May
23
2019
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Serverless and containers: Two great technologies that work better together

Cloud native models using containerized software in a continuous delivery approach could benefit from serverless computing where the cloud vendor generates the exact amount of resources required to run a workload on the fly. While the major cloud vendors have recognized this and are already creating products to abstract away the infrastructure, it may not work for every situation in spite of the benefits.

Cloud native, put simply, involves using containerized applications and Kubernetes to deliver software in small packages called microservices. This enables developers to build and deliver software faster and more efficiently in a continuous delivery model. In the cloud native world, you should be able to develop code once and run it anywhere, on prem or any public cloud, or at least that is the ideal.

Serverless is actually a bit of a misnomer. There are servers underlying the model, but instead of dedicated virtual machines, the cloud vendor delivers exactly the right number of resources to run a particular workload for the right amount of time and no more.

Nothing is perfect

Such an arrangement would seem to be perfectly suited to a continuous delivery model, and while vendors have recognized the beauty of such an approach, as one engineer pointed out, there is never a free lunch in processes that are this complex, and it won’t be a perfect solution for every situation.

Arpana Sinha, director of product management at Google, says the Kubernetes community has really embraced the serverless idea, but she says that it is limited in its current implementation, delivered in the form of functions with products like AWS Lambda, Google Cloud Functions and Azure Functions.

“Actually, I think the functions concept is a limited concept. It is unfortunate that that is the only thing that people associate with serverless,” she said.

She says that Google has tried to be more expansive in its definition. “It’s basically a concept for developers where you are able to seamlessly go from writing code to deployment and the infrastructure takes care of all of the rest, making sure your code is deployed in the appropriate way across the appropriate, most resilient parts of the infrastructure, scaling it as your app needs additional resources, scaling it down as your traffic goes down, and charging you only for what you’re consuming,” she explained.

But Matt Whittington, senior engineer on the Kubernetes Team at Atlassian says, while it sounds good in theory, in practice, fully automated infrastructure could be unrealistic in some instances. “Serverless could be promising for certain workloads because it really allows developers to focus on the code, but it’s not a perfect solution. There is still some underlying tuning.”

He says you may not be able to leave it completely up to the vendor unless there is a way to specify the requirements for each container, such as instructing them you need a minimum container load time, a certain container kill time or perhaps you need to deliver it a specific location. He says in reality it won’t be fully automated, at least while developers fiddle with the settings to make sure they are getting the resources they need without over-provisioning and paying for more than they need.

Vendors bringing solutions

The vendors are putting in their two cents trying to create tools that bring this ideal together. For instance, Google announced a service called Google Cloud Run at Google Cloud Next last month. It’s based on the open-source Knative project, and in essence combines the goodness of serverless for developers running containers. Other similar services include AWS Fargate and Azure Container Instances, both of which are attempting to bring together these two technologies in a similar package.

In fact, Gabe Monroy, partner program manager at Microsoft, says Azure Container Instances is designed to solve this problem without being dependent on a functions-driven programming approach. “What Azure Container Instances does is it allows you to run containers directly on the Azure compute fabric, no virtual machines, hypervisor isolated, pay-per-second billing. We call it serverless containers,” he said.

While serverless and containers might seem like a good fit, as Monroy points out, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach to cloud-native technologies, whatever the approach may be. Some people will continue to use a function-driven serverless approach like AWS Lambda or Azure Functions and others will shift to containers and look for other ways to bring these technologies together. Whatever happens, as developer needs change, it is clear the open-source community and vendors will respond with tools to help them. Bringing serverless and containers together is just one example of that.

May
08
2019
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Steve Singh stepping down as Docker CEO

TechCrunch has learned that Docker CEO Steve Singh will be stepping down after two years at the helm, and former Hortonworks CEO Rob Bearden will be taking over. An email announcement went out this morning to Docker employees.

