Waity K8-y no more Pivotal: We’ll unhook Application Service from VMware
Multicloud, Spring framework, and how K8s will become a universal API for infrastructure
Interview Pivotal’s current alpha release of the Pivotal Application Service (PAS) for Kubernetes has a dependency on VMware, but that will be removed in the final release, senior veep of products Ian Andrews told The Reg.
“The only reason the alpha was tied to a number of components was to bring it to market quickly,” he said, speaking at the Cloud Foundry Summit currently underway in The Hague, The Netherlands.
PAS is one of several certified providers of the open source Cloud Foundry platform. No GA date for PAS on K8s has been announced, and Andrews would only say that another couple of preview releases are expected in 2019, one at the SpringOne event in October and another at the end of the year.
Pivotal has been under intense pressure to accelerate its move to K8s, after investors accused the company of falling behind.
But is the transition to K8s of more concern to investors than it is to actual users, who find the existing non-K8s implementation perfectly functional?
“The urgency was more around understanding the long term vision than an immediate need,” said Andrews. “We’re still very early. Everybody is talking about K8s all the time, but if you look at who is actually using it in production, the list is much shorter. Our technology stack works incredibly well, we have customers with over 100,000 containers working on the current platform. If we forecast out 3 to 5 years in the future though, it seems clear that K8s is going to be a de facto component in the architecture.”
How will customers actually benefit from K8s? “In the future K8s will exist as an infrastructure API almost universally. VMware has introduced project Pacific. Now you have a consistent way to provision resources and infrastructure and do health management and updates and scheduling. So the landscape from an operational complexity goes way down,” said Andrews.
Project Pacific, announced last month at VMWorld in San Francisco, makes vSphere a K8s platform.
“If you look into the future, K8s or whatever comes after K8s actually recedes down into the infrastructure layer. Today we think about VM hosts, storage, networking, and then K8s as a thing that deploys on top of that. Potentially that becomes the only API that you see,” said Andrews.
Pivotal is in the process of being acquired by VMware, though the two companies already had a common owner, Dell. Will that make any difference, since the company was already VMware-centric?
“When Pivotal was created [in 2012] it was at a time when both EMC and VMware were really trying to figure out their next chapter. VMware had built a franchise inside the data centre but the public cloud story was very uncertain. For a time they were fighting against it. For the team at Pivotal it was clear that most of the world would end up with some on-premises, some public cloud, maybe multiple public clouds. But we didn’t have the invested franchise we were attempting to protect.
“It happened again at the container layer, where first VMware was defensive and this is now a core part of their strategy.
“Over the last year we’ve aligned on the way we see the world. It’s multi-cloud, it’s container-centric. They’ve evolved their portfolio where they are well positioned to support that. That opened the opportunity to come back as one company,” said Andrews.
The acquisition has been reassuring for customers, he claimed.
Pivotal is also the home of Spring, a popular Java application framework. Are there any hooks in PAS that make it particularly suitable for Spring applications?
“There are some for things like distributed tracing and metrics collection,” said Andrews. “The thing we’ve looked at more [in Spring] is at the platform architecture level. We’ve been doing a lot of work in Spring to add support for Reactive programming, that historically Java was very poor at. That’s allowed us to start to think about real time stream processing with Kafka. If you compare the number of developers writing for Spring to the number of Pivotal customers, the first far outstrips the second. But if you choose to deploy on our platform, there’s a simplification.
If you look at the state of the art today, there is no human building little command scripts that says, ‘When the container fails, respawn another container on a different host’
Removing VMware dependency from PAS for K8s means it will run on any public cloud, such as Amazon EKS (Elastic Kubernetes Service), GKE (Google Kubernetes Engine) or AKS (Azure Kubernetes Service). These public cloud vendors have their own services for deploying applications though. How will Pivotal continue to find a place for PAS on public cloud?
Andrews said that support for hybrid cloud and multi-cloud is key. “We have great relationships with Microsoft, we’ve done a lot of engineering work with Google, we have lots of customers running on Amazon, but they also have products that sit in our space. But our ability to give customers a way to migrate between clouds is antithetical to their approach, which is ‘Get the workload on our cloud and lock it in there forever’,” he told The Reg.
Andrews also has strong views on DevOps. He foresees automation tools like Chef and Puppet becoming obsolete. “I started my career at a company called OpsWare who was one of the first independent companies in the automation space. The model we took was, whatever the human had been doing before, we’re going to put that in a script, they’ll be an agent and we can execute those tasks.
“If you look at the state of the art today, there is no human building little command scripts that says, ‘When the container fails, respawn another container on a different host’. It’s built into the system. The human interface is now a declarative statement that says: ‘When this application runs, I want three containers of this type always deployed on the same host.’
“It’s a different model of automation that is necessary for the current scale of operation. We’re now at a scale that is too massive for humans to touch. The paradigm a Puppet or Chef or Opsware represents is just completely ineffective.” ®