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Rancher Labs Discuss the Adoption of Kubernetes "Everywhere"

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In a recent podcast, Shannon Williams, co-founder and president at Rancher Labs, and Darren Shepherd, co-founder and CTO at Rancher Labs, sat down with InfoQ and discussed the adoption of hybrid cloud across organisations. Additional topics covered included: the evolution of Kubernetes as a key abstraction for portability and cross-cloud security, running thousands of Kubernetes clusters at the edge, and the value of open standards.

The Rancher team opened by stating that organisations of all sizes are adopting hybrid cloud strategies. The use of containers to package and run applications across clouds has seen large adoption over the past five years. Containers and Kubernetes are everywhere: the datacenter, the edge, embedded systems, and other locations.

I think [the term] "hybrid cloud" almost kind of does it short shrift because what we really see now is containers everywhere, Kubernetes everywhere. Kubernetes in the data center, Kubernetes at the edge, Kubernetes in the cloud, Kubernetes in the embedded systems, Kubernetes in devices. I mean, if you can run software on it, we're probably talking to people about how to run Kubernetes and containers on it.

Two enterprise use cases for Kubernetes stand out: providing standardised abstractions and APIs to increase portability across vendors and cloud platforms; and providing a framework and homogenised foundation on which to build and implement (cross cloud) security solutions. Particularly within the context of enterprise platforms, the topic of security has been a driver for the adoption of Kubernetes platforms like Rancher.

Security comes up over and over again as it's really hard to secure lots and lots of different platforms. They all have different capabilities, footprints, OSs, each cloud has different approach to networking, actually standardizing on something like Kubernetes makes implementing security policy dramatically easier.

Open standards support interoperability and drive innovation, and the Rancher team believes that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is becoming the natural home for open cloud technologies (Williams is a member of the CNCF Technical Oversight Committee). The Rancher team has donated Longhorn, their cloud-native distributed storage platform for Kubernetes that was recently announced as generally available, to the CNCF.

The Rancher team has also submitted k3s, their lightweight Kubernetes distributions, to the CNCF for inclusion as a sandbox project. With the success of these lightweight distros engineers are starting to deploy standalone Kubernetes clusters “by the thousands” to edge locations. Rancher has recently released Fleet, a new open source project that is focused on managing large collections (“fleets”) of Kubernetes clusters.

And so there's one approach [to management], which is Kubernetes Federation, and then Fleet takes a different approach. [...] And so Kubernetes Federation takes the idea of, how do I make a series of clusters look like one cluster? So it's kind of like, how do I manage one cluster that federates all these things? Fleet is taking a much different paradigm, which is more like configuration management to be perfectly honest.

The discussion concluded with both Williams and Shepherd stating that many end users of Kubernetes simply want a platform-as-a-service (PaaS)-like experience, which is not provided out-of-the-box with the framework. They believe that the next 12 months will see the community focus on the simplification of the Kubernetes ecosystem.

The audio, key takeaways, and a full transcript of the “Rancher on Hybrid Cloud, Kubernetes at the Edge, and Open Standards” podcast can be found elsewhere on InfoQ. This podcast was recorded before the announcement of a definite agreement from SUSE to acquire Rancher Labs.

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