OpenStack vs. Cloud Foundry vs. Kubernetes: What Fits Where?

Open-source cloud application infrastructure can be a confusing landscape to navigate with multiple projects, including OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes. While there are some points of overlap, each technology has its own merits and use cases.

Among the vendors that use and contribute to OpenStack, Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes is SUSE, which also has commercial products for all three technologies. In a video interview with eWEEK, Thomas Di Giacomo, CTO at SUSE, explains how the three open-source technologies intersect at his company.

"We see that our customers don't use a single open-source project. Most of the time they use different ones with different life cycles, and sometimes they overlap," Di Giacomo said. 

OpenStack is a cloud infrastructure effort that first got underway in July 2010 as a joint effort originally led by contributions from NASA and Rackspace. Cloud Foundry is a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) effort started by VMware in April 2011, while Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform created by Google in 2014. Di Giacomo sees each of the technologies as having its own core areas of focus.

"Cloud Foundry was designed to simplify the life of developers and to focus on the developer experience, so that developers could work on creating applications for their business and not look at the underlying infrastructure," he said.

Kubernetes, on the other hand, is all about containers and is an abstraction of compute resources. In Di Giacomo's view, Kubernetes was not initially designed with a focus on developers.

"What we do at SUSE is we combine Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes together," Di Giacomo said. 

He explained that SUSE containerizes Cloud Foundry and then expands that with Kubernetes clusters from public cloud or on-premises deployments. Di Giacomo said that adding Cloud Foundry services as containers inside of Kubernetes provides a developer experience.


"Containers are great to abstract compute," Di Giacomo said.

That said, he noted that when it comes to managing networking and storage, those are things that are done well by OpenStack. SUSE has customers using Kubernetes for the compute part of application delivery, inside of an OpenStack cloud data center. Going a step further, the Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry pieces can also extend beyond OpenStack to public cloud providers.

"You can move some of those workloads running as containers from Kubernetes inside OpenStack and move them to a public cloud as well,” he said.

Watch the full video interview with Di Giacomo above.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.