Wrong Questions Only – What’s the Best Kubernetes Distro?

By Published On: October 12, 2020

I’m about as interested in Kubernetes distributions as I am Linux Kernels. It’s an implementation detail. At least that’s the theory. In practice, I’ve heard presentations from VMware, Red Hat, HPE, Nirmata, NetApp, and a host of other purveyors of Kubernetes. What’s the one thing that they are all trying to sell? Hint, it isn’t container orchestration. 

Application Development Platform 

IT organizations want to enable the building and operations of modern applications. I’d argue adopting public cloud services provides a better platform for most organizations—yet another blog post for another day. I’ve not once run into a developer that has asked for Kubernetes as a development platform, mainly because Kubernetes isn’t a development platform. Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform. It’s the thing you run code on; it isn’t what you use to develop the code. 

OpenShift is an excellent example of the desired end state. OpenShift predates Kubernetes. Red Hat shifted from Gears, OpenShift 2.0 to Kubernetes, OpenShift 3.0. The company didn’t abandon application developers. Back in the 2.0 days, Red Hat marketed OpenShift as a platform as a service (PaaS). For whatever reason, the term PaaS has fallen out of favor and given way to the term application development platform. 

While the term PaaS has fallen out of favor, the attributes of an application development platform look too familiar. There’s a runtime, code repository, automation for CI/CD, authentication services, a messaging queue, and all the other services needed to create an application. The primary difference? Kubernetes has won the container orchestration wars, and a battle is ensuing for the real value, the application development platform. 

What’s the best platform 

I can only share my experience. My experience is that hybrid-cloud isn’t a thing. Not yet. There’s too much work for networking, security, and observability. 

Where do I see the value of an application development platform? If you need similar characteristics of public cloud services on-premises, application development platforms are the closest thing we have. Someday, solutions such as AzureStack and AWS Outposts will offer all the public cloud services you’ll want inside of your private data center. Today we have these Kubernetes-based options. 

Some other options on the market include VMware Tanzu, Nirmata, HPE Ezmeral, and Rancher. All of the solutions are looking to capture the same budget, the enterprise platform team. On paper, this is the team responsible for building the application development platform for the enterprise. I’m dubious. We wrote how the platform team has lost its way in many enterprises.

We want to answer the question of which platform is the best. We are doing the leg work for new research. We gather all or a subset of these solutions to the test inside of the CTO Advisor Hybrid Infrastructure. Intel sponsors the hybrid infrastructure but isn’t providing direct consideration for this work. 

What would you like to see us test? Are you looking to better understand operations around these Kubernetes powered platforms? Or would you like to know how developers cobble together applications using these platforms? Please provide your feedback in the comments section or @ me on Twitter. 


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