June 23, 2018

DevOps teams or anyone who manages containers can now get their hands dirty testing the final tech previews of container management platform Rancher 2.0 shortly before its launch in a few weeks.

Ahead of the availability of the production version of Rancher 2.0 in April, Rancher is releasing the last of Rancher 2.0’s tech preview releases. Rancher revealed its first product details last year when it announced that Rancher 2.0 would support all Kubernetes clusters.

As previously reported, Rancher took a huge leap of faith in the future of Kubernetes when it removed its own Cattle scheduler focus on Docker from what was then Rancher 1.0. The idea behind Rancher 2.0’s development was to allow users to manage new Kubernetes clusters using the Rancher Kubernetes distribution or import existing Kubernetes clusters. In this way, the container management platform is more supportive of hybrid cloud environments and, of course, hosted container services such as GKE.

Since Rancher revealed the first technical details about Rancher 2.0 last year, a series of tech preview versions available for testing have revealed a number of features available for hands-on testing. These include Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) and support of more deployment targets instead of only those Digital Ocean and AWS provide. AKS (Azure Container Service) and Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) have been added, in addition to the GKE support announced in the tech preview.

Thus far, according to forum post and analysts’ tests, Rancher’s ambition to offer an all-encompassing Kubernetes management platform remains a work in progress, but company representatives say the production version of Rancher 2.0 should see release in April on schedule. A main challenge, Rancher has reported, has been making the paradigmatic switch from SQL and Cattle on Docker to an all-Kubernetes universe. While the development process has not essentially involved building the platform from scratch, “it has touched every part of the product,” Rancher Labs CEO, Sheng Liang says. “It was like moving a house to a different foundation. The old house was built on Docker while the new house was built on Kubernetes.”

One commonly reported missing feature from the tech previews on users’ wish lists thus far has been custom nodes. Essential for on-premises Rancher 2.0 implementation, custom nodes will be in the final release, Rancher pledges. Also, role-based access control (RBAC) and authentication and VMware vSphere node template issues cropped up when the tokens weren’t filled in and the template couldn’t be created, reports Torsten Volk, an analyst for Enterprise Management Associates (EMA).

Rancher 2.0 is designed to offer DevOps and the IT community a number of Kubernetes management features as it shifts away from its Cattle, Mesos and Swarm focus. After importing Kubernetes clusters, Rancher 2.0 will offer centralized authentication, access control, monitoring and health checks with RBAC.

More specifically, Rancher 2.0 allows Kubernetes to be managed on GKE, EKS and AKS, says Volk. Kubernetes can also run on vSphere, generic EC2 or Azure, thanks to how the Rancher Kubernetes Engine (RKE) deploys Kubernetes roles. Centralized control also means Active Directory can be integrated so that you can manage any Kubernetes cluster centrally, whether it runs on GKE or vSphere, Volk says.

“Essentially, Rancher’s app management capabilities that worked only for Cattle is now working for Kubernetes,” Volk says. “Long story short, Rancher is now a Kubernetes deployment and management play for current and past Kubernetes apps. This is targeted toward IT Ops who want graphical wizards to add nodes and clusters instead of having to write and manage YAML. It will even prepare a config file for you to use kubectl.”

B. Cameron Gain

B. Cameron Gain first began writing about technology when he hacked the Commodore 64 family computer in the early 1980s and documented his exploit. Since his misspent youth, he has put his obsession with software development to better use by writing thousands of papers, manuals, and articles for both online and print. His byline has appeared in Wired, PCWorld, Technology Review, Popular Science, EEtimes, and numerous other media outlets.