Capitulation? Mirantis refactors OpenStack on top of Kubernetes

It's turtles all the way down, but does this news mark a turning point for OpenStack?

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First, the guts of the announcement: Mirantis, the bad boys of the OpenStack world, are today announcing a collaboration with Google (a company that has pretty much zero history with OpenStack) and Intel. Under the intent of the collaboration, the life cycle management tool for OpenStack, Fuel, will be rewritten so that it uses Kubernetes as its underlying orchestration.

Lots of inside baseball there, so what are all these different products?

  • OpenStack is the open source cloud computing operating system that was jointly created by Rackspace and NASA and has since built a massive following of companies (including IBM, HPE, Intel and many, many others).
  • Kubernetes is the open source orchestration platform loosely descended from the tools that Google uses internally to operate its own data centers.
  • Fuel, as stated previously, was (is) the OpenStack-native life cycle management tool for OpenStack.

So what does it all mean? Well, it's actually far more important than first appearances would suggest. It marks, at least to some extent, an admission by all concerned that OpenStack isn't the be-all and end-all of the infrastructure world.

That positioning, which might seem blindingly obvious to anyone who is aware of the heterogeneity of modern enterprise IT, somewhat goes against what we heard from the OpenStack camp for its first few years, when pundits would be excused for thinking that OpenStack was the solution for every possible situation. It seems now, however, that OpenStack is simply a part of the solution -- and virtual machines, containers and bare-metal systems all have a part to play in enterprise IT going forward.

Under the terms of the collaboration, Mirantis will initiate a new continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) pipeline under the OpenStack Fuel project for building capabilities around containerized OpenStack deployment and operations. The resulting software will give users fine-grain control over the placement of services used for the OpenStack control plane, as well as the ability to do rolling updates of OpenStack, make the OpenStack control plane self-healing and more resilient, and smooth the path for the creating of microservices-based applications on OpenStack.

If that sounds familiar, that would be because it is much the same proposition that we heard from Alex Polvi of CoreOS fame a few months ago -- the difference here is that it comes from an OpenStack player that is front-and-center of the movement, an arguably far more substantive statement.

And some big names have poured the love into this collaboration -- in particular Mirantis and Google, originators of Kubernetes.

"With the emergence of Docker as the standard container image format and Kubernetes as the standard for container orchestration, we are finally seeing continuity in how people approach operations of distributed applications," said Mirantis CMO Boris Renski. "Combining Kubernetes and Fuel will open OpenStack up to a new delivery model that allows faster consumption of updates, helping customers get to outcomes faster."

Google Senior Product Manager Craig McLuckie also chimed in. "Leveraging Kubernetes in Fuel will turn OpenStack into a true microservice application, bridging the gap between legacy infrastructure software and the next generation of application development," he said. "Many enterprises will benefit from using containers and sophisticated cluster management as the foundation for resilient, highly scalable infrastructure."

Along with the initial work on the Fuel aspects, Mirantis will also become an active contributor to the Kubernetes project, and has stated the ambition to become a top contributor to the project over the next year.

Alongside that, Mirantis has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a Linux Foundation project dedicated to advancing the development of cloud-native applications and services, as a Silver member.

MyPOV

This is a big deal, there's no denying that. OpenStack is slowly but inexorably becoming less of a "solution for everything" and more of an integral part. Skeptics would suggest that this marks a turning point where OpenStack ceases to be a compelling long-term proposition in and of itself and becomes simply a stop-gap measure between traditional architectures and more cloud-native approaches.

The reality is probably somewhere in the middle -- and OpenStack will still have a part to play in infrastructure going forward -- but clearly Mirantis' move to embrace Kubernetes is an indication that it realizes that it needs to extend beyond a pure-play OpenStack offering.

As always, this space provides huge interest and much entertainment -- a situation that looks unlikely to change anytime soon.

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