Before I started Rancher Labs, I created a company called Cloud.com where we developed Apache CloudStack. We were inspired by the early success of Amazon Web Services (AWS) and wanted to make it possible for everyone to stand up AWS-like cloud infrastructure for themselves.
While CloudStack was successful in powering a number of public and private clouds, it failed to achieve mass adoption. Instead, cloud infrastructure today is increasingly concentrated in a small number of very large public cloud providers such as AWS and Microsoft Azure. There are a few reasons for this:
- It takes a lot of capital investment and operational expertise to operate cloud infrastructure. Only large players can benefit from economy of scale.
- There is no consistency among different cloud infrastructure providers. Even if a smaller provider can beat an established player on price, it becomes increasingly difficult for customers to migrate workloads from one cloud to another.
- The scope of cloud infrastructure services is forever expanding. It is no longer sufficient to offer basic compute, storage and networking services. Leading providers such as AWS offer an ever-growing number of services for data processing, analytics and artificial intelligence.
Despite the downside of cloud lock-in, organizations are facing increasingly fewer choices in cloud infrastructure as they adopt cloud computing.
Enter Containers and Kubernetes
We started Rancher Labs because we saw that containers can potentially change the game in cloud computing. Docker is a universal application packaging standard that makes applications portable. Kubernetes adds cluster management to Docker. Many people think the power of Kubernetes lies in its ability to manage applications and microservices. We completely agree. We believe, however, that Kubernetes also brings significant benefit by hiding the differences between cloud infrastructure providers. Kubernetes comes with a rich ecosystem of plugins for storage, networking and load balancing. As a result, it does not matter where you have deployed Kubernetes. As long as the drivers are configured correctly, users get a consistent view of cloud infrastructure regardless what cloud provider they use.
In addition to offering consistent storage, networking and load balancing, Kubernetes also brings with it a rich ecosystem of higher-level services for developers. The Cloud Native Computing Ecosystem includes all major providers of system- and platform-level software. Kubernetes has become the center of gravity of innovation in cloud computing. New capabilities are made available at a faster pace than anywhere else.
In the early days, it was quite challenging to setup and run Kubernetes. Companies such as Rancher created Kubernetes distributions that make it easy for DevOps and IT teams to deploy and operate Kubernetes clusters. Today, many cloud providers offer Kubernetes as a service. At Rancher, we are now more focused on managing Kubernetes clusters. We expect most, if not all, major cloud providers to support Kubernetes in the future. When that happens, Kubernetes will be the universal cloud infrastructure.
If you use cloud computing, there is no reason not to use Kubernetes. You get the most complete ecosystem support and the same consistent experience no matter where you go. Cloud lock-in will be a thing of the past.
About the Author / Sheng Liang
Sheng is a co-founder and CEO of Rancher Labs. Prior to starting Rancher, Sheng was CTO of the Cloud Platforms group at Citrix Systems after their acquisition of Cloud.com, where he was co-founder and CEO. Sheng has more than 15 years of experience building innovative technology. He was a co-founder at Teros, which was acquired by Citrix in 2005 and led large engineering teams at SEVEN Networks, and Openwave Systems. Sheng started his career as a Staff Engineer in Java Software at Sun Microsystems, where he designed the Java Native Interface (JNI) and led the Java Virtual Machine (JVM) development for the Java 2 platform. Sheng has a B.S. from the University of Science and Technology of China and a Ph.D. from Yale University. Follow him on Twitter.