July 24, 2017

CoreOS is pushing forward with its Kubernetes-centric container orchestration stack with the launch of etcd3, the next-generation version of its distributed key-value store.

The company announced the stable release of etcd3 June 30, calling the updated version “a wholesale API redesign based on feedback from etcd2 users and experience with scaling etcd2 in practice.”

Here’s what’s new in etcd3:

  • gRPC has replaced JSON for data object transmission. CoreOS says this change increases efficiency.
  • Key Time-to-Live (TTL) is now handled by a “lightweight streaming lease” model.
  • Events are now streamed and multiplexed over key intervals.
  • In place of explicit key hierarchies, etcd3 uses a flat binary key space.

(For the nitty-gritty technical details on all of the above, check out the etcd3 announcement.)

All of these changes add up to greater performance, flexibility and scalability in etcd, according to CoreOS.

The CoreOS Orchestration Stack

The technical enhancements in etcd3 are something only developers will appreciate fully. But they are also significant for the container ecosystem as a whole, not just programmers.

That’s because they signal CoreOS’s commitment to building a set of orchestration tools based around etcd and Kubernetes. Kubernetes uses etcd as the basis for persistent object storage.

The company is further differentiating itself in this way from Docker. The latter has forged ahead with an integrated orchestration solution built on Swarm, the orchestration tool created by Docker itself. Swarm will be a built-in part of future versions of Docker.

CoreOS, meanwhile, continues to rely on Kubernetes, which is an external tool (albeit one whose development the company has helped to fund), to run container clusters using its platform.

In a way, this is surprising. A year ago, CoreOS seemed much more interested than Docker in building a container deployment and management stack that did not rely on third-party tools. But the two companies are now going in opposite directions on this front. The etcd3 release makes this clearer than ever.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with Fixate.io and Sweetcode.io.