At its Tech-Ed 2017 conference this week, SAP made a major commitment to employing the Kubernetes container orchestration engine alongside the implemention of the Cloud Foundry platform-as-a-service environment it already employs in the SAP Cloud Platform.
SAP Cloud Platform is an application development and application integration the company is driving customers to use alongside packaged applications running on-premises or on a hosting environment managed by SAP. Björn Goerke, SAP Cloud Platform president and chief technology officer, says the company is already making extensive use of Kubernetes to provide additional services and capabilities across SAP Cloud Platform, and that the company intends to also provide access to Kubernetes as a managed service.
One of the first Kubernetes-based services came this week in the form of SAP Data Hub, a data management and integration application that runs on top of the HANA database but makes use of an Apache Spark runtime hosted on Kubernetes to process and analyze data in any distributed location.
SAP also views instances of Kubernetes advancing the development of hybrid clouds. Not many IT organizations have implemented a local instance of a Cloud Foundry PaaS. As interest in Kubernetes continues to gain, the company envisions being able to make use of Kubernetes running on-premises and in multiple public clouds to create a hybrid cloud computing environment. Instances of containers running on a Kubernetes cluster also would be able to invoke functions running on a serverless computing framework to execute additional processes whenever required.
Like the rest of the IT community SAP is trying to navigate when to employ a CaaS environment based on Kubernetes versus a traditional PaaS. The company has joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) that oversees the development of Kubernetes and will support the Open API Initiative. SAP is already a member of the Cloud Foundry Foundation, which is developing APIs for brokering services that span Kubernetes and the Cloud Foundry PaaS.
There’s also a Kubo project that makes it easier to provision Kubernetes clusters using software Cloud Foundry originally developed for its PaaS. The biggest long-term issue that SAP and other IT vendors that have committed to Cloud Foundry is the degree to which they will need to fuse the two open-source communities. Most providers of cloud services would prefer not to have to manage two separate application development platforms.
In the meantime, developers appear to be finding Kubernetes to be the more accessible of the two platforms. PaaS environments are typically stood up by IT operations teams with lots of expertise. Kubernetes provides a lighter-weight form of abstraction that many developers can provision on their own. At the current pace of adoption, it might not be too long before the instances of Kubernetes cluster simply overwhelm traditional PaaS environments. In fact, for that reason Red Hat has already fused its PaaS with Kubernetes.
It may take years for CaaS environments based on Kubernetes and more traditional PaaS environments to strike the right balance. But with each passing day the pressure to strike that accord continues to mount.