People close to the company confirmed that Singh will be leaving the CEO position, staying on the job for several months to help Bearden with the transition. He will then remain with the organization in his role as chairman of the board. They indicated that Bearden has been working closely with Singh over the last several months as a candidate to join the board and as a consultant to the executive team.

Singh clicked with him and viewed him as a possible successor, especially given his background with leadership positions at several open-source companies, including taking Hortonworks public before selling to Cloudera last year. Singh apparently saw someone who could take the company to the next level as he moved on. As one person put it, he was tired of working 75 hours a week, but he wanted to leave the company in the hands of a capable steward.

Last week in an interview at DockerCon, the company’s annual customer conference in San Francisco, Singh appeared tired, but a leader who was confident in his position and who saw a bright future for his company. He spoke openly about his leadership philosophy and his efforts to lift the company from the doldrums it was in when he took over two years prior, helping transform it from a mostly free open-source offering into a revenue-generating company with 750 paying enterprise customers.

In fact, he told me that under his leadership the company was on track to become free cash flow positive by the end of this fiscal year, a step he said would mean that Docker would no longer need to seek outside capital. He even talked of the company eventually going public.

Apparently, he felt it was time to pass the torch before the company took those steps, saw a suitable successor in Bearden and offered him the position. While it might have made more sense to announce this at DockerCon with the spotlight focused on the company, it was not a done deal yet by the time the conference was underway in San Francisco, people close to the company explained.

Docker took a $92 million investment last year, which some saw as a sign of continuing struggles for the company, but Singh said he took the money to continue to invest in building revenue-generating enterprise products, some of which were announced at DockerCon last week. He indicated that the company would likely not require any additional investment moving forward.

As for Bearden, he is an experienced executive with a history of successful exits. In addition to his experience at Hortonworks, he was COO at SpringSource, a developer tool suite that was sold to VMware for $420 million in 2009 (and is now part of Pivotal). He was also COO at JBoss, an open-source middleware company acquired by Red Hat in 2006.

Whether he will do the same with Docker remains to be seen, but as the new CEO, it will be up to him to guide the company moving forward to the next steps in its evolution, whether that eventually results in a sale or the IPO that Singh alluded to.

Email to staff from Steve Singh:

Note: Docker has now confirmed this story in a press release.

May
07
2019
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Red Hat and Microsoft are cozying up some more with Azure Red Hat OpenShift

It won’t be long before Red Hat becomes part of IBM, the result of the $34 billion acquisition last year that is still making its way to completion. For now, Red Hat continues as a stand-alone company, and is if to flex its independence muscles, it announced its second agreement in two days with Microsoft Azure, Redmond’s public cloud infrastructure offering. This one involving running Red Hat OpenShift on Azure.

OpenShift is RedHat’s Kubernetes offering. The thinking is that you can start with OpenShift in your data center, then as you begin to shift to the cloud, you can move to Azure Red Hat OpenShift — such a catchy name — without any fuss, as you have the same management tools you have been used to using.

As Red Hat becomes part of IBM, it sees that it’s more important than ever to maintain its sense of autonomy in the eyes of developers and operations customers, as it holds its final customer conference as an independent company. Red Hat executive vice president and president, of products and technologies certainly sees it that way. “I think [the partnership] is a testament to, even with moving to IBM at some point soon, that we are going to be  separate and really keep our Switzerland status and give the same experience for developers and operators across anyone’s cloud,” he told TechCrunch.

It’s essential to see this announcement in the context of both IBM’s and Microsoft’s increasing focus on the hybrid cloud, and also in the continuing requirement for cloud companies to find ways to work together, even when it doesn’t always seem to make sense, because as Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has said, customers will demand it. Red Hat has a big enterprise customer presence and so does Microsoft. If you put them together, it could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

Scott Guthrie, executive vice president for the cloud and AI group at Microsoft understands that. “Microsoft and Red Hat share a common goal of empowering enterprises to create a hybrid cloud environment that meets their current and future business needs. Azure Red Hat OpenShift combines the enterprise leadership of Azure with the power of Red Hat OpenShift to simplify container management on Kubernetes and help customers innovate on their cloud journeys,” he said in a statement.

