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CNCF orchestrates standardization around Kubernetes

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One of the greatest contributions of the Linux Foundation, among many others, has been as a catalyst in the standardization of open source technologies, without the bureaucracy of standardization bodies.

The foundation, through its Collaborative Projects, is doing it at code, developer and stakeholder level. While OCI (Open Container Initiative) standardized container runtime and image format, Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is now standardizing Kubernetes.

Isn’t Kubernetes open source? Why do we need standardization?

First things first. Kubernetes is a fully open source project created by Google, which was donated to CNCF as an anchor project. It’s an upstream project, so why do they have to worry about standardization? It’s the same code across the board and most Kubernetes consumers/contributors like CoreOS and Docker stick to the upstream version either way.

The fact is, Kubernetes is spreading like wildfire. Everyone is using it, including Docker, Cloud Foundry, Microsoft, AWS, Alibaba, Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical, Mirantis… the list goes on.

Among these players, there are many who don’t consume the upstream project. There are many players that offer Kubernetes distributions with their own patches and tweaks. Most customers consume these Kubernetes distributions.

As these companies take the upstream and ‘polish’ it, there is an increasing risk of different kubernetes instances becoming incompatible with each other. That creates a serious problem of fragmentation and interoperability. It creates the risk of vendor lock-in.

However, that can’t happen. Not under the watch of CNCF. The foundation has launched a certificate program to ensure portability and interoperability across the Kubernetes ecosystem.

“The new Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program gives enterprise organizations the confidence that workloads that run on any Certified Kubernetes Distribution or Platform will work correctly on any other version,” said Dan Kohn, Executive Director, Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

What weight does this certification program really carries?

According to CNCF, a Certified Kubernetes product guarantees that the complete Kubernetes API functions as specified, so users can rely on a seamless, stable experience.

32 major and smaller companies have already committed to the certification program. Some of the big companies include Alibaba, Google, Microsoft, CoreOS, Docker, Red Hat, SUSE, Canonical and many more.

“Docker Enterprise Edition (Docker EE) offers an unmodified version of Kubernetes with the added value of the Docker platform including security, management, a familiar developer workflow and tooling, broad ecosystem compatibility and an adherence to industry standards,” said Banjot Chanana, Head of Product Management for Docker.

Development of the certification program involved close collaboration between CNCF and the rest of the Kubernetes community, especially the Testing and Architecture Special Interest Groups (SIGs).

The Kubernetes Architecture SIG is the final arbiter of the definition of API conformance for the program. The program also includes strong guarantees that commercial providers of Kubernetes will continue to release new versions to ensure that customers can take advantage of the rapid pace of ongoing development. Kubernetes is one of the highest velocity software projects in the history of open source.

“The interoperability that this program ensures is essential to Kubernetes meeting its promise of offering a single open source software stack supported by many vendors that can deploy on any public, private or hybrid cloud,” said Kohn.

Certified Kubernetes implementations are permitted to use the new Certified Kubernetes logo and also are allowed to use the Kubernetes mark in combination with their product name (e.g., XYZ Kubernetes Service).

CNCF is inviting vendors to run the conformance test suite and submit conformance testing results for review and certification by the CNCF. End users should make sure their vendor partners certify their Kubernetes product and can confirm that certification using the same open source test suite.

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