AWS Joins Kubernetes Movement With Container Management Standard

NEWS ANALYSIS: Amazon Web Services validates it's container management credentials by introducing Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes on its cloud platform.

AWS Kubernetes Service

LAS VEGAS—Amazon Web Service's announcement of a Kubernetes-based container service at the AWS Re:Invent conference this week was not unexpected, but that did not lessen the impact of the move.

The Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (Amazon EKS) marks a milestone in the life of Kubernetes, the container orchestration software that was hatched at Google and now lives on as an open source project shepherded by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

AWS was the lone holdout among major cloud providers in offering a managed container service based on Kubernetes, a list that includes Google, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle, and China's Alibaba, according to Dan Kohn, Executive Director of the CNCF. In an interview with eWEEK Kohn said the organization is "utterly thrilled" about the "massive endorsement" AWS's product brings.

Still, the news also exposes some of the myths about Kubernetes, one of which is that Kubernetes isn't already on AWS. It is, in a big way. According to AWS CEO Andy Jassy, AWS is the largest host of Kubernetes clusters, running hundreds of millions of containers. But users employ either AWS's own Elastic Container Service (ECS) or deploy Kubernetes on their own, which can be complicated process.

In introducing EKS at his keynote, AWS CEO Andy Jassy gave a nod to ECS's deep integration with all of AWS's other services and its scalability. But as Jassy also always says, AWS listens to its customers, and customers were demanding Kubernetes.

"Over the last 18-24 months lots of people have become interested in Kubernetes," he said. "But there's work to do [to do Kubernetes] ... it's just work. Our customers said is there something you could to make it easier to run."

Branching out

Kubernetes won out despite how difficult, or "opinionated" it can be to work with. But at the same time it offers a powerful and mature tool for deploying containers.

That reputation has spawned an ecosystem of its own from which a next generation of tools is emerging to augment Kubernetes and make it easier to use.

One beneficiary of the AWS news is Rancher, which makes a platform for deploying and managing Kubernetes.

"We hoped this would happen. This is why we started the company, around Kubernetes and containers, with Kubernetes being the standard infrastructure you get from everywhere." said Rancher CEO and co-founder Sheng Liang, in an interview with eWEEK. "Kubernetes is shaping up to be a cloud platform by itself."

Going forward, Liang says, AWS's adoption of Kubernetes does not stifle Rancher but rather focuses Rancher's job on value-added tasks such as cluster and application management and less on getting Kubernetes started and updated.

AWS wasn't done with EKS, however. It also announced AWS Fargate, a new kind of tool for managing containers that frees developers from having to manage virtual machine instances as well. "You can run containers at task level rather than server level," Jassy explained at a press conference.

Filling in the gaps

Critical Stack, a software division within Capital One, the financial services giant, is another vendor that benefits from Kubernetes standardization by filling in some gaps around Kubernetes. In Critical Stack's case, that is security. "The sec boundary is changing," said Liam Randall, Critical Stack's president. "It was at the CPU layer, now it's at the process layer."

Critical Stack's task is deploying Kubernetes in a declarative way with a set of security policies that go beyond what is available in the Docker containers or in Kubernetes.

Capital One was a user of Critical Stack and then bought the company last year. Recently the technology was released in a private beta, while the company considers its options about taking it to market, Randall said in an interview.

All of this adds up to an inflection point in the evolution of distributed computing. Work still needs to be done with Kubernetes and it is still evolving. It will mark just its two-year anniversary with the CNCF next week.

But with Kubernetes now a standard, software vendors and users can accelerate container initiatives with the confidence, Kohn said, that they are walking a “safe and well-traveled path” to cloud native computing.

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. He has an extensive background in the technology field. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture, at TechTarget. Before that, he was the director, Editorial Operations, at Ziff Davis Enterprise. While at Ziff Davis Media, he was a writer and editor at eWEEK. No investment advice is offered in his blog. All duties are disclaimed. Scot works for a private investment firm, which may at any time invest in companies whose products are discussed in this blog, and no disclosure of securities transactions will be made.

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen

Scot Petersen is a technology analyst at Ziff Brothers Investments, a private investment firm. Prior to joining Ziff Brothers, Scot was the editorial director, Business Applications & Architecture,...