IBM chases Google, Microsoft with Kubernetes in the cloud


It’s only a matter of time before every major cloud vendor offers a version of Kubernetes as a service. Now it’s IBM’s turn.

This morning IBM announced the next logical step in its work with Docker containers: on its . Currently available in a limited beta, its feature set should match Google’s and Microsoft’s offerings.

Kubernetes, the Bluemix way

Previously, the default for managing Docker containers on Bluemix Container Service was to spin them up individually by hand or to use Bluemix’s  metaphor, where Bluemix directly managed multiple containers running the same image.

Kubernetes is meant to provide for container deployments: easier scaling, better visibility into the state of a cluster, and so on. IBM says its implementation of Kubernetes on Bluemix includes everything users would expect from a stock Kubernetes deployment, as well as some IBM-specific features.

(API keys and more) when communicating with other Bluemix resources. Other features, like “binding of Bluemix services, such as Watson APIs, Blockchain, data services, or internet of things” to Kubernetes-deployed apps, more prominently promote Bluemix, allowing Kubernetes-powered apps plug into Bluemix-exclusive services.

Why mess with a good thing?

IBM arrives late to a party that already includes Google and Microsoft. Google has had a leg up on everyone else in offering because it invented the underlying technology. It also worked to Google’s advantage that its public cloud was relatively sparse; it could provide Kubernetes support on its cloud without having to make concessions to many legacy components.

Microsoft late last year  for its container services, after originally supporting Docker Swarm and Mesosphere DC/OS as orchestration solutions. Microsoft delayed its entry because a lot of behind-the-scenes work was needed to add Kubernetes support to Azure and to open-source that work. Kubernetes clusters themselves are provisioned and managed on Azure by way of a , rather than a dedicated managed service.

, with orchestration and scheduling provided by ECS itself, or through the  projects.

Though late to the party, IBM is taking one crucial step for any cloud incarnation of an open source service: It’s allowing the user to lift the hood and plug directly into the original API set. That’s important with cloud container services like Kubernetes, since the promise of was that workloads wouldn’t become dependent on the clouds where they’re hosted.

Granted, IBM—or any cloud provider—could try to make a strong case for its cloud versus someone else’s by promoting how well Kubernetes runs at scale on its cloud and works with the proprietary services to enrich those applications. But having Kubernetes at the core and in a form others know is still the most worthwhile draw.

[This post has been updated with details and clarifications about Microsoft’s and Amazon’s offerings.]