No, Kubernetes is Not the New OpenStack, Says Canonical

It’s easy to think of Kubernetes as the great disruptor of earlier generations of cloud-native platforms, such as OpenStack. But that view would be just as wrong as assuming that Kubernetes and containers have totally killed off old-school virtual machines. That’s what Stephan Fabel of Canonical had to say in an interview about the past, present and future of Kubernetes and other cloud-native technologies within the enterprise.

Fabel, who has been the director of product at Canonical since 2017, said that in the popular imagination, OpenStack, an open source platform for building cloud infrastructure, has been replaced by Kubernetes as the go-to solution for morphing disparate underlying servers and storage pools into a single infrastructure. “But that’s just not true,” he told Container Journal.

Instead, according to Fabel, OpenStack remains one important tool in building cloud-native infrastructures, while Kubernetes has arisen alongside it as a different tool tailored to different use cases.

The key distinguishing factor between OpenStack and Kubernetes, he says, is that OpenStack was essentially designed as a solution for building multitenant infrastructures, whereas Kubernetes by design is a service manager. “In OpenStack, you have first principles like multitenancy, whereas in Kubernetes, the first principle is to be a PID controller.”

Kubernetes, he says, “is not multitenant at all, and multitenancy creates a real challenge” on Kubernetes.

How OpenStack and Kubernetes Cater to Different Workloads

As a result of these differences, Fabel says OpenStack and Kubernetes each serve distinct types of workloads. For example, OpenStack might appeal to telcos, which are “more prone to adopting configuration management type approaches, where workloads have to be stateful and long-running.” Kubernetes, meanwhile, is better-suited for workloads that are deployed as REST- or HTTP-based services.

To help prove his point about the continued relevance of OpenStack, Fabel says Canonical is on track to witness “the most commercial activity in OpenStack” ever in the coming quarter, with business coming from a variety of verticals. Clearly, Fabel says, OpenStack remains a go-to solution for enterprises of many different stripes.

Kubernetes’ Growing Market Share

Yet, he also recognizes that Kubernetes is rising in popularity and expects its importance to continue to grow. “Kubernetes is one feature of a data center, and we’re going to see it everywhere,” he says. “The amount of deployments is just going to rise, and exceed deployments of OpenStack.”

“But that’s not because Kubernetes will be displacing OpenStack,” he adds; rather, it will complement and run alongside OpenStack in the enterprise clouds and data centers of the future.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with and

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