May 27, 2018

It is safe to assume most organizations, whether they want to test Kubernetes or scale existing clusters for major deployments, seek a distribution that offers high-powered features and is easy to install and use. Finland-based Kontena says its recently launched production version of Kontena Pharos 1.0 meets both these demands as a unique Kubernetes alternative among the burgeoning number of other available distributions.

“Being an easy-to-use solution does not have to contradict with full-scale deployments,” says Miska Kaipiainen, CEO and founder of Kontena. “We have put a lot of effort in to trying to make Kubernetes more accessible so that it is easy and fun to install and use.”

According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Kontena Pharos 1.0 meets its Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program criteria. CNCF certification specifies Kontena Pharos 1.0’s APIs meet a certain standard and is compatible with other Kubernetes installations, so that enterprises are not restricted to a single vendor’s add-ons and features on top of the Kubernetes deployment.

However, a few dozen other vendors have achieved CNCF certification for their Kubernetes distributions. What sets Kontena Pharos apart, the company says, is its high-powered add-ons and secure features that, as mentioned above, are simple to install and use, such as its automated load balancer. For security, Kontena follows the NIST SP800-190 recommendations. The dashboard offers performance metrics and other monitoring information. In this way, the firm says it seeks to do for Kubernetes what Ubuntu did for Linux by offerring the Kubernetes community what it says are easy-to-deploy and use features.

Cluster Friendly

Kaipiainen says one of Kontena Pharos’ key selling points is its management tool that can be used to deploy and manage the life cycle of clusters, including the ability to upgrade an existing cluster to a new version. “This is super important—container technology is still very young and there are all sorts of issues fixed each day. New security-related issues are also discovered almost every day,” Kaipiainen says. “Having a cluster that may be easily upgraded to a newer version is very important if you want to run a cluster that is secure.”

Kontena initially began to offer its own container orchestration platform for Docker containers before the advent of Kubernetes.

“While we had many happy users of our own solution, we realized that the majority of people want their solution to be based on Kubernetes instead of a solution that just works,” Kaipiainen notes. “After Kubernetes was crowned as the king of container orchestration, we realized that we needed to build our own solution based on Kubernetes.”

Kontena Pharos can be deployed on distributions that work on-premises and on bare-metal servers, as well as on any commercially available cloud environment, according to the company.

Kontena Pharos open source software is free to download and install. Kontena’s business model is based on offering support and maintenance with SLAs for those customers running business-critical applications. The cost for Kontena’s support and maintenance service is based on the number of nodes and range from $1,800 to $4,000 per node per year, depending on the support level. Additionally, Kontena offers consultancy services for setting up Kubernetes environments. These projects range in price from $15,000 to $35,000, plus optional customization options, Kontena says.

The Spirit of Open Source

Kontena will, with the help of the open source community’s input, continue to develop the platform using Apache 2 to accommodate new features, such as improved volumes for persistent storage or serverless applications. “Serverless is a very interesting area and is developing very fast,” Kaipiainen says. “We can expect the ecosystem around Kubernetes to provide quality frameworks within the next few years.”

Kaipiainen says Kontena Pharos’ business model is similar to those of Red Hat and SUSE distributions of Linux, which trace their development origins to Kaipiainen’s fellow Finnish countryman Linus Torvalds in 1991.

The business model is also like that of a Linux distribution, since developers do not have to reinvent the wheel by building their own clusters on top of a raw kernel.

“Nobody uses the Linux kernel as is, but you can use it to build an operating system,” Kaipiainen says. “Similarly, the real value of Kubernetes, like middleware, is the is the software that runs on it. Kubernetes is just an enabler for something else.”

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.