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Operator framework: RedHat’s CoreOS launches a new toolkit for managing Kubernetes applications


CoreOS, the Linux distribution and container management startup Red Hat acquired for $250 million earlier this year, today announced the Operator Framework, a new open source toolkit for managing Kubernetes clusters.

CoreOS first talked about operators in 2016. The general idea here is to encode the best practices for deploying and managing container-based applications as code. “The way we like to think of this is that the operators are basically a picture of the best employee you have,” Red Hat OpenShift product manager Rob Szumski told me. Ideally, the Operator Framework frees up the operations team from doing all the grunt work of managing applications and allows them to focus on higher-level tasks. And at the same time, it also removes the error-prone humans from the process since the operator will always follow the company rulebook.

“To make the most of Kubernetes, you need a set of cohesive APIs to extend in order to service and manage your applications that run on Kubernetes,” CoreOS CTO Brandon Philips explains in today’s announcement. “We consider Operators to be the runtime that manages this type of application on Kubernetes.”

As Szumski told me, the CoreOS team developed many of these best practices in building and managing its own Tectonic container platform (and from the community that uses it). Once written, the operators watch over the Kubernetes cluster and can handle upgrades, for example, and when things go awry, the can react to failures within milliseconds.

The overall Operator Framework consists of three pieces: an SDK for building, testing and packaging the actual operator, the Operator Lifecycle Manager for deploying the operator to a Kubernetes cluster and managing them, and the Operator Metering tool for metering Kubernetes users for enterprises that need to do chargebacks or that want to charge their customers based on usage.

The metering tool doesn’t quite seem to fit into the overall goal here, but as Szumski told me, it’s something a lot of businesses have been looking for and CoreOS actually argues that this is a first for Kubernetes.

Today’s CoreOS/Red Hat announcement only marks the start of a week that’ll likely see numerous other Kubernetes-related announcements. That’s because the Cloud Native Computing Foundation is its KubeCon developer conference in the next few days and virtually every company in the container ecosystem will attend the event and have some kind of announcements.