This news comes on the heels of yesterday’s announcement, also involving Kubernetes. TechCrunch’s own Frederic Lardinois described it this way:

What’s most interesting here, however, is KEDA, a new open-source collaboration between Red Hat and Microsoft that helps developers deploy serverless, event-driven containers. Kubernetes-based event-driven autoscaling, or KEDA, as the tool is called, allows users to build their own event-driven applications on top of Kubernetes. KEDA handles the triggers to respond to events that happen in other services and scales workloads as needed.

Azure Red Hat OpenShift is available now on Azure. The companies are working on some other integrations too including Red Hat Enterprise Linux (RHEL) running on Azure and Red Hat Enterprise Linux 8 support in Microsoft SQL Server 2019.

Apr
30
2019
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Docker looks to partners and packages to ease container implementation

Docker appears to be searching for ways to simplify the core value proposition of the company — creating, deploying and managing containers. While most would agree it has revolutionized software development, like many technology solutions, it takes a certain level of expertise and staffing to pull off. At DockerCon, the company’s customer conference taking place this week in San Francisco, Docker announced several ways it could help customers with the tough parts of implementing a containerized solution.

For starters, the company announced a beta of Docker Enterprise 3.0 this morning. That update is all about making life simpler for developers. As companies move to containerized environments, it’s a challenge for all but the largest organizations like Google, Amazon and Facebook, all of whom have massive resource requirements and correspondingly large engineering teams.

Most companies don’t have that luxury though, and Docker recognizes if it wants to bring containerization to a larger number of customers, it has to create packages and programs that make it easier to implement.

Docker Enterprise 3.0 is a step toward providing a solution that lets developers concentrate on the development aspects, while working with templates and other tools to simplify the deployment and management side of things.

The company sees customers struggling with implementation and how to configure and build a containerized workflow, so it is working with systems integrators to help smooth out the difficult parts. Today, the company announced Docker Enterprise as a Service, with the goal of helping companies through the process of setting up and managing a containerized environment, using the Docker stack and adjacent tooling like Kubernetes.

The service provider will take care of operational details like managing upgrades, rolling out patches, doing backups and undertaking capacity planning — all of those operational tasks that require a high level of knowledge around enterprise container stacks.

Capgemini will be the first go-to-market partner. “Capgemini has a combination of automation, technology tools, as well as services on the back end that can manage the installation, provisioning and management of the enterprise platform itself in cases where customers don’t want to do that, and they want to pay someone to do that for them,” Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker told TechCrunch.

The company has released tools in the past to help customers move legacy applications into containers without a lot of fuss. Today, the company announced a solution bundle called Accelerate Greenfield, a set of tools designed to help customers get up and running as container-first development companies.

“This is for those organizations that may be a little further along. They’ve gone all-in on containers committing to taking a container-first approach to new application development,” Johnston explained. He says this could be cloud native microservices or even a LAMP stack application, but the point is that they want to put everything in containers on a container platform.

Accelerate Greenfield is designed to do that. “They get the benefits where they know that from the developer to the production end point, it’s secure. They have a single way to define it all the way through the life cycle. They can make sure that it’s moving quickly, and they have that portability built into the container format, so they can deploy [wherever they wish],” he said.

These programs and products are all about providing a level of hand-holding, either by playing a direct consultative role, working with a systems integrator or providing a set of tools and technologies to walk the customer through the containerization life cycle. Whether they provide a sufficient level of help that customers require is something we will learn over time as these programs mature.

Apr
30
2019
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Docker updates focus on simplifying containerization for developers

Over the last five years, Docker has become synonymous with software containers, but that doesn’t mean every developer understands the technical details of building, managing and deploying them. At DockerCon this week, the company’s customer conference taking place in San Francisco, it announced new tools that have been designed to make it easier for developers, who might not be Docker experts, to work with containers.

