Advanced Computing in the Age of AI | Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Heptio Bucks Kubernetes Distribution Trend 

As container orchestration platforms like Kubernetes make hybrid infrastructure more agile, gradually usurping the role of virtual machines, more tools are emerging from upstream developers of the open source container project.

The latest comes from the startup whose founders helped launch Kubernetes. Heptio this week launched a Kubernetes subscription service it alternatively dubs "The Undistribution." Along with hastening the multi-cloud movement, Heptio and other Kubernetes backers note that the orchestrator helps deploy applications in the cloud in a way that looks the same as they would on-premises.

In keeping with the multi-cloud goal of avoiding cloud vendor lock-in, Seattle-based Heptio is promoting an approach that moves away from distribution-based, production-ready versions of Kubernetes. The startup launched in 2016 by Kubernetes co-developers Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda contends that most distributions eventually defeat the open source project's goal of cloud vendor independence.

The un-distribution subscription service is therefore intended as a low-cost, open alternative to hosted container services that charge enterprise software subscription rates. Heptio's counter-subscription service "is centered around a true open source version of Kubernetes, and allows organizations to build a multi-cloud strategy that provides the option to run on [a variety of] hosted solutions," Eryn Muetzel, Heptio's product manager, explained in a blog post.

Those cloud options include managed Kubernetes services from Amazon Web Services (NASDAQ: AMZN), Google (NASDAQ: GOOGL), Microsoft Azure (NASDAQ: MSFT) and the growing list of container infrastructure providers that includes enterprise Linux leader Red Hat (NYSE: RHT).

In making its case for its alternative approach, Heptio said current Kubernetes distributions undermine its open-source origins by limiting flexibility and ultimately locking customers into a particular distribution. The startup contends that some vendors are adding proprietary features that may not be compatible with the upstream version of Kubernetes, thereby undermining multi-cloud efforts.

Moreover, current distributions often failed to keep pace with rapid-fire Kubernetes updates that require them to integrate new features with proprietary code.

Heptio said it could overcome all these obstacles to multi-cloud and more, and do it for less than the annual price for Kubernetes distributions running as high as $15,000 per server.

Heptio released some subscription pricing details here, including a $3,000 monthly tab for "business critical" configurations running clusters of up to 25 nodes. McLuckie told TechCrunch this week that the pricing structure is akin to selling it in "T-shirt sizes where the scaling factor is the size of the environment and the number of unique configurations."

The pricing structure reflects the startup's assumption that a 100-node production cluster is no more complicated than a 25-node cluster, McLuckie added.

The Kubernetes subscription service includes a reference architecture focused on upstream versions along with open source tools designed to "fill gaps in the Kubernetes ecosystem." They include Sonobuoy, Heptio's diagnostic tool designed to monitor the performance of a Kubernetes cluster.


About the author: George Leopold

George Leopold has written about science and technology for more than 30 years, focusing on electronics and aerospace technology. He previously served as executive editor of Electronic Engineering Times. Leopold is the author of "Calculated Risk: The Supersonic Life and Times of Gus Grissom" (Purdue University Press, 2016).

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