October 21, 2017

One of the reasons public clouds are so popular with developers is that they allows developers to experiment easily. Developers can work on an application without having to engage an internal IT organization to provision hardware. But that construct becomes a challenge when the application a developer wants to build is designed to run an instance of Kubernetes container orchestration engine running on a bare-metal server. There are plenty of instances of Kubernetes running on a virtual machine, but many developers of cloud-native applications based on containers are trying to eliminate the need for virtual machines altogether.

To provide developers with more access to bare metal servers on demand, The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) this week announced an alliance with Packet under which the provider of hosting services will make available a CNCF Community Infrastructure Lab that makes $25,000 worth of compute resources per month available to developers.

Dan Kohn, executive director of the CNCF, says via this alliance with Packet, the CNCF is hoping to expose developers who are building applications based on microservices to Kubernetes. Meanwhile, Packet CEO Zachary Smith acknowledges that the hosting service provider has a vested interest in seeing more applications deployed on bare-metal servers rather than on a virtual machine that might be hosted in public cloud.

While most containers today are deployed on virtual machines or in a platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment, there is a general expectation that many more of them will run on bare-metal servers as more organizations become familiar with clusters such as Kubernetes. Today most organizations are typically able to deploy four or six containers per virtual machine, which on average are deployed at a rate of about two dozen per modern server. In contrast, hundreds of containers can easily be hosted on a single bare-metal server running Kubernetes. Given that level of server utilization, the economics of deploying containers on a bare-metal server become difficult to ignore.

Packet is making the CNCF Community Infrastructure Lab available across 15 global locations, each of which enables developers to announce their own IP space as well as provide support for BGP/Anycast and a native implementation of IPv6. developers can choose from five different server configurations based on the size of the environment required, platform features and whether they prefer x86 or ARMv8 processors. Each bare-metal configuration is API-driven and cloud-native friendly, and takes less than 10 minutes to deploy. The only major requirement imposed by the CNCF is that all the code being run on the CNCF Community Infrastructure Lab needs to be 100 percent open-source.

Developers have flocked to containers primarily because they make it easier to package and deploy applications. But there’s also clearly a significant potential economic bet afforded by the potential to eliminate virtual machines altogether. Naturally, not every IT organization has reached a point where it would consider such a move. But as is often the case, IT organizations need to find some way to experiment with the art of the container possible in a way that incurs the least amount of economic risk.

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.