Amazon Web Services (AWS) this week announced the general availability of Bottlerocket, a lightweight instance of Linux optimized for container applications running on the AWS cloud.
Peder Ulander, director for open source at AWS, says the cloud service provider opted to create its own lightweight distribution of Linux to better optimize the experience of developers who rely on AWS to automate back-end IT operations on their behalf. Bottlerocket makes it easier for AWS to spin up and down both the operating system and the underlying virtual machines resources that developers use to deploy container applications on various AWS infrastructure services optimized for containers, he notes.
In contrast, lightweight distributions of Linux from Red Hat and Rancher Labs increasingly are being optimized for either the Red Hat OpenShift platform-as-a-service (PaaS) environment or the distribution of Kubernetes that Rancher Labs provides. The most widely employed lightweight distribution of Linux is Alpine, an independent open source distribution. It’s not clear to what degree IT teams will opt to migrate toward lightweight distributions of Linux optimized for specific platforms, but it’s clear providers of those platforms want to be able to automate the management of operating systems in lockstep with the rest of their IT environments.
Developers of containerized applications have moved many of the functions previously enabled by operating systems into containers to ensure portability. As such, a lot of the code in a traditional operating system is now redundant. A lightweight distribution of Linux not only reduces the amount of infrastructure resources being consumed to enable IT teams to reduce costs, but it also serves to reduce the attack surface that needs to be defended, he says.
Ultimately, most container applications will be deployed on streamlined instances of operating systems as part of a concerted effort to reduce operational overhead. In effect, AWS is automating IT operations on behalf of developers who have embraced best DevOps practices to build and deploy their applications. As AWS exercises more control over servers, Kubernetes clusters, operating systems and virtual machines, the more infrastructure becomes code capable of automatically adapting to different classes of workloads.
It’s not clear to what developers appreciate the benefits of using an operating system preferred by a platform provider versus selecting one themselves. However, as concerns about the cost of cloud computing continues to rise in the wake of the economic downturn brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, higher levels of automation that serve to drive cloud costs lower will become a more important area of focus.
At the same time, developers are under more pressure than ever to accelerate application development and deployment. In many cases, that pressure will result in developers opting for the IT infrastructure platform that eliminates the greatest number of tedious tasks. IT operations management, for better or worse, has profoundly changed in the age of the cloud. Most developers use configuration tools such as Terraform to provision infrastructure as code. The more that IT infrastructure includes everything from the base physical and virtual servers to the operating system and Kubernetes cluster, the faster everything will go.