Netherlands minnow Red Kubes releases open-source Community Edition of its Otomi Kubernetes wrangler

Easy to use with no big vendor lock-in? Nice idea but it's still early days

Red Kubes, a small company based in the Netherlands, has released a free Community Edition of its Otomi Container Platform with the goal of making Kubernetes both easier to use and more portable between cloud providers or on-premises.

"Otomi is not a Kubernetes distribution," Red Kubes CEO and co-founder Sander Rodenhuis told The Reg. "We expect that the customer already has a Kubernetes cluster.

"When you start working with Kubernetes you end up installing a lot of add-ons for monitoring, logging, security, service mesh, and all kinds of stuff. They are not integrated so you need to install them one by one. You end up with technical debt, because if there's an update, you also need to modify your own customisations."

The Otomi solution installs a standard set of Kubernetes add-ons onto a user's cluster and then provides a dashboard to manage and monitor them. "It's a single deployable solution," said Rodenhuis. "It's all wrapped in one container. The only thing you need is a git repository, and then it will install and configure everything. Then we provide a CLI (Command Line Interface) to add teams and services."

That sounds good, but every cloud provider and every Kubernetes provider is engaged in this same task of making Kubernetes easier to manage and configure. Is mixing and matching between tools offered by the likes of AWS, Google, Microsoft Azure or VMware, and those installed with Otomi, a complication?

"The big cloud providers like AWS and Azure offer a managed Kubernetes service and they're starting to build up their own services around that," said Rodenhuis. "But when you start using them, you're tied to that cloud provider.

"We offer the same functionality, for logging, monitoring, security, but all on top of Kubernetes. There is consistency because if you run Kubernetes on Azure or on AWS and you have installed our solution on top you will operate them in exactly the same way with one console. And you can also move workloads from one cloud provider to the other without any implications, it is completely multi-cloud."

This is an argument we have heard before. Google says Kubernetes will work the same everywhere if you use its Anthos tools everywhere. VMware makes the same kind of claim if you run VMware everywhere, and so on. Another factor is that lock-in is not just about Kubernetes but also about other services. AWS, for example, provides thousands of services and once developers start using them that also forms a tie. It takes conscious effort to keep applications easily portable and it may not be worth it.

The Otomi dashboard showing various open source Kubernetes management applications

The Otomi dashboard showing various open-source Kubernetes management applications

That said, Otomi is not just about supposedly avoiding lock-in, but also an attempt to solve the Kubernetes riddle, how to adopt it without getting mired in complexity. "Most companies spend 6-12 months and approximately €200,000 on their Kubernetes learning curve," Red Kubes claims on its website.

Otomi is also more attractive if you can use it for free, and that is now possible thanks to the new open-source Community Edition.

What is the difference between the free and paid-for versions?

"Otomi is a product with three parts," said Rodenhuis. "It's the core which is the complete suite of applications, our own API on top of that, and a user interface. When you use the Community Edition you get only the core and the user interface with not that many features. In the Enterprise Edition we add self-service features. You don't need to write any YML manifests or build pipelines, everything is easy to use without you having to know anything about Kubernetes.

"The only thing you need to do is say, 'Here's my container image, use it and make it scale to zero or not, add a certificate, make it public.' Everything in the back end is then automated."

Otomi users do need an external git repository which defines the state of the cluster. "When a value is committed in the repository, it automatically triggers a Drone pipeline that makes sure the desired state becomes the new state on the cluster," Rodenhuis said. "If you delete the cluster, the desired state is still in the repository and the only thing I need to do is install a new cluster."

Managing security and access with Harbor via Otomi

Managing security and access with Harbor via Otomi

Component applications in Otomi include Keycloak (sign on and access management), Harbor (secure artifacts with policies), Loki (log aggregation), Grafana (observability), Isio (service mesh), Drone (pipeline execution), Kiali (service mesh observability), Weave (automate Kubernetes), Knative (service configuration, routing and eventing), and more.

Tools like Otomi do not really remove complexity. Rather, they wrap it and hide it, but there will be times when either requirements go beyond what is wrapped, or something goes wrong and diving into the complexity is necessary to identify and fix the problem.

Is Otomi really ready for production use? "We've been working on this for a couple of years, with a couple of clients in a beta testing environment," said Rodenhuis. "A lot of stuff has improved and now we're ready to say, hey, this is where we are."

An inconclusive answer. We ask again, is it ready? "Yes, sure. We're running it in a production environment for a couple of customers," he said.

A couple of customers is a start but this is not altogether reassuring. Another issue is what happens if users want to use some other application as part of their Kubernetes management solution, one that is not yet wrapped by Otomi. "We're going to make it more flexible to provide not all, but some choices," said Rodenhuis.

