As the largest public cloud service in use, Amazon Web Services (AWS) is clearly home to more containers than just about anywhere else in IT. But AWS has always been a little skittish about containers. After all, containers make it easier to move workloads both into and out of a public cloud. As a cloud service provider committed to moving and keeping as many workloads as possible running in a public cloud, AWS has always preferred more proprietary approaches based on its own application programming interfaces (APIs).
But following a decision to become a platinum member of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), it would appear AWS is now ready to bow to the hybrid cloud computing inevitable.
Dan Kohn, executive director for the CNCF, says having AWS join CNCF is a watershed moment because now all five of the leading cloud service providers will be collaborating on container standards based on the Kubernetes container orchestration engine originally developed by Google.
Kohn says he expects AWS to be especially interested in projects involving container networking as well as the work CNCF is leading around a Containerd initiative that involves creating standards for lower-level container functions. Amazon has a history of making contributions to open-source projects including Linux kernel, Docker, Apache Hive, Apache Hadoop, Chromium, jQuery, OpenMPI, Apache MXNet, the Xen Project, Open Container Initiative and the TODO Group. Amazon joined the Linux Foundation, under which the CNCF operates, in 2013.
Longer term, AWS—like other cloud service providers—must decide the degree to which they want to support containers as an alternative to virtual machines. Right now, AWS deploys containers on top of the virtual machines it developed based on a derivate of the open-source Xen project. But many IT organizations are embracing containers and Kubernetes as a mechanism to eliminate the need for virtual machines altogether.
AWS at various times, however, has also positioned its AWS Lambda serverless computing framework as an alternative to containers. Kohn says long term, he expects containers and serverless computing frameworks to be more complementary technologies because developers will want to be able provision infrastructure in real time using containers that can be deployed anywhere easily versus getting locked into a specific programming construct.
A recent CNCF study found that 63 percent of the IT professionals surveyed said they were running containers on AWS, up from 44 percent a year ago. Both Microsoft and Google have aggressively embraced containers as part of an effort to level the public cloud computing playing field. Microsoft has made containers central to its hybrid cloud computing strategy, while Google and its allies expect to take advantage of adoption of Kubernetes on-premises to make the Google Cloud Platform a seamless extension of a locally deployed private cloud.
Whether—and how much—that will occur remains to be seen. But after stealing a march on the entire IT industry by driving adoption of a public cloud, it would appear the next phase of the battle for control over the public cloud is going to be fought on more equal terms.