This column has discussed in the past how an increasing number of container technologies — such as container runtimes — have been standardized, making it easier for businesses to build container infrastructures and swap and change between different vendors' offerings.
As far as container orchestration and management is concerned, Kubernetes has become the de-facto standard core around which many offerings from the likes of Docker, Google, IBM, Microsoft, CoreOS, Oracle, Rancher, Red Hat, SAP, and even VMware have been built.
But of course Kubernetes can be implemented in different platforms in different ways, and there's a danger that vendors could build Kubernetes-based products in ways that are — deliberately or otherwise — unusual or incompatible with other implementations. That is to say, they could build their Kubernetes-based offerings in such a way that it makes it difficult for their customers to switch away from them.
This is exactly what standardization is designed to prevent, and the good news is that the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) — a body that aims to foster the growth and evolution of the container ecosystem — has decided to act.
Here's how: it has announced the Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program, which has been designed to ensure that Certified Kubernetes products deliver consistency and portability.
Choose a Certified Kubernetes product, in other words, and you won't be locked in to that vendor's ecosystem. You'll be able to move to another ecosystem if desired, and because the complete Kubernetes API will function as specified, companies will be able to add to that ecosystem with other vendors' products that work with Kubernetes.
How the Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program Works
How does an offering get certified? Easy. An automated test suite has been developed, and vendors can use it to demonstrate their conformance with the Kubernetes API (as defined by the Kubernetes Architecture Special Interest Group). The CNCF will then certify a submission, allowing the vendor concerned to use a new Certified Kubernetes logo and to use the Kubernetes name in combination with their product name.
"The new Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program gives enterprise organizations the confidence that workloads that run on any Certified Kubernetes Distribution or Platform will work correctly on any other version," explains Dan Kohn, the CNCF's executive director. "The interoperability that this program ensures is essential to Kubernetes meeting its promise of offering a single open source software stack supported by many vendors that can deploy on any public, private or hybrid cloud."
This is exactly what Google was aiming for when it handed over Kubernetes to the container software community, according to Eyal Manor, an engineering vice president working on Google Cloud. "From the day Google first open-sourced Kubernetes, the goal has been to provide a highly portable cloud native platform for developers to quickly deploy services on premises, in public cloud, and in hybrid environments," he said.
"The Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program is a way for vendors to prove they are offering pure Kubernetes, with continuous, seamless upgrades, giving users assurance that they can continue to benefit from the innovation and portability Kubernetes offers," Manor continued.
So far, over 30 vendors have signed up to the program, including all those mentioned at the beginning of this article, and other big name vendors as well.
Kubernetes is already the de-facto standard container orchestration and management engine, and this certification program goes a long way to making it the official standard as well.
Paul Rubens is a technology journalist and contributor to ServerWatch, EnterpriseNetworkingPlanet and EnterpriseMobileToday. He has also covered technology for international newspapers and magazines including The Economist and The Financial Times since 1991.