As the technology has matured, the company has seen the market broaden, but in order to take advantage of that, it needs to provide a set of tools that make it easier to work with. “We’ve found that customers typically have a small cadre of Docker experts, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of developers who also want to use Docker. And we reasoned, how can we help them get productive very, very quickly, without them having to become Docker experts,” Scott Johnston, chief product officer at Docker, told TechCrunch.

To that end, it announced a beta of Docker Enterprise 3.0, which includes several key components. For starters, Docker Desktop Enterprise lets IT set up a Docker environment with the kind of security and deployment templates that make sense for each customer. The developers can then pick the templates that make sense for their implementations, while conforming with compliance and governance rules in the company.

“These templates already have IT-approved container images, and have IT-approved configuration settings. And what that means is that IT can provide these templates through these visual tools that allow developers to move fast and choose the ones they want without having go back for approval,” Johnston explained.

The idea is to let the developers concentrate on building applications, and the templates provide all the Docker tooling pre-built and ready to go, so they don’t have to worry about all of that.

Another piece of this is Docker Applications, which allows developers to build complex containerized applications as a single package and deploy them to any infrastructure they wish — on-prem or in the cloud. Five years ago, when Docker really got started with containers, they were a simpler idea, often involving just a single one, but as developers broke down those larger applications into microservices, it created a new level of difficulty, especially for operations that had to deploy these increasingly large sets of application containers.

“Operations can now programmatically change the parameters for the containers, depending on the environments, without having to go in and change the application. So you can imagine that ability lowers the friction of having to manage all these files in the first place,” he said.

The final piece of that is the orchestration layer, and the popular way to handle that today is with Kubernetes. Docker has created its own flavor of Kubernetes, based on the open-source tool. Johnston says, as with the other two pieces, the goal here is to take a powerful tool like Kubernetes and reduce the overall complexity associated with running it, while making it fully compatible with a Docker environment.

For that, Docker announced Docker Kubernetes Service (DKS), which has been designed with Docker users in mind, including support for Docker Compose, a scripting tool that has been popular with Docker users. While you are free to use any flavor of Kubernetes you wish, Docker is offering DKS as a Docker-friendly version for developers.

All of these components have one thing in common besides being part of Docker Enterprise 3.0. They are trying to reduce the complexity associated with deploying and managing containers and to abstract away the most difficult parts, so that developers can concentrate on developing without having to worry about connecting to the technical underpinnings of building and deploying containers. At the same time, Docker is trying to make it easier for the operations team to manage it all. That is the goal, at least. In the end, DevOps teams will be the final judges of how well Docker has done, once these tools become generally available later this year.

The Docker Enterprise 3.0 beta will be available later this quarter.

Apr
09
2019
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Google’s hybrid cloud platform is coming to AWS and Azure

Google’s Cloud Services Platform for managing hybrid clouds that span on-premise data centers and the Google cloud is coming out of beta today. The company is also changing the product’s name to Anthos, a name that either refers to a lost Greek tragedy, the name of an obscure god in the Marvel universe or rosemary. That by itself would be interesting, but minor news. What makes this interesting is that Google also today announced that Anthos will run on third-party clouds, as well, including AWS and Azure.

“We will support Anthos and AWS and Azure as well, so people get one way to manage their application and that one way works across their on-premise environments and all other clouds,” Google’s senior VP for its technical infrastructure, Urs Hölzle, explained in a press conference ahead of today’s announcement.

So with Anthos, Google will offer a single managed service that will let you manage and deploy workloads across clouds, all without having to worry about the different environments and APIs. That’s a big deal and one that clearly delineates Google’s approach from its competitors’. This is Google, after all, managing your applications for you on AWS and Azure.

“You can use one consistent approach — one open-source based approach — across all environments,” Hölzle said. “I can’t really stress how big a change that is in the industry, because this is really the stack for the next 20 years, meaning that it’s not really about the three different clouds that are all randomly different in small ways. This is the way that makes these three cloud — and actually on-premise environments, too — look the same.”

