the VMworld 2017 conference at the end of August. The container solution will bring enterprises and service providers production-ready Kubernetes on VMware vSphere and Google Cloud Platform.

The service, initially targeted at the largest enterprises, is a commercial release of the open-source Kubo project the companies launched in March.

PKS is slated to be available starting in the fourth quarter. It is expected to ship as a stand-alone product that can integrate with Pivotal Cloud Foundry and VMware's software-defined data center infrastructure.

Rancher 2.0

Rancher Labs, a prominent containe tech startup, released the technical preview late September of its first major release to entirely commit to Kubernetes as the container orchestration platform of the future.

Rancher 2.0 enables management of clusters orchestrated by different Kubernetes distributions across on-premises and cloud environments, while scrapping native support for other orchestrators. Previous versions of the open-source management technology only supported Rancher's Kubernetes distribution.

"Kubernetes has clearly won the orchestration battle. It's clearly the orchestrator of choice for most users, so it really made sense for us to build a product on Kubernetes," Sheng Liang, founder and CEO of the Cupertino, Calif.-based company, told CRN.

CoreOS Tectonic

CoreOS introduced its commercial Kubernetes platform, Tectonic, to Microsoft's Azure Cloud in August. Tectonic automates many processes involved with running the open-source container orchestration technology.

Azure is a "new stable platform" in addition to Amazon Web Services and bare metal, offering enterprises another "clean on-ramp into containers and Kubernetes," Rob Szumski, product manager for Tectonic, told CRN.

CoreOS has played a major role in the advent of container technology. The San Francisco-based lightweight Linux developer was first to release a commercial distribution of Kubernetes, and it also offers its own container standard, called Rocket, as an alternative to the almost universally adopted Docker runtime.