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June 16, 2019
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cloud foundry

Cloud Foundry ❤ Kubernetes

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Cloud Foundry, the open source platform-as-a-service project that more than half of the Fortune 500 companies use to help them build, test and deploy their applications, launched well before Kubernetes existed. Because of this, the team ended up building Diego, its own container management service. Unsurprisingly, given the popularity of Kubernetes, which has become somewhat of the de facto standard for container orchestration, a number of companies in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem starting looking into how they could use Kubernetes to replace Diego.

The result of this is Project Eirini, which was first proposed by IBM. As the Cloud Foundry Foundation announced today, Project Eirini now passes the core functional tests the team runs to validate the software releases of its application runtime, the core Cloud Foundry service that deploys and manages applications (if that’s a bit confusing, don’t even think about the fact that there’s also a Cloud Foundry Container Runtime, which already uses Kubernetes, but which is mostly meant to give enterprise a single platform for running their own applications and pre-built containers from third-party vendors).

“That’s a pretty big milestone,” Cloud Foundry Foundation CTO Chip Childers told me. “The project team now gets to shift to a mode where they’re focused on hardening the solution and making it a bit more production-ready. But at this point, early adopters are also starting to deploy that [new] architecture.”

Childers stressed that while the project was incubated by IBM, which has been a long-time backer of overall Cloud Foundry project, Google, Pivotal and others are now also contributing and have dedicated full-time engineers working on the project. In addition, SUSE, SAP and IBM are also active in developing Eirini.

Eirini started out as an incubation project, and while few doubted that this would be a successful project, there was a bit of confusion around how Cloud Foundry would move forward now that it essentially had two container engines for running its core service. At the time, there was even some concern that the project could fork. “I pushed back at the time and said: no, this is the natural exploration process that open source communities need to go through,” Childers said. “What we’re seeing now is that with Pivotal and Google stepping in, that’s a very clear sign that this is going to be the go-forward architecture for the future of the Cloud Foundry Application Runtime.”

A few months ago, by the way, Kubernetes was still missing a few crucial pieces the Cloud Foundry ecosystem needed to make this move. Childers specifically noted that Windows support — something the project’s enterprise users really need — was still problematic and lacked some important features. In recent releases, though, the Kubernetes team fixed most of these issues and improved its Windows support, rendering those issues moot.

What does all of this mean for Diego? Childers noted that the community isn’t at a point where it’ll hold developing that tool. At some point, though, it seems likely that the community will decide that it’s time to start the transition period and make the move to Kubernetes official.

It’s worth noting that IBM today announced its own preview of Eirini in its Cloud Foundry Enterprise Environment and that the latest version of SUSE’s Cloud Foundry-based Application Platform includes a similar preview as well.

In addition, the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which is hosting its semi-annual developer conference in Philadelphia this week, also announced that it has certified its first to systems integrators, Accenture and HCL, as part of its recently launched certification program for companies that work in the Cloud Foundry ecosystem and have at least ten certified developers on their teams.

Cloud Foundry expands its support for Kubernetes

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Not too long ago, the Cloud Foundry Foundation was all about Cloud Foundry, the open source platform as a service (PaaS) project that’s now in use by most of the Fortune 500 enterprises. This project is the Cloud Foundry Application Runtime. A year ago, the Foundation also announced the Cloud Foundry Container Runtime that helps businesses run the Application Platform and their container-based applications in parallel. In addition, Cloud Foundry has also long been the force behind BOSH, a tool for building, deploying and managing cloud applications.

The addition of the Container Runtime a year go seemed to muddle the organization’s mission a bit, but now that the dust has settled, the intent here is starting to become clearer. As Cloud Foundry CTO Chip Childers told me, what enterprises are mostly using the Container Runtime for is for running the pre-packaged applications they get from their vendors. “The Container Runtime — or really any deployment of Kubernetes — when used next to or in conjunction with the App Runtime, that’s where people are largely landing packaged software being delivered by an independent software vendor,” he told me. “Containers are the new CD-ROM. You just want to land it in a good orchestration platform.”