Looking at Otomi, it is easy to see that the complexity issue described by Rodenhuis is real. There is a lot of stuff to integrate in a typical Kubernetes deployment. Depending on how it works in practice, though, Otomi could also be costly: the issue with abstractions is that finding out what has gone wrong when they fail can be harder than with more low-level solutions, and getting them to do something a little beyond what they are designed for is also problematic.

Still, the idea of making Kubernetes easy to use and avoiding lock-in to huge global corporations like AWS, Google, or Microsoft is attractive. Lazo Bosarov, information services manager at the Dutch Municipality of Utrecht (where Red Kubes is based), said: "One of the Common Ground principles is open source to take back control of our data. Kubernetes is the basis for the cloud-agnostic infrastructure. Otomi gives us a jump start in using Kubernetes."

Open source delivered Kubernetes; if the community can also make it easy to use, that would be a notable bonus. ®

Other stories you might like

  • Twitter founder Dorsey beats hasty retweet from the board
    As shareholders sue the social network amid Elon Musk's takeover scramble

    Twitter has officially entered the post-Dorsey age: its founder and two-time CEO's board term expired Wednesday, marking the first time the social media company hasn't had him around in some capacity.

    Jack Dorsey announced his resignation as Twitter chief exec in November 2021, and passed the baton to Parag Agrawal while remaining on the board. Now that board term has ended, and Dorsey has stepped down as expected. Agrawal has taken Dorsey's board seat; Salesforce co-CEO Bret Taylor has assumed the role of Twitter's board chair. 

    In his resignation announcement, Dorsey – who co-founded and is CEO of Block (formerly Square) – said having founders leading the companies they created can be severely limiting for an organization and can serve as a single point of failure. "I believe it's critical a company can stand on its own, free of its founder's influence or direction," Dorsey said. He didn't respond to a request for further comment today. 

    Continue reading
  • Snowflake stock drops as some top customers cut usage
    You might say its valuation is melting away

    IPO darling Snowflake's share price took a beating in an already bearish market for tech stocks after filing weaker than expected financial guidance amid a slowdown in orders from some of its largest customers.

    For its first quarter of fiscal 2023, ended April 30, Snowflake's revenue grew 85 percent year-on-year to $422.4 million. The company made an operating loss of $188.8 million, albeit down from $205.6 million a year ago.

    Although surpassing revenue expectations, the cloud-based data warehousing business saw its valuation tumble 16 percent in extended trading on Wednesday. Its stock price dived from $133 apiece to $117 in after-hours trading, and today is cruising back at $127. That stumble arrived amid a general tech stock sell-off some observers said was overdue.

    Continue reading
  • Amazon investors nuke proposed ethics overhaul and say yes to $212m CEO pay
    Workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability and, um, wage 'fairness' all struck down in vote

    Amazon CEO Andy Jassy's first shareholder meeting was a rousing success for Amazon leadership and Jassy's bank account. But for activist investors intent on making Amazon more open and transparent, it was nothing short of a disaster.

    While actual voting results haven't been released yet, Amazon general counsel David Zapolsky told Reuters that stock owners voted down fifteen shareholder resolutions addressing topics including workplace safety, labor organizing, sustainability, and pay fairness. Amazon's board recommended voting no on all of the proposals.

    Jassy and the board scored additional victories in the form of shareholder approval for board appointments, executive compensation and a 20-for-1 stock split. Jassy's executive compensation package, which is tied to Amazon stock price and mostly delivered as stock awards over a multi-year period, was $212 million in 2021. 

    Continue reading
  • Confirmed: Broadcom, VMware agree to $61b merger
    Unless anyone out there can make a better offer. Oh, Elon?

    Broadcom has confirmed it intends to acquire VMware in a deal that looks set to be worth $61 billion, if it goes ahead: the agreement provides for a “go-shop” provision under which the virtualization giant may solicit alternative offers.

    Rumors of the proposed merger emerged earlier this week, amid much speculation, but neither of the companies was prepared to comment on the deal before today, when it was disclosed that the boards of directors of both organizations have unanimously approved the agreement.

    Michael Dell and Silver Lake investors, which own just over half of the outstanding shares in VMware between both, have apparently signed support agreements to vote in favor of the transaction, so long as the VMware board continues to recommend the proposed transaction with chip designer Broadcom.

    Continue reading
  • Perl Steering Council lays out a backwards compatible future for Perl 7
    Sensibly written code only, please. Plus: what all those 'heated discussions' were about

    The much-anticipated Perl 7 continues to twinkle in the distance although the final release of 5.36.0 is "just around the corner", according to the Perl Steering Council.

    Well into its fourth decade, the fortunes of Perl have ebbed and flowed over the years. Things came to a head last year, with the departure of former "pumpking" Sawyer X, following what he described as community "hostility."

    Part of the issue stemmed from the planned version 7 release, a key element of which, according to a post by the steering council "was to significantly reduce the boilerplate needed at the top of your code, by enabling a lot of widely used modules / pragmas."

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022