Anthos/Google Cloud Services Platform is based on the Google Kubernetes Engine, as well as other open-source projects like the Istio service mesh. It’s also hardware agnostic, meaning that users can take their current hardware and run the service on top of that without having to immediately invest in new servers.

Why is Google doing this? “We hear from our customers that multi-cloud and hybrid is really an acute pain point,” Hölzle said. He noted that containers are the enabling technology for this but that few enterprises have developed a unifying strategy to manage these deployments and that it takes expertise in all major clouds to get the most out of them.

Enterprises already have major investments in their infrastructure and created relationships with their vendors, though, so it’s no surprise that Google is launching Anthos with more than 30 major hardware and software partners that range from Cisco to Dell EMC, HPE and VMware, as well as application vendors like Confluent, Datastax, Elastic, Portworx, Tigera, Splunk, GitLab, MongoDB and others.

Robin.io, a data management service that offers a hyper-converged storage platform based on Kubernetes, also tells me that it worked closely with Google to develop the Anthos Storage API. “Robin Storage offers bare metal performance, powerful data management capabilities and Kubernetes-native management to support running enterprise applications on Google Cloud’s Anthos across on-premises data centers and the cloud,” said Premal Buch, CEO of Robin.io.

Anthos is a subscription-based service, with the list prices starting at $10,000/month per 100 vCPU block. Enterprise prices will then be up for negotiation, though, so many customers will likely pay less.

It’s one thing to use a service like this for new applications, but many enterprises already have plenty of line-of-business tools that they would like to bring to the cloud as well. For them, Google is launching the first beta of Anthos Migrate today. This service will auto-migrate VMs from on-premises or other clouds into containers in the Google Kubernetes Engine. The promise here is that this is essentially an automatic process and once the container is on Google’s platform, you’ll be able to use all of the other features that come with the Anthos platform, too.

Google’s Hölzle noted that the emphasis here was on making this migration as easy as possible. “There’s no manual effort there,” he said.

Apr
09
2019
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Google Cloud Run brings serverless and containers together

Two of the biggest trends in applications development in recent years have been the rise of serverless and containerization. Today at Google Cloud Next, the company announced a new product called Cloud Run that is designed to bring the two together. At the same time, the company also announced Cloud Run for GKE, which is specifically designed to run on Google’s version of Kubernetes.

Oren Teich, director of product management for serverless, says these products came out of discussions with customers. As he points out, developers like the flexibility and agility they get using serverless architecture, but have been looking for more than just compute resources. They want to get access to the full stack, and to that end the company is announcing Cloud Run.

“Cloud Run is introducing a brand new product that takes Docker containers and instantly gives you a URL. This is completely unique in the industry. We’re taking care of everything from the top end of SSL provisioning and routing, all the way down to actually running the container for you. You pay only by the hundred milliseconds of what you need to use, and it’s end-to-end managed,” Teich explained.

As for the GKE tool, it provides the same kinds of benefits, except for developers running their containers on Google’s GKE version of Kubernetes. Keep in mind, developers could be using any version of Kubernetes their organizations happen to have chosen, so it’s not a given that they will be using Google’s flavor of Kubernetes.

“What this means is that a developer can take the exact same experience, the exact same code they’ve written — and they have G Cloud command line, the same UI and our console and they can just with one-click target the destination they want,” he said.

All of this is made possible through yet another open-source project the company introduced last year called Knative. “Cloud Run is based on Knative, an open API and runtime environment that lets you run your serverless workloads anywhere you choose — fully managed on Google Cloud Platform, on your GKE cluster or on your own self-managed Kubernetes cluster,” Teich and Eyal Manor, VP of engineering, wrote in a blog post introducing Cloud Run.

