CoreOS Launches Container Management On Google's Kubernetes Project

CoreOS is founder of the Rocket container project, but the system promises to manage Docker and Rocket formats.

Charles Babcock, Editor at Large, Cloud

April 6, 2015

4 Min Read
<p align="left">(Image: <a href="" target="_blank">NOAA</a> via Wikimedia)</p>

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CoreOS has launched Tectonic as a public beta, the first publicly available container runtime for managing a multiple-container cluster. Tectonic is based on Google's open-source Kubernetes project, and Google Ventures is now the lead investor in the startup CoreOS.

Companies can use Tectonic to manage containers based on CoreOS's own Rocket format, and those based on the more commonly used Docker container format. CoreOS plans to start selling subscription support for Tectonic later this year.

Docker has some of its own management software -- container orchestration software called Docker Swarm that can produce a container cluster. Swarm is tied to the Docker Platform and orchestrates containers produced by the widely used Docker container engine. Swarm functionality overlaps with Kubernetes in some areas and provides functionality independent of it in others, according to Swarm details provided by Docker officials at the end of February.

CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi added some spice to an otherwise routine product announcement by throwing out the tidbit that Google Ventures has taken a stake in the company, accounting for $10 million of the additional $12 million that CoreOS received at the end of March.

Kubernetes is a public open source project based on the container management system Google uses internally. Google has previously announced that it is standardizing on Docker containers and that it's focused on making Kubernetes a Docker deployment platform. That picture got a little more complicated with the CoreOS move to productize Kubernetes before anyone else, and with Google Venture's stake in CoreOS.

CoreOS previously pulled in $8 million in funding, bringing its total at this point to $20 million. Docker is known to have raised $55 million since its launch two years ago. Included among CoreOS backers are well-known Silicon Valley venture capital firms Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Fuel Capital, Accel Partners, Andreesen Horowitz, and Sequoia Capital.

"Both Docker and Rocket are in Tectonic. We don't want to get in their way if customers want to run Docker. We want them to be able to run whatever container they choose," said Polvi, in an interview before the announcement.

Google's Craig McLuckie, product lead for Kubernetes inside Google, participated in the CoreOS announcement. "We introduced Kubernetes to bring cluster-first management to the multi-cloud world," McLuckie said. "With this announcement, CoreOS is helping us realize that vision: a fully supported, enterprise-grade version of Kubernetes that runs everywhere."

Google is an early implementer of container management. It uses Linux containers instead of virtual machines to subdivide servers and run millions of tasks on behalf of Google's internal operations. Google says it routinely launches two billion containers a week. When it comes to its cloud infrastructure customers' workloads, however, both Google App Engine and Compute Engine place those workloads in KVM virtual machines. In multi-tenant operations, virtual machines are regarded as still necessary for greater separation and security on the same host than containers allow at this point.

[Want to learn more about how containers are orchestrated using Docker? See Docker Orchestration Tools: The New Options.]

Google's McLuckie suggested container management will reduce cloud vendor lock-in. "Our Google Cloud Platform customers benefit from modern management patterns pioneered in Google," McLuckie said. "Tectonic frees them to pick their cloud-provider solely on the merits of their infrastructure, with no lock-in whatsoever." The statement suggests that both Google and CoreOS are paving the way to run sets of containers as distributed systems, possibly on a cluster inside a virtual machine and possibly in some other fashion that more closely resembles Google's own internal container operations. McLuckie wasn't available before the announcement to clarify what part of Google's "modern management patterns" he expected its cloud customers to benefit from.

Polvi said Tectonic is a productized version of Kubernetes that will receive commercial technical support when it becomes generally available in the second half of the year, with subscription pricing to be announced at that time. Tectonic is also open source code, and all its parts may be downloaded from the CoreOS site for unsupported use. It includes an installer, the CoreOS host version of Linux, Kubernetes, CoreOS' Flannel networking, a cluster management console, and a browser-based user interface.

"This marriage is very real. It's the first real, commercial distribution of Kubernetes and a containerized runtime," said Polvi.

Included in the package is the etcd distributed database system, created by CoreOS, which underpins Kubernetes operations. "Kubernetes won't work without etcd, which we built," Polvi said.

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About the Author(s)

Charles Babcock

Editor at Large, Cloud

Charles Babcock is an editor-at-large for InformationWeek and author of Management Strategies for the Cloud Revolution, a McGraw-Hill book. He is the former editor-in-chief of Digital News, former software editor of Computerworld and former technology editor of Interactive Week. He is a graduate of Syracuse University where he obtained a bachelor's degree in journalism. He joined the publication in 2003.

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