Rancher Labs Donates Lightweight Kubernetes to CNCF

Rancher Labs and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) announced today that a lightweight distribution of Kubernetes dubbed K3s has now become a sandbox-level project managed under the auspices of the open source consortium.

Company president Shannon Williams says the company decided to donate K3s to the CNCF to assure rivals and end customers alike that open source governance policies would be applied in a way that does not unduly influence future product decisions in favor of any vendor.

Interest in a lighter-weight distribution of Kubernetes is running high for a variety of reasons. Developers want to be able to install a version of Kubernetes on a local machine to facilitate application development. At the same time, IT teams who are building edge computing applications require an instance of Kubernetes that doesn’t consume as much memory as other distributions.

There are also data center environments where IT teams have opted to deploy a lighter-weight distribution of Kubernetes across racks of clusters, notes Williams.

Everything required to install Kubernetes on any device is included in a single, 40MB binary. There is no requirement for an external installer such as Kubespray, Kubeadm or RKE. With a single command, a single-node K3s cluster can be provisioned or upgraded. Administrators can run a single command on any new node that points to an existing server that then passes through a secure token.

All the certificates needed to establish TLS connections between the Kubernetes masters and nodes are created automatically when a cluster is launched. Encryption keys for service accounts are also automatically created.

Since its launch in February 2019, Rancher Labs claims K3s has been downloaded more than a million times. According to the company, it is installed on average more than 20,000 times every week. Use cases for K3s include robots in smart factories and retail stores to wind farms and remote military installations, Williams notes.

Naturally, there’s been some debate concerning to what degree a lighter-weight certified distribution of Kubernetes may warrant a separate project. However, it’s also possible that the number of instances of a lightweight distribution of Kubernetes may one day outnumber the current flavors of Kubernetes deployed on-premises and in the cloud.

Regardless of how the K3s project develops, the application programming interfaces (API) defined by the Technical Oversight Committee (TOC) for Kubernetes will ensure that K3s doesn’t wind up becoming a “fork” of the mainstream Kubernetes platform, says Williams. That’s especially critical as IT organizations begin to craft hybrid applications that will span multiple environments, from cloud computing services to edge computing platforms.

It’s too early to say whether K3s will gain enough support to become an incubating-level project and then eventually graduate alongside Kubernetes and other CNCF projects such as Prometheus. However, with Rancher Labs expected to officially become part of SUSE later this year, the number of developers contributing to K3s should increase in the months ahead.

In the meantime, IT organizations that need to deploy highly distributed fleets of clusters now have another truly open source option.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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