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Kubernetes on AWS gets a boost with Quick Start

A Kubernetes startup has been tapped to design a reference architecture for AWS. IT pros see a potential precursor to Kubernetes support in ECS.

AWS and Heptio launched Kubernetes Quick Start this week, stoking hopes among IT pros that Amazon's EC2 Container Service will be next up for integration.

The new Quick Start, a result of a partnership between AWS solutions architects and startup Heptio, encourages enterprises to use Kubernetes. AWS lists the Quick Start alongside other Quick Start reference architectures for products such as Docker Datacenter, Chef, Puppet, Ansible Tower and more. The Kubernetes Quick Start notably includes CloudFormation templates for Kubernetes clusters. It also includes Auto Scaling, which a community-supported utility for Kubernetes on AWS -- called kops -- does not yet support.

However, the Quick Start does not include multiple node pools, said Michael Bishop, who is the CTO at Alpha Vertex Inc., a fintech startup in New York that uses Kubernetes in a multicloud deployment.

"It appears to impose a networking stack that is not needed -- I've run kops K8S clusters on AWS perfectly fine without Calico or Weave," Bishop added.

Heptio's founder acknowledged the limitations of the Quick Start in a blog post, saying it is suited best for development workflows and small-team use for now. 

"This isn't a formal product, but it is a first step to making Kubernetes work well on AWS, and it's the first time AWS solutions architects have really put effort into a pure-play Kubernetes solution," said Craig McLuckie, founder of Heptio, based in Seattle. McLuckie, who is a former Google employee, also was among the inventors of Kubernetes, which was launched within Google, as well as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

AWS had previously offered a quasi-reference architecture for Kubernetes through a Quick Start for Red Hat OpenShift, but Heptio's version is less specific about how to configure Kubernetes clusters, McLuckie said.

"Heptio has the first commercially supported 'upstream first' Kubernetes offering that is intended to be lightweight, open and friendly to projects that are building on Kubernetes," he said.

Users still dream of ECS support for Kubernetes on AWS

Amazon baffled Kubernetes enthusiasts when it launched AWS Blox at ts re:Invent 2016 conference in November. Blox is an open source project that allows customers to build custom schedulers and other utilities on top of Amazon's EC2 Container Service (ECS). Customers and experts had expected the company to embrace Kubernetes on AWS instead.

Even though a Kubernetes scheduler option under ECS isn't ready for release yet, some hope that will be next for the Amazon-Heptio partnership. Microsoft released a similar product last week.

"It's just a question of when," said Brandon Cipes, managing director of DevOps at cPrime, an Agile consulting firm in Foster City, Calif.

AWS [has] no choice -- Kubernetes is becoming mainstream.
Rob Stroudanalyst at Forrester Research

Cipes said the AWS ecosystem has seen AWS' support for third-party, open source software before in configuration management with Chef as the underpinning for AWS OpsWorks. With that product, AWS chose to embrace Chef as a standard, rather than writing its own configuration management software. Cipes predicted a similar embrace of Kubernetes will come for ECS.

"Amazon's always walking that line between having to take some externally existing standard, like Chef, versus saying, 'We're going to become the standard,'" Cipes said.

As for Blox, AWS may have a hard time pushing its own technology over something not invented there, Bishop said.

Analysts said Kubernetes' momentum has increased since the Blox rollout last year.

"AWS [has] no choice -- Kubernetes is becoming mainstream," said Rob Stroud, an analyst at Forrester Research. "Kubernetes adoption will drive the adoption into ECS and, in turn, will make the adoption of ECS more [appealing]."

Some customers are less certain that Kubernetes integration into ECS is on its way -- one IT pro in an AWS shop cited Amazon's activity in machine learning.

"The community is definitely behind Google's TensorFlow framework, but Amazon put [its] money behind MXNet," said Cole Calistra, CTO of Kairos AR Inc., a provider of human facial recognition and analytics for developers in Miami, which deployed Kubernetes on Amazon Elastic Compute Cloud.

However, Calistra said he still hopes Amazon will commit further to Kubernetes on AWS.

"Quick Starts are nice, but they aren't that well-publicized versus having a first-class service listed directly in the AWS Console," he said.

Heptio's McLuckie declined to comment about whether his company's partnership with Amazon is laying the groundwork for ECS integration. AWS did not respond to a request for comment as of press time.

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.

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