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Google’s Container Tool Attracts Support From Microsoft, IBM, and Others

by Richard Seroter on Jul 16, 2014 |

Google recently took the wraps off Kubernetes, an open source orchestration tool for managing Docker containers at scale. Late last week, Microsoft, IBM, RedHat, Docker, Mesosphere, CoreOS, and SaltStack all jumped on board and pledged to actively contribute to this project. While each vendor has their own reason for supporting this effort, this quick collaboration demonstrates the serious momentum of Linux containers.

In a blog post, Google’s Senior Vice President Urs Hölzle touted the advantages of containers and welcomed the aforementioned vendors to the project.

Today, Microsoft, RedHat, IBM, Docker, Mesosphere, CoreOS and SaltStack are joining the Kubernetes community and will actively contribute to the project. Each company brings unique strengths, and together we will ensure that Kubernetes is a strong and open container management framework for any application and in any environment - whether in a private, public or hybrid cloud.

Hölzle pointed out that Microsoft will work to make Kubernetes successful in its Azure cloud; RedHat plans to add support to its hybrid cloud product; IBM will contribute to Kubernetes and Docker while trying to establish a governance model; Docker pledges to align Kubernetes with its own similar service called libswarm; CoreOS will ensure that Kubernetes works with its Docker-centric operating system; Mesosphere says that they’ll integrate Kubernetes with their own management tool called Mesos; and SaltStack will make Kubernetes part of their configuration management toolset.

While the idea of containers is not new, Docker burst onto the scene last year with a simplified approach and ignited interest in this technology concept. As organizations adopt containers and the inevitable sprawl occurs – and Google claims to start over 2 billion containers per week – efficient management of these units is critical. The CoreOS team described how Kubernetes addresses this concern.

Kubernetes introduces the concept of a pod, which represents a group of containers that should be deployed as a single logical service. The pod concept tends to fit well with the popular pattern of running a single service per container. Kubernetes makes it easy to run multiple pods on a single machine or across an entire cluster for better resource utilization and high availability. Kubernetes also actively monitors the health of pods to ensure they are always running within the cluster.

Is the excitement around Docker and Kubernetes an indication of displeasure with the server virtualization model that dominates cloud today? That’s what VentureBeat read into this collaboration announcement.

The new backing of Kubernetes could also be a turn away from more segmented and often proprietary hypervisor technology that sits on top of server operating systems and creates many virtual slices for running applications within each physical server. As developers and companies begin to try it, companies that sell hypervisor software, including VMware, could start to wonder how they should participate in the containerization movement.

This diverse set of Kubernetes contributors – with Amazon Web Services notably missing from the list – are motivated to advance this technology in both public cloud and private scenarios. VentureBeat notes that a framework such as this helps both cloud and non-cloud developers by preventing “companies from getting stuck with any one cloud provider or operating system provider.”  In an interview with the New York Times Bits blog, Google Cloud executive Miles Ward says that Kubernetes can help companies bridge the public and private cloud. He said that Google is fully behind the idea of public cloud, but recognizes that “there is still a couple trillion dollars in gear sitting around doing computing inside companies.” Do containers spell the death of traditional server virtualization? Kerbenetes collaboration Mesosphere thinks that “virtualization no longer makes sense” and that containers are the future, while Microsoft thinks that containers are part of the spectrum of solutions that organizations will use to run their systems.

What is Google’s incentive to bring together this particular group of collaborators? Google sees containers as a disruptive technology that needs broad investment, but also one that excels on their own growing cloud platform. A Google interview with GigaOm spelled this out in further detail.

Craig McLuckie, a Google product manager, acknowledged the importance of having partners in this effort in terms of validating it, developing it and generally building an ecosystem of software partners that want to build around it. “Having serious software companies … being serious about containers is going to be important,” he said. “This is a disruptive technology.”

But if Docker and Kubernetes become standard methods of managing applications, that means the point of differentiation in the cloud will move back down into the infrastructure layer where Google thinks it has the advantage with its decades of experience building the world’s largest systems. “We feel pretty confident in the quality of our infrastructure,” McLuckie said. A technology that lets a customer pick providers based on the underlying infrastructure, he added, is “extremely beneficial to Google.”

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Docker by Alan Robertson

I've been using Docker for building for different Distros and more recently for creating a test environment for testing large scale systems. Container overhead is so low, that I can get at least 10x as many containers as VMs on the same machine - and it's so easy to manage.

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