Instana this week became one of the first providers of an application performance management (APM) service to add support for the Container Runtime Interface based on the Open Container Initiative specification, otherwise known as CRI-O.
CRI-O is, at its core, a lighter-weight container runtime engine optimized for Kubernetes that organizations can employ as an alternative to traditional Docker containers. CRI-O is currently an incubation-level project being developed under the auspices of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).
Chris Farrell, director of technical marketing for Instana, says that while adoption of CRI-O is still relatively slight, all the major cloud service providers have embraced it to run containers more efficiently. In addition, Red Hat provides CRI-O as the standard runtime engine with its OpenShift Container Platform. As such, Instana is moving ahead to add support for CRI-O in advance of anticipated demand, he says.
CRI-O, which was created by Red Hat, is designed to make it possible to employ any OCI-compliant runtime on a Kubernetes pod. Today CRI-O officially supports runc and Kata containers as the container runtimes. Other vendors contributing to its development include Intel and SUSE. Because CRI-O is lighter-weight and designed to run on Kubernetes, it’s expected the CRI-O runtime will provide a significant performance advantage over Docker containers in Kubernetes environments while being more secure.
In addition, because CRI-O is lighter-weight, it also enables the rest of Kubernetes community to develop management features independently of the container runtime engine.
Instana’s APM, meanwhile, has been designed from the ground up to support any distribution of Kubernetes. As the Kubernetes community moves to embrace CRI-O, many more providers of observability tools are expected to follow suit. The expectation is that APM tools will be required to manage all the dependencies with any containerized application. In contrast, APM tools were used more sparingly to observe monolithic applications because of the costs involved. Instana is betting that as organizations embrace its APM platform for Kubernetes environments, they will then replace existing APM platforms being used to monitor mission-critical monolithic applications with Instana as well.
It’s not clear whether CRI-O will find mainstream adoption in 2020. Many IT organizations are still waiting to see when CRI-O will graduate to become a top-level project within the CNCF before deciding to abandon Docker. In most cases, many IT organizations will be running a mix of Docker and CRI-O containers for many years to come. In fact, CRI-O and Docker nodes can share the same cluster.
In the short-term, IT organizations should at the very least start experimenting with CRI-O now. The transition to CRI-O on some level is now all but inevitable as providers of various cloud platforms standardize on it. The real challenge will be making sure all the tools most IT organizations rely on to manage Docker runtime environments today can support CRI-O runtime environments tomorrow.