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Pivotal hops aboard Kubernetes container orchestration tools bandwagon

Pivotal will support a new integration between Kubernetes and Cloud Foundry later this week, a sign of growing maturity for containers and container orchestration tools.

Containers will take a step forward into enterprise IT this week with the launch of a new integration between open source projects by Pivotal and Google.

Pivotal, a platform as a service (PaaS) bellwether owned by mainstream IT giant Dell Technologies, will integrate the Google Kubernetes container orchestration tool with Cloud Foundry PaaS software. The combination of these two popular open source projects may form the foundation for a new, standardized approach to IT management across departmental environments at large companies.

The integration, dubbed Kubo, will be unveiled Friday, according to multiple industry sources -- possibly as part of a presentation of the Google Cloud Next conference in San Francisco, where Pivotal is a sponsor. Enterprise IT shops already can deploy Cloud Foundry with Kubernetes, but now will have the support of Pivotal for the relatively young Kubernetes software. Without it, some enterprises might be hesitant to combine these two projects on their own.

Sources familiar with the deal said Pivotal's shift of position on the container orchestration tools market stems from enterprise customers' desire for a combination of Pivotal's Cloud Foundry-based PaaS and Kubernetes orchestration, another sign of the container market's progress toward maturity.

For example, some of analyst firm IDC's clients already use Kubernetes to deploy Cloud Foundry, according to IDC analyst Gary Chen, who was not familiar with this week's disclosure but said it would make sense. 

"It would mean more standardization in the industry for people who want to base everything around these core technologies," Chen said.

The reality is needing to move workloads between cloud providers is here; it's real. Clients are really looking at portability and cross-support being an important topic.
Charlie Lichief cloud officer, Capgemini

The combination of a PaaS offering, such as Pivotal's Cloud Foundry, with a container orchestration tool, such as Google's Kubernetes, offers multiple layers of abstraction that improve IT efficiency for developers and operations pros alike. While Cloud Foundry's PaaS can free up developers from infrastructure management worries, Kubernetes' container orchestration and cluster management functions can preserve control over the infrastructure for ops.

Moreover, Kubernetes as a common IT management layer could portend more portability between PaaS environments, said Charlie Li, chief cloud officer at Capgemini, a business management consulting firm in Boston, who did not have direct knowledge of Pivotal's pivot this week but said it would not surprise him to see it happen.

"The reality is needing to move workloads between cloud providers is here; it's real," Li said. "Clients are really looking at portability and cross-support being an important topic."

Kubernetes takes early lead in container orchestration

The move will also push Kubernetes -- fast becoming the de facto standard among container orchestration tools -- to the front of the pack that's chasing enterprise IT dollars following the meteoric rise of Docker containers.

"The early money is on Kubernetes -- they're the one to beat right now," Chen said.

The Google-Pivotal partnership follows the general availability of Kubernetes support from Microsoft's Azure Container Service last week, and a further foray by a Kubernetes holdout, Amazon Web Services (AWS), into this realm with the launch of an AWS Quick Start for the container orchestration tool.

Unlike the infrastructure-as-a-service market that's home to Azure and AWS, containers are nothing new in the PaaS world. PaaS offerings, including Cloud Foundry, have long used containers to quickly spin up and control development environments; Pivotal has its own container orchestration tool called Diego.

While Pivotal partners such as IBM support both Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes, behind the scenes these partners have faced pushback from Pivotal, sources said.

"They were very reluctant to embrace Kubernetes," said one industry watcher close to the Kubernetes project. But recently, "they've been making some slow and cautious inroads to the Kubernetes domain."

One example of this is integration between open source Cloud Foundry's Open Service Broker API and Kubernetes late last year. Some observers credit the shift in Pivotal's position to the departure of Cloud Foundry Foundation CEO Sam Ramji for Google last November.

Google has also tried to make inroads with OpenStack via Kubernetes; one of its executives is a keynote speaker at the upcoming OpenStack Summit.

As Pivotal embraces Kubernetes, it will not replace Diego, but will take a place alongside it through integration with Cloud Foundry's BOSH utility, described on the Cloud Foundry GitHub page as "an open source tool chain for release engineering, deployment and lifecycle management of large scale distributed services."

Pivotal and Google declined to comment for this story.

Beth Pariseau is senior news writer for TechTarget's Data Center and Virtualization Media Group. Write to her at [email protected] or follow @PariseauTT on Twitter.

Trevor Jones is a news writer with SearchCloudComputing and SearchAWS. Contact him at [email protected].

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