August 23, 2017

One of the best attributes of containers is that they are relatively simple for developers to spin up on their own. In the best tradition of containers it then follows that the management framework used to manage them should also be relatively simple.

With that fundamental principle in mind Rancher Labs has been guiding the development of Rancher, an open source container management framework that as of this week is now generally available in the form a production-ready 1.0 release.

Shannon Williams, vice president of sales and marketing for Rancher Labs, says rather than thinking in terms of simply orchestrating containers Rancher is designed to be a turnkey management platform that IT operations teams can use to manage both containers and the underlying IT infrastructure they run on.

As such, Williams says that Rancher is constructed in a way that allows IT organization to plug in any orchestration framework they like. In fact, given the way container projects are evolving Williams says it’s more than likely most organizations will wind up having to work with two or more container orchestration frameworks. Rather than having to master the intricacies of each orchestration framework Williams says IT organization can invoke each orchestration framework via a single pane of management glass.

Just as significantly, Williams notes that Rancher gives IT operations more flexibility over how clusters are actually built. IT operations teams can opt to deploy a cluster inside a single data center or create a cluster where compute elements are distributed. The only limitation is the actually latency limitations of the container application itself, says Williams.

In term of keeping the overall environment simple to manage Rancher makes use of software-defined infrastructure technologies to allow IT organization to automatically build clusters and then apply policies to them. The end result is an ability to create what Williams describes as a “private container service” spanning everything from user management and an app catalog to multiple underlying classes of IT infrastructure that can be deployed on premise or in a cloud service.

Williams says over 2,500 organizations have participated in Rancher beta process, which in terms of management frameworks for containers makes it one of the most widely deployed frameworks in the container community. Williams also notes that as open source software Rancher is available at no cost to the IT organization. Rancher Labs only makes money when it sell support services to enterprise IT organizations that have deployed Rancher.

Naturally, it’s too early to say how the container management wars will play out. Clearly, many existing IT management frameworks will be extended to add support for containers. At the same time, however, containers also herald the arrival of new ways of thinking about managing IT. There may still be distinct elements of an IT environment. But the days of having to manage each one in isolation from the others are rapidly coming to a close. The challenge facing IT organizations now is how best to go about achieving that goal in a world where the business is now demanding more agility on the part of the internal IT organization than ever before.

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.