Spinnaker is the next big open source project to watch
Spinnaker is an open source continuous delivery (CD) platform from Netflix and Google, though it now also has the backing of other major software companies. Spinnaker 1.0 launched last July, so it’s not the newest kid on the block, but the service is slowly but surely gaining momentum now, with users that include Target, Adobe, Daimler and Capital One, as well as a growing ecosystem of vendors who support it.
Today, after a few years of working on the project without any formal structure in place, the Spinnaker project announced that it is growing up and putting a formal governance system in place at the project’s second community summit in Seattle this week.
Like Kubernetes, which has become the de facto standard for container orchestration tools, Spinnaker could become the same kind of standard for continuous delivery. That space, though, already has plenty of incumbents and established players, so chances are this will be a bit more of an uphill battle. Spinnaker and Kubernetes make for a pretty obvious pairing, though, so there’s now also plenty of Kubernetes startups that are looking at how they can best combine the two.
What’s most important in the short run, though, is that Spinnaker is now getting a formal governance structure whereas before, it was basically run as a GitHub project with a benevolent dictator in place.
“That’s something that the community’s been looking for in terms of how do people get a seat at the table,” Netflix’s Director of Delivery Engineering Andy Glover, who oversaw the development of Spinnaker, told me. “The project has largely been run by Netflix and Google. We’ve taken any questions from the community and big companies, whether they be Cisco or Target, about trying to figure out ‘what’s the deal here?’ How do we how do we reduce risk, how do we guard ourselves from Netflix closed-sourcing it or Google’s deciding to license it or something like that.”
So going forward, the project will have a technical steering committee and a steering committee. For now, those committees are staffed with Netflix and Google engineers, but the plan is to open it up to third parties as well. The new governance policy also outlines how developers can start committing code to the project.
In the early days, having Glover and others shepherd the project informally was just fine. Now that the community is growing, though, and more large companies are starting to use Spinnaker, Glover admits that to scale the project, others have to step in. “At Netflix, we tend to do a lot of experimentation without worrying too much up front,” he told me. “Let’s just run fast and see what happens. And with respect to Spinnaker, that was very much run the same way. We said we’d cross that bridge when we get to it and obviously, we got to that bridge a little while ago.”
One thing a lot of people have been wondering about is whether Spinnaker will eventually land at any of the major open source foundations like the Linux Foundation, the OpenStack Foundation or the Apache Foundation. Glover noted that this move is meant to set the stage for that.
Boris Renski, the founder of Mirants, which has recently made a major bet on Spinnaker, tells me that this new government policy is very much needed (and he’d prefer the project to land with the OpenStack Foundation). He told me that today’s Spinnaker, without formal governance in place, isn’t always the most community-friendly place to be.
“Spinnaker has all the chances to become the de facto continuous delivery tool,” he told me. Putting the governance in place is only a first step, though, Renski actually believes that one of the challenges for the project is the fact that Kubernetes is already putting many of the CD tools for its community in place. Kubernetes, he argues, is suffering from “an OpenStack syndrome” where it has “its fingers in everything” (though to be fair, OpenStack has paired its efforts back quite a bit in recent years). That, he thinks, is not a healthy dynamic and he believes that more specialized tools are the way to go. But Kubernetes is the hot new thing right now and developers are gravitating to it. Yet CD solutions that only cater to Kubernetes discount that most enterprises will want to be able to deploy to other targets, too. Spinnaker, he argues, should be a friend to Kubernetes developers but still remain flexible enough to work for everybody.
He also noted that one problem with today’s Spinnaker community is that it’s mostly driven by users who are trying to solve a near-term tactical problem. “Those users don’t have time and bandwidth to solve longer-term, community-type problems,” he said. What the project still needs in his view is real “pluggability,” that is, the ability to extend Spinnaker and more easily integrate it with third-party systems.
Google, Microsoft and Amazon now back the project and it runs on their clouds. Pivotal, too, recently announced increased support for it and so are many other players in the continuous integration and delivery ecosystem. Pete Erickson, who organized this week’s Spinnaker Summit, told me that he’s expecting about 400 participants from 16 countries and 275 companies at the event. And Glover also noted that about 30 percent of attendees are new to Spinnaker and are simply attending to learn about it and how to bring it to their companies.