June 27, 2017

Amazon Web Services is gearing up to throw its weight around in the debate over container management and orchestration. At the re:Invent 2016 conference, AWS announced plans to create a Blox project incorporating multiple open-source technologies, starting with a cluster state service through which IT organizations can gain visibility into container event streams that persist locally. That persistence then makes it possible to launch queries against the cluster state service that is created using a Docker Compose file.

In addition, the company is making available a daemon scheduler available as a reference example of how IT organizations can take advantage of the cluster state service to build their own schedulers. CTO Werner Vogels told re:Invent attendees that the goal is to make it simpler for IT organizations to build their own tools and schedulers on top of the EC2 container service or integrate third-party schedulers such as Mesos.

The first company to commit to Blox is Netflix. A Titus container runtime engine and Fenzo scheduler that Netflix employs to manage containers on AWS will be integrated with Blox.

Absent from re:Invent 2016 was any mention of the Kubernetes container orchestration platform championed by Google or Docker Swarm from Docker Inc. One day there may be bridges between Blox and those platforms. But for now, AWS is simply promising to make other container orchestration technologies available as open-source code sometime in the future.

Vogels made the case of making use of EC2 to run containers on a platform managed by AWS. Managing container clusters is a major pain, he noted, so outsourcing the management of those containers can enable organizations to concentrate their efforts on developing containerized applications.

When it comes to microservices, however, the company is making two big bets: Amazon EC2 Container Service, an instance of containers running on top of virtual machines deployed by AWS, and the AWS Lambda serverless platform, based on a functional programming model.

AWS now offers three classes of compute services consisting of virtual machines, containers running on virtual machines and AWS Lambda. At re:Invent the company also revealed plans to extend its reach beyond the public cloud using Lamba functions that can now run on a local device. To that end, the company unveiled a Greengrass platform on which those Lambda functions can be executed using either an instance of AWS Linux or Ubuntu from Canonical on a variety of processors. It’s becoming clear that more of the microservices effort is focusing on AWS Lambda, which is both a means through which the company intends to create hybrid clouds as well as provide a more efficient approach to utilizing IT infrastructure. However, in its current form AWS Lambda essentially locks IT organizations into the company’s cloud architecture.

It’s too early to say what impact the company will have on the great container orchestration debate. The company clearly exercises a lot of influence over developers who have opted to rely on AWS to develop their applications. But not every application developed on AWS winds up running there in a production environment. In fact, the movement of application workloads between multiple clouds and on-premises IT environments is becoming more fluid.

Whatever the ultimate outcome, any hope for a de facto container orchestration management standard is now even more in doubt, as the rest of the IT industry waits for AWS to reveal more of its plans for Blox.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.