Serverless, as you probably know by now, is a bit of a misnomer. It’s not really taking away servers, but it is eliminating the need for developers to worry about them. Instead of loading their application on a particular virtual machine, the cloud provider, in this case, Google, provisions the exact level of resources required to run an operation. Once that’s done, these resources go away, so you only pay for what you use at any given moment.

Apr
02
2019
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Densify announces new tool to optimize container management in the cloud

Densify, a Toronto company that helps customers optimize their cloud resources to control usage and spending, announced a new tool today specifically designed to optimize container usage in the cloud.

Company CEO Gerry Smith says that as containerization proliferates, it’s getting more difficult to track and control cloud infrastructure resource usage as software development and deployment happens with increasing speed.

“The whole basis upon which people buy and use cloud and container resources has become wildly expensive because of the lack of a resource management system,” Smith said.

The Densify solution looks at the consumption and for ways to cut costs and usage. “We have analytics in the cloud, any of various common cloud services that you can connect to, and then we use machine learning to analyze the resources and your cloud and container consumption,” he said.

Densify continuously makes recommendations on how to make better use of resources and to find the cheapest computing, whether that’s reserved instances, spot instances or other discounted cloud resources.

What’s more, it can help you identify whether you are providing too few resources to accommodate the number of containers you are deploying, as well as too many.

This may sound a bit like what Spotinst and Cloudyn, the company Microsoft bought a couple of years ago, do in terms of helping control costs in the cloud, but Smith says for his company it’s more about understanding the resources than pure cost.

“We look at ourselves as a resource management platform. So what we do is characterize the applications, demands of CPU and all the other resources, and use machine learning to predict what it’s going to need at any given minute, at any given day of a week of the year, so that we can then better predictively match the right supply,” Smith explained.

It’s providing information about each container at a highly detailed level, including “what’s running, what resources are being allocated, and the true utilization of an organization’s Kubernetes environment at a cluster, namespace and container level,” according to the company. All of this information should help DevOps teams better understand the resources required by their container deployments.

The company has actually been around since 2006 under the name Cirba. In its early guise it helped companies manage VMware installations. In 2016, it pivoted to cloud resource management and changed the company name to Densify. It has raised around $60 million since inception, with about half of that coming after the company changed to Densify in 2016.

The company is based in Toronto, but has offices in London and Melbourne, as well.

Mar
25
2019
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Percona Server for MongoDB Operator 0.3.0 Early Access Release Is Now Available

Percona Server for MongoDB

Percona Server for MongoDB OperatorPercona announces the availability of the Percona Server for MongoDB Operator 0.3.0 early access release.

The Percona Server for MongoDB Operator simplifies the deployment and management of Percona Server for MongoDB in a Kubernetes or OpenShift environment. It extends the Kubernetes API with a new custom resource for deploying, configuring and managing the application through the whole life cycle.

You can install the Percona Server for MongoDB Operator on Kubernetes or OpenShift. While the operator does not support all the Percona Server for MongoDB features in this early access release, instructions on how to install and configure it are already available along with the operator source code in our Github repository.

The Percona Server for MongoDB Operator is an early access release. Percona doesn’t recommend it for production environments.

New Features

Improvements

Fixed Bugs

  • CLOUD-141: Operator failed to rescale cluster after self-healing.
  • CLOUD-151: Dashboard upgrade in Percona Monitoring and Management caused loop due to no write access.
  • CLOUD-152: Percona Server for MongoDB crash took place in case of no backup section in the Operator configuration file.
  • CLOUD-91: The Operator was throwing error messages with Arbiters disabled in the deploy/cr.yaml configuration file.

Percona Server for MongoDB is an enhanced, open source and highly-scalable database that is a fully-compatible, drop-in replacement for MongoDB Community Edition. It supports MongoDB® protocols and drivers. Percona Server for MongoDB extends MongoDB Community Edition functionality by including the Percona Memory Engine, as well as several enterprise-grade features. It requires no changes to MongoDB applications or code.

Help us improve our software quality by reporting any bugs you encounter using our bug tracking system.

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