Red Hat adds Kubnernetes Operator FrameworkLast week at KubeCon in Copenhagen, Brandon Philips, CTO, CoreOS announced the Operator Framework for Kubernetes.

This week, Red Hat, who bought CoreOS earlier this year, has announced that the Operator Framework is available on its OpenShift Container Platform. This is good news for cloud providers who are the main target for the Operator Framework.

Ashesh Badani, vice president and general manager, OpenShift, Red Hat
Ashesh Badani, vice president and general manager, OpenShift, Red Hat

In a statement from Ashesh Badani, vice president and general manager, OpenShift, Red Hat he said: The introduction of Operator Framework, paired with Red Hats comprehensive Kubernetes platform, is designed to make the underlying footprint of enterprise IT consistent: Kubernetes Operators enable the creation of applications that simply work across the common fabric of Kubernetes, no matter where the deployment actually lives.

“Red Hat intends to use our vast technical expertise in Kubernetes and cloud-native application and service development to help our software partner ecosystem and customers build their own specific Kubernetes Operators which can then be readily deployed and supported at-scale on Red Hat OpenShift Container Platform.

What is the Operator Framework?

Operators were first introduced in 2016 by Philips. They allow Kubernetes applications to be packaged, managed and deployed. The Operator Framework delivers a set of APIs that make it easy to service and manage applications that run on Kubernetes.

Brandon Philips, CTO, CoreOS
Brandon Philips, CTO, CoreOS

Philips describes an Operator as: “ extension of the software vendor’s engineering team that watches over your Kubernetes environment and uses its current state to make decisions in milliseconds.”

What is interesting about Operators is that they also codify best practice processes. For example, an Advanced Operator could be used to handle the upgrade of an application. This would be built by the service provider or internal operations team, in the case of a private cloud. When a new version of the application comes along, it not only deploys it but carries out all the actions a human operator would take. This includes backing up the existing application, doing a roll-back if it encounters problems and deploying the new version.

The Operator Framework makes it easy to build Operators. There are three key elements described in Philip’s blog. These are:

  • Operator SDK: Enables developers to build Operators based on their expertise without requiring knowledge of Kubernetes API complexities.
  • Operator Lifecycle Management: Oversees installation, updates, and management of the lifecycle of all of the Operators (and their associated services) running across a Kubernetes cluster.
  • Operator Metering (joining in the coming months): Enables usage reporting for Operators that provide specialized services.

Speeding up the creation and deployment of Operators is good news. More importantly, making this an open source project will enable cloud providers to adopt it. By providing a common approach through the Operator Framework, any Operators are easily portable. This allows cloud providers, software developers and internal operations teams to share and trust Operators on any Kubernetes platform.

What does the Red Hat OpenShift announcement add to this?

Red Hat has announced support for Operators on its OpenShift platform. The goal is to get all those software providers who currently deliver their products on OpenShift to also deliver Operators and Advanced Operators for managing their applications. It has already gained support from 60 software partners for the Operator Framework.

Abby Kearns, Executive Director, Cloud Foundry
Abby Kearns, Executive Director, Cloud Foundry

Red Hat is also planning to add a test and validation suite for Operators. It ensures that approved Operators can be deployed across any Red Hat OpenShift instance. According to Abby Kearns, Executive Director, Cloud Foundry, it is seeing increasing numbers of companies moving towards a multi-cloud environment. This could be as simple as on-premises private cloud and bursting to a single public cloud. It could involve the use of multiple private and public cloud instances. If those instances are Red Hat OpenShift partners such as Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud, AWS or other then they will be able to use any Operators that are available.

This is about more than just Red Hat OpenShift. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is ensuring that Kubernetes containers are fully portable. Operators ensure that those containers can be managed and supported on all those Kubernetes instances. Red Hat is just getting out of the gate first.

In a couple of weeks we have the OpenStack Foundation conference in Vancouver. Operators and Kubernetes are likely to be a major discussion point there for many. It will be interesting to see who follows Red Hat and announces their support for Operators.

What does this mean

Any move that simplifies the deployment and management of containers is to be welcomed. Self-service is the key for fast public cloud and is something that private clouds are also adopting. By creating their own Operators, software vendors can deliver self-managing applications.

This is what customers want. They do not want to keep adding to their operations workload. They want a world where everything is autonomous, something ISVs have promised but not delivered.


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