Rancher Labs Announces 2.5

Rancher Labs recently announced version 2.5 of its platform. I had the opportunity to catch up with co-founder and CEO Sheng Liang about the release and other things that Rancher has been up to and thought I’d share some of my notes here.

 

Introducing Rancher Labs 2.5

Liang described Rancher as a way for organisations to “[f]ocus on enriching their own apps, rather than trying to be a day 1, day 2 K8s outfit”. With that thinking in mind, the new features in 2.5 are as follows:

  1. Rancher now installs everywhere – on EKS, OpenShift, whatever – and they’ve removed a bunch of dependencies. Rancher 2.5 can now be installed on any CNCF-certified Kubernetes cluster, eliminating the need to set up a separate Kubernetes cluster before installing Rancher. The new lightweight installation experience is useful for users who already have access to a cloud-managed Kubernetes service like EKS.
  2. Enhanced management for EKS. Rancher Labs was a launch partner for EKS and used to treat it like a dumb distribution. The management architecture has been revamped with improved lifecycle management for EKS. It now uses the native EKS way of doing various things and only adds value where it’s not already present.
  3. Managing edge clusters. Liang described K3s as “almost the goto distribution for edge computing (5G, IoT, ATMs, etc)”. When you get into some of these scenarios, the scale of operations is becoming pretty big. You need to re-think multi-cluster management when you have that in place. Rancher has introduced a GitOps framework to do that. “GitOps at scale” – created its own GitOp framework to accommodate the required scale.
  4. K8s has plenty of traction in government and high security environments, hence the development of RKE Government Edition.

 

Other Notes

Liang mentioned that Longhorn uptake (made generally available in May 2020) has been great, with over 10000 active deployments (not just downloads) in the wild now. He noted that persistent storage with K8s has been hard to do, and Longhorn has gone some way to improving that experience. K3s is now a CNCF Sandbox project, not just a Rancher project, and this has certainly helped with its popularity as well. He also mentioned the acquisition by SUSE was continuing to progress, and expected it would be closed in Q4, 2020.

 

Thoughts and Further Reading

Longtime readers of this blog will know that my background is fairly well entrenched in infrastructure as opposed to cloud-native technologies. Liang understands this, and always does a pretty good job of translating some of the concepts he talks about with me back into infrastructure terms. The world continues to change, though, and the popularity of Kubernetes and solutions like Rancher Labs highlights that it’s no longer a simple conversation about LUNs, CPUs, network throughput and which server I’ll use to host my application. Organisations are looking for effective ways to get the most out of their technology investment, and Kubernetes can provide an extremely effective way of deploying and running containerised applications in an agile and efficient fashion. That said, the bar for entry into the cloud-native world can still be considered pretty high, particularly when you need to do things at large scale. This is where I think platforms like the one from Rancher Labs make so much sense. I may have described some elements of cloud-native architecture as a bin fire previously, but I think the progress that Rancher is making demonstrates just how far we’ve come. I know that VMware and Kubernetes has little in common, but it strikes me that we’re seeing the same development progress that we saw 15 years ago with VMware (and ESX in particular). I remember at the time that VMware seemed like a whole bunch of weird to many infrastructure folks, and it wasn’t until much later that these same people were happily using VMware in every part of the data centre. I suspect that the adoption of Kubernetes (and useful management frameworks for it) will be a bit quicker than that, but it’s going to be heavily reliant on solutions like this to broaden the appeal of what’s a very useful (but nonetheless challenging) container deployment and management ecosystem.

If you’re in the APAC region, Rancher is hosting a webinar in a friendly timezone later this month. You can get more details on that here. And if you’re on US Eastern time, there’s the “Computing on the Edge with Kubernetes” one day event that’s worth checking out.

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