For the longest time, if you’d look at the list of members on the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), it sort of screamed “everyone but AWS”! That’s because the CNCF is built around Kubernetes, and AWS has its own orchestration tool called Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS). ECS was released in November 2014 just after Google announced Kubernetes. Both Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS) and Kubernetes are fast, scalable solutions for container management and orchestration. ECS is a container management service that supports Docker containers and allows you to easily run applications on a cluster of Amazon instances which eliminates the need to install, operate, and scale your own infrastructure. But as of August, “everyone but AWS” is no longer operative after the Cloud Native Computing Foundation proudly declared in a news release that AWS joins CNCF as platinum member.
ECS only runs on AWS
The downside, however, is vendor lock-in and containers managed by ECS can only run on AWS EC2 instances, and there’s no support for containers to run anywhere else. Another big difference is the fact that unlike other container orchestration solutions, EC2 instances must be created prior to requesting ECS to bring them up, which is a major drawback considering the only advantage is the ability to work with all the other AWS services.
Nobody is interested in vendor lock-in, especially since the most popular hybrid cloud model has at least two public clouds in the mix. Cloud computing was always meant to be free of license restrictions, and users are a lot smarter now. Everyone knows about open source, and the fact that the best software in the world is free and being updated by millions of developers across the planet.
Kubernetes and AI
This is probably why Kubernetes is the leading container orchestration tool in a booming market that is forecast to grow in revenue from $762 million last year to close $2.7 billion in 2020. Kubernetes is increasingly popular with developers, especially since it can be used across platforms and supports the hybrid datacenter model.
It also has become popular with AI researchers who use Kubernetes to manage AI tests across multiple machines and also to manage experiments. Google is especially focused on machine learning and AI services, and CEO Sundar Pichai was quoted saying “GCP will soon be the best cloud for machine learning.”
AWS joins CNCF
While you can use Kubernetes on AWS, it’s not that easy to set up when compared to Google Cloud; you need the help of tools from third-party vendors. For a while there were rumors that AWS was thinking about building a tool around Kubernetes, and those rumors can now be taken to the bank because of the announcement in August that told the world AWS joins CNCF . With this new addition, all major public cloud providers are now part of this sub group of the Linux foundation, which aims to bring consistency and openness across all cloud platforms.
A certain Linus Benedict Torvalds from Helsinki, Finland, probably never imagined that one day every single major multinational tech enterprise would be lining up to be part of a foundation based on his code.
The reluctant Kubernetes host
What’s even more interesting is that even though AWS has EC2, and Kubernetes is hard to set up on AWS a recent survey says AWS hosts the “vast majority” of Kubernetes deployments. There is a catch, however, since that same study suggests customers that start using Kubernetes on AWS often switch over to GCP later on because it’s easier to use.
If every customer using Kubernetes decides to switch to Google because it’s easier, that will definitely become a problem for AWS real quick. If that was the idea behind releasing Borg to the public, like a virus that will soon attract every customer to the mother GCP cloud, it’s a brilliant plan. A post on theinformation.com also quotes an anonymous source who describes the ECS service as “less than stellar,” and stellar is what everyone expects from AWS.
Kubernetes demands attention
Executives at AWS are known to pride themselves on ignoring products offered by rival companies like Microsoft and Google, and the fact that they were the last to join the CNCF proves it. The only problem is Kubernetes has just become too difficult to ignore, even for AWS. Additionally, although AWS still maintains position as the No. 1 cloud provider, rivals Microsoft Azure and Google Public Cloud (GPC) are closing that gap slowly but steadily and an “ego issue” over something as big as Kubernetes obviously can’t be afforded right now. They were definitely thinking about it because until a week before the announcement that AWS joins CNCF, AWS was still considering building their own tool instead of backing Kubernetes.
Can’t buy what you can’t own
Another report in theinformation.com says an anonymous source was quoted stating “AWS is feeling threatened by Kubernetes’ popularity and they don’t own it.” It should actually have said “because they can’t own it.” What AWS likes AWS buys, but there’s no way anyone can “own” Kubernetes, not even with the kind of money Amazon has, so the next best thing was to obviously join the CNCF. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that Amazon is joining the foundation, but rather that it took so long to, especially since it has the most Kubernetes deployments.
It’s also worth noting that Amazon has been a Linux Foundation member since 2013, is a founding member of the Core Infrastructure Initiative, and has also been contributing to containerd, which is one of the CNCF’s projects, for a while now. Adrian Cockcroft, VP of Cloud Architecture Strategy at AWS who is now joining the CNCF’s board, was quoted as saying “AWS plans to take an active role in the cloud native community, contributing to Kubernetes and other cloud native technologies such as containerd, CNI, and linkerd.” He could have put it in simpler terms by saying “We give up, and we give in to the awesome power of Kubernetes. Where do we pay to sign up?”
All aboard the CNCF
A company's image and reputation mean a lot, and in an age of open source and transparency, the last thing AWS wants is to become a “bad guy.” For a long time it wasn’t clear whether AWS was interested in a common standard for container orchestration, and it was beginning a lot to look like AWS was only interested in products and services that make you spend time and money on AWS. The new announcement should put them back in the good books of everyone in the open source community as well as make it clear that AWS cares about progress.
While Kubernetes makes it easier for users to spread their workloads across multiple cloud providers as well as their own on-premises servers, support from AWS shows that it cares for things outside the AWS walls as well. We don’t really know if that’s true since if Kubernetes wasn’t as big as it is, AWS would probably have gone with a proprietary tool they made themselves.
As AWS joins CNCF at the highest level, it makes it clear that it is interested in building a container-orchestration product around Kubernetes. The announcement also means anyone backing Kubernetes can breathe a lot easier now that the biggest cloud provider is on board.
Photo credit: Shutterstock/Pexels