Why Kubernetes Is the Future of Cloud Computing – Barron’s

The cloud has become a giant profit machine for much of the tech world. Its pushed both Amazon. com (ticker: AMZN) and Microsoft (MSFT) to stratospheric valuations. But the next big thing in the cloud is, ironically, being enabled by a non-profit.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is the non-profit foundation that owns the Kubernetes trademark and hosts the Kubernetes open source project. Kubernetes, as Barrons explained recently, is making the cloud far more useful for running cloud-native applications. The Greek word for helmsman or pilot, Kubernetes is accelerating the transition from legacy client-server technology to the cloud.

Last month, more than 12,000 developers and executives gathered in San Diego at the largest annual Kubernetes conference called KubeCon, run by CNCF. Thats up from just 550 attendees four years ago. The developers are looking for ways to take advantage of Kubernetes and its management of containers stored in the cloud. CNCF is a subsidiary of the Linux Foundation, which supports the open-source Linux operating system used in PCs, enterprise servers, and in the cloud.

Containers hold an application, its settings, and other related instructions. The key to the container is that its essentially a free agent, not tied down to one operating system and able to run across different clouds.

Alphabets (ticker: GOOGL) Google long ago developed software called Borg to orchestrate its in-house containers for apps like Gmail and Google Maps, spinning them up and down as needed. In 2014, the search giant opted to make a version of Borg open source, calling it Kubernetes. Today, the major cloud providers all offer a Kubernetes option to customers.

This week, Barrons spoke to Dan Kohn, Executive Director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, about the future of Kubernetes.

Heres an edited transcript of our conversation:

Barrons: Whats the history of Kubernetes and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)?

Dan Kohn: The history here is that Google originally created the [Kubernetes open source] project back in 2014. The company brought in developers from a number of other companies Red Hat, IBM (IBM), Huawei and others. They wanted to get more adoption. So they said, who can we transfer the trademark to to ensure that there would be neutral governance around this project and thered be a fair way of deciding to use it for other sorts of things. So they came to the Linux Foundation and the Linux Foundation set up CNCF.

Why is Kubernetes such a sea change in computing, and why has it gained so much traction over the last few years?

The idea behind Kubernetes is to leverage the last decade of innovation. This is where the term container comes in -- the idea that you wrapped each of your microservices into its own container.

Instead of hiring a team of system administrators -- dozens or hundreds of people whose job it is to keep track and to make sure that all of those things are running within the rules -- you program that into software. And then Kubernetes is the platform -- the term is orchestration engine. It is the orchestrator that is making sure that all of your software is running the way its supposed to.

What are the key advantages of Kubernetes versus older models of computing?

There are three big advantages. The first one is resource efficiency, and this is the idea that by breaking up your application into lots of different pieces, running just the way they need to, you can run the same workloads on a smaller number of servers.

Number two is a higher development velocity. When you had one big monolith, its extremely difficult to make changes to it. But when you can break it up into microservices, each team can be responsible for its own part and can have it improve at its own rate. And that allows the whole system to improve much faster.

And the third one is about portability in hybrid cloud -- being able to move your workloads and not being locked into a single provider or a single vendor. Also one of the huge strengths of open source is that you ultimately have control over the technology your businesses rely on.

Are these key advantages of Kubernetes accelerating the trend to cloud native software development and cloud computing in general?

Definitely. Kubernetes ensures that workloads get the resources that they need. Were just seeing that adoption accelerate among our members, and we now have over 130 end user companies using these technologies [and paying dues to the foundation]. So its folks like Apple (AAPL) and Ant Financial, which does Alipay. Its a pretty spectacular group. Were seeing that story of cloud native adoption very consistent between them. [Editors note: Kubernetes is open source, so any company can use it for free without being a CNCF member.]

Who are the top contributors right now who are contributing the most to the Kubernetes project?

Theres 35,000 individual contributors, over 2,000 companies, and 1.1 million contributions. We list the top eight contributor companies - Google, Red Hat, VMware (VMW), Huawei, Microsoft, IBM, Fujitsu and a startup called Weaveworks. Googles contributions continue to go up, but their percentage as a whole has been consistently going down, as all these additional companies have gotten involved.

Thanks for your time, Dan.

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Why Kubernetes Is the Future of Cloud Computing - Barron's

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