IBM, Microsoft And Red Hat Back Google Kubernetes Container Project

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Big players commit to Google’s Kubernetes scheme for open source container management, taking virtualisation up a level

Giant partners have jumped on board a Google project for “containerisation“, where applications are virtualised, removing the overhead of virtual machines. With Red Hat, Microsoft and IBM signed up, Google’s Kubernetes project for managing and deploying containers, may eventually compete with approaches such as vSphere.

Google has been testing the Docker open source container technology in its Compute Engine cloud services, and last month announced Kubernetes (meaning “pilot”) as a way to manage containers. It’s an open source project, and has a list of supporters which includes the open source pioneers from Docker and CoreOS, as well as the big players, according to a notice on Google’s cloud platform blog on Thursday.

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“Kubernetes was built from the ground up as a lean, extensible and portable framework for managing Docker workloads,” says Google vice president Urs Hoble on the Google blog. “It lets customers manage their applications the way that Google manages hyper-scale applications like Search and Gmail.”

Linux containers run applications in their own separate sandbox, sharing an underlying operating system, instead of running each one in its own virtual machine (VM) which provides all the functions of a server and imposes a higher overhead on the system.

In some ways, containers resemble a software equivalent of the stripped down white-label hardware that Google and others have made by third parties, and that the Facebook-backed Open Compute project is making available more widely. They do specific jobs and have no frills.

Containers have to be made secure however, and the process of managing them is still less sophisticated than established VM management products such as VMware’s vCenter and vSphere  so the established players don’t have anything to worry about just yet.

Division of labour

All the new Kubernetes crew have different tasks, according to the Google blog, with a big focus on making sure that containers managed by the service can be moved between different cloud environments.

“Microsoft will help contribute code to Kubernetes to enable customers to easily manage containers that can run anywhere,” said Scott Guthrie, cloud vice president at Microsoft. By applying Kubernetes to virtual machines in its Azure cloud service, Microsoft hopes to enable multi-cloud solutions partly running on Azure.

Red Hat is likewise getting Kubernetes going on its own hybrid cloud service. “Through this collaboration with Goiogle on Kubernetes, we are contributing to the evolution of cloud computing and helping deliver the promises that container technologies offer to the open hybrid cloud,” said Paul Cormier, Red Hat’s president of products and technologies.

IBM wants to make sure Kubernetes is enterprise grade with an open governance model.

Amongst the smaller specialist players, container pioneer Docker is obviously providing the full container stack that Kubernetes works with. It wants to move some capabilities upstream, while keeping Kubernetes aligned with other open source projects. The CoreOS project, a Linux operating system optimised for containers, is making sure Kubernetes works with cloud-native CoreOS applications.

Mesosphere has its own container management scheme and will aparently put Kubernetes on that, while SaltStack is making Kubernetes more portable for eventual cross-platform clouds.

The name “Kubernetes” may seem exotic, but the Greek word for pilot was anglicised by Norbert Weiner to create the term “cybernetics” in the 1950s. Meanwhile, “gubernare”, the Latin descendent of kubernetes, gave rise to the word “governor”.

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