OpenStack's future: Docker workloads on Kubernetes

OpenStack is set to become a Docker-ized app that runs on Kubernetes and help Google's plans for an open source hybrid cloud

OpenStack's future: Docker workloads on Kubernetes
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OpenStack distributor Mirantis will work with Google and Intel to repackage the cloud platform for deployment via Docker containers managed with Kubernetes.

This is the most radical reworking of OpenStack yet, with major implications for Google's planned open standard and open source hybrid cloud. It also shows how much OpenStack's future depends on containers.

Containerize all the things!

The plan is to rework OpenStack's deployment system, Fuel, so that OpenStack will run as a series of Docker containers on a minimal Linux installation derived from Debian and Ubuntu. General availability for this reworked OpenStack is expected in the first quarter of 2017.

Fuel will use Kubernetes to manage the containers, and to accomplish that, Mirantis will come on board as a major contributor to the Kubernetes project.

Mirantis CMO Boris Renski described in a phone call how the company had settled on Kubernetes as the orchestration platform after a year's deliberation. The other candidates included Swarm and Mesos, but Kubernetes was fast becoming the dominant orchestration fabric. Renski characterized this as similar to OpenStack becoming the default choice of its kind compared to CloudStack or Eucalyptus.

The reworked, containerized OpenStack will run as "just another distributed app," Renski explained. The Kubernetes APIs will be fully exposed; there will be no masking of them as there was with the Openstack Magnum subsystem.

"You could almost think of OpenStack as a PaaS for VMs that runs on top of Kubernetes/Docker," said Renski.

The Google on-ramp

One Mirantis partner in this effort is Kubernetes creator Google. This isn't happening merely because Mirantis wants to drive Kubernetes support as part of OpenStack's development effort. It's also because a containerized OpenStack could in theory run seamlessly on Google Container Engine -- another step toward the open hybrid cloud Google's been working on.

"Customers will get to this 'nirvana state' where you have one fabric all based on open standards and open APIs with OpenStack and Kubernetes combined," said Renski. "Where you can run contains, VMs, and mixed workloads on one fabric -- with the option to run that same fabric off-prem on Google Container Engine."

This ambition is a none-too-subtle echo of what Microsoft is planning in the long run with its Azure Service Fabric. While Service Fabric will eventually be open source and enjoy strong support for containers, its current incarnation is quite complex.

By contrast, all the pieces in Renski's vision are open source right now, although it isn't clear how much easier a fully containerized OpenStack will be to set up and maintain. Mirantis wants to make OpenStack behave like Red Hat's Project Atomic, where encapsulating all the components of the product in containers leads to less complex upgrades and rollbacks.

One of OpenStack's biggest bugaboos has always been deploying, maintaining, and upgrading a given OpenStack installation. Every OpenStack vendor offers to make all of that less ornery, but if all of OpenStack is reinvented from the inside out, it'll be one more reason to pick OpenStack as a whole, rather than side with any particular vendor.

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