Because the Application Runtime launched well before Kubernetes was a thing, the Cloud Foundry project built its own container service, called Diego.

Today, the Cloud Foundry foundation is launching two new Kubernetes-related projects that take the integration between the two to a new level. The first is Project Eirini, which was launched by IBM and is now being worked on by Suse and SAP as well. This project has been a long time in the making and it’s something that the community has expected for a while. It basically allows developers to choose between using the existing Diego orchestrator and Kubernetes when it comes to deploying applications written for the Application Runtime. That’s a big deal for Cloud Foundry.

“What Eirini does, is it takes that Cloud Foundry Application Runtime — that core PaaS experience that the [Cloud Foundry] brand is so tied to and it allows the underlying Diego scheduler to be replaced with Kubernetes as an option for those use cases that it can cover,” Childers explained. He added that there are still some use cases the Diego container management system is better suited for than Kubernetes. One of those is better Windows support — something that matters quite a bit to the enterprise companies that use Cloud Foundry. Childers also noted that the multi-tenancy guarantees of Kubernetes are a bit less stringent than Diego’s.

The second new project is ContainerizedCF, which was initially developed by Suse. Like the name implies, ContainerizedCF basically allows you to package the core Cloud Foundry Application Runtime and deploy it in Kubernetes clusters with the help of the BOSH deployment tool. This is pretty much what Suse is already using to ship its Cloud Foundry distribution.

Clearly then, Kubernetes is becoming part and parcel of what the Cloud Foundry PaaS service will sit on top of and what developers will use to deploy the applications they write for it in the near future. At first glance, this focus on Kubernetes may look like it’s going to make Cloud Foundry superfluous, but it’s worth remembering that, at its core, the Cloud Foundry Application Runtime isn’t about infrastructure but about a developer experience and methodology that aims to manage the whole lifecycle of the application development. If Kubernetes can be used to help manage that infrastructure, then the Cloud Foundry project can focus on what it does best, too.

Pivotal CEO talks IPO and balancing life in Dell family of companies

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Pivotal has kind of a strange role for a company. On one hand its part of the EMC federation companies that Dell acquired in 2016 for a cool $67 billion, but it’s also an independently operated entity within that broader Dell family of companies — and that has to be a fine line to walk.

Whatever the challenges, the company went public yesterday and joined VMware as a  separately traded company within Dell. CEO Rob Mee says the company took the step of IPOing because it wanted additional capital.

“I think we can definitely use the capital to invest in marketing and R&D. The wider technology ecosystem is moving quickly. It does take additional investment to keep up,” Mee told TechCrunch just a few hours after his company rang the bell at the New York Stock Exchange.

As for that relationship of being a Dell company, he said that Michael Dell let him know early on after the EMC acquisition that he understood the company’s position. “From the time Dell acquired EMC, Michael was clear with me: You run the company. I’m just here to help. Dell is our largest shareholder, but we run independently. There have been opportunities to test that [since the acquisition] and it has held true,” Mee said.

Mee says that independence is essential because Pivotal has to remain technology-agnostic and it can’t favor Dell products and services over that mission. “It’s necessary because our core product is a cloud-agnostic platform. Our core value proposition is independence from any provider — and Dell and VMware are infrastructure providers,” he said.

That said, Mee also can play both sides because he can build products and services that do align with Dell and VMware offerings. “Certainly the companies inside the Dell family are customers of ours. Michael Dell has encouraged the IT group to adopt our methods and they are doing so,” he said. They have also started working more closely with VMware, announcing a container partnership last year.

Photo: Ron Miller

Overall though he sees his company’s mission in much broader terms, doing nothing less than helping the world’s largest companies transform their organizations. “Our mission is to transform how the world builds software. We are focused on the largest organizations in the world. What is a tailwind for us is that the reality is these large companies are at a tipping point of adopting how they digitize and develop software for strategic advantage,” Mee said.

The stock closed up 5 percent last night, but Mee says this isn’t about a single day. “We do very much focus on the long term. We have been executing to a quarterly cadence and have behaved like a public company inside Pivotal [even before the IPO]. We know how to do that while keeping an eye on the long term,” he said.

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