Google spearheads an industry group to help developers build web apps the Google way

Today, Google announced that it’s turned over one of its key technologies to a new industry consortium — the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, an industry association dedicated to helping developers build web apps the way the big companies do.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation, or CNCF, is housed under the Linux Foundation, with a membership roster that includes companies like Twitter, IBM, Intel, Cisco, and Goldman Sachs, among others.

The basic idea is that, over the years, big companies like Google have gotten really good at “achieving very efficient deployment, development, and scalability” of applications running on the modern web, says Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation.

The industry term “cloud native” itself speaks to the mission of the foundation: It’s the current favoured buzzword for applications that are designed to run on a cloud computing infrastructure, like Amazon’s giant cloud, or Google’s own. The benefit is that these apps are intended to be reliably run at the huge scales demanded by a mobile-dominated, data-driven world.

Google craig mcluckieTwitterGoogle Cloud Platform’s Craig McLuckie

“This has happened inside tech giants, I think it will happen inside enterprises,” says Google Product Manager Craig McLuckie.

This discussion all comes back to what we call “containers,” a super-hot technology that Google’s been using for the better part of a decade. Containers make it super-easy to package up a bunch of code into a metaphorical box (a container, get it?) so that it can run on any computing infrastructure, anywhere.

Google put these containers to good use early on in its corporate lifetime, and figured out all kinds of tricks and built all kinds of tools to use them as the “plumbing” behind its search advertising empire.

More recently, a startup called Docker (also a member of the CNCF), rumoured to be valued at $US1 billion, released its own container technology, making that kind of technological wizardry more accessible to the masses.

Suddenly, everybody in enterprise technology was talking about doing things the Google way with containers, working towards getting their applications up to Google’s size and Google’s speed.

To meet the growing demand, Google released a piece of free software called Kubernetes (from Greek, meaning “pilot” or “helmsman”), based on its own internal container management code, to help people solve the same problems that Google had done years before. And as an “open source” software project, Kubernetes was free for anybody around the world to contribute code.

Kubernetes was a hit with web companies like Box and Zulill, which use it to run their apps more efficiently. Meanwhile, back in June, Google and Docker, among many others, joined the Open Container Foundation, a group to define a container standard.

Alex polvi, coreos, sv100 2015Twitter/polviCoreOS CEO Alex Polvi

As part of its OSCON announcements today, Google announced that Kubernetes hit the Version 1.0 milestone, with 400 contributors adding code, meaning that it’s ready for enterprises to use it for their production applications.

CoreOS, a Google-backed startup that joined the CNCF as well, also announced a paid preview of its Tectonic service, which takes Kubernetes and makes it easier for businesses to use.

To get the new foundation off the ground, Google is actually handing over the Kubernetes code to the CNAF for them to manage and maintain. Using Kubernetes as a “seed,” the CNAF has a mandate to build more technologies that make it easier to build and manage web-scale applications.

“Efforts designed to simplify and improve the overall developer experience, such as the Cloud
Native Computing Foundation, are a great step forward,” says Cisco CTO and Chief Architect Dave Ward.

Google’s turning over Kubernetes is a “subtle” but “important” move, notes CoreOS CEO Alex Polvi: It’s a show of good faith that the Internet search giant doesn’t want to exert an unfair amount of influence over the standards it’s working to define.

Still, it’s notable that Amazon and Microsoft are not members of this new CNCF — so the announcement could be interpreted as Google trying to make its own Google Cloud Platform the cloud of choice for the discerning developer by enlisting the help and expertise of a who’s who of tech players.

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