Rancher Labs today announced it has become the first provider of a Kubernetes distribution to make a distribution available on Windows containers.
Company CEO Sheng Liang says demand for Kubernetes distributions on Windows platforms has been building ever since the release of Kubernetes 1.14. The advantage Rancher Labs has is that instances of Kubernetes on both Windows and Linux platforms can be centrally managed regardless of whether they are deployed on-premises or in the cloud, says Liang. That’s critical because deploying Kubernetes in a Windows environment still requires a master node to be deployed on Linux.
Support for Windows containers arrives as part of version 2.3 of the Rancher platform, which also adds support for the Istio service mesh and a series of cluster templates that make it easier to secure Kubernetes clusters at scale. Those templates make it possible to reuse well-tested Kubernetes configurations in a way that also serves to prevent misconfigurations or configuration drift from setting in.
Liang says Microsoft has been making slow but steady progress in terms of adding support for Kubernetes. It’s only a matter of time before Windows achieves full parity in terms of ability to support Kubernetes, he says.
In the meantime, Rancher over time plans to support multiple service mesh platforms, several of which are lighter-weight than Istio, Liang notes. Right now, Istio has the backing of a broad swath of vendors, but Liang says it’s unlikely any one service mesh will dominate Kubernetes environments despite Google’s preference for deploying an Istio service mesh it developed on top of Kubernetes clusters it also originally developed.
Rancher Labs views Kubernetes as the foundation for driving the hybrid cloud computing that will define the next era of IT, he says. Today, the company has more than 350 customers and a user base of more than 30,000 IT professionals. As that momentum continues to grow, Rancher Labs expects its two main rivals in the enterprise will be Red Hat, which was just acquired by IBM, and VMware, a unit of Dell Technologies. Rancher Labs lately has been seeing a 151% year-over-year growth rate as organizations start to deploy Kubernetes more broadly, Liang says.
It’s hard to tell which vendor will benefit the most from Microsoft’s decision to embrace Kubernetes. Microsoft clearly has a close relationship with Docker Inc., but the inventor of Docker containers has not been able to translate that early success into the establishment of a widely adopted platform. In fact, Docker Inc. was late to the Kubernetes games because initially, it viewed Kubernetes as a threat to its Docker Swarm platform. That misstep may have allowed Rancher Labs, Red Hat and VMware to gain ground.
The one thing that is clear is Kubernetes will soon be everywhere. Less clear is to what degree IT organizations will care which vendor provides a Kubernetes distribution when they all can be managed from the same console.