Vendors’ Private Cloud Offerings Hinge on Microservices and Serverless Success

C. Dunlap

Summary Bullets:

  • Microservices will get a boost from growing vendor adoption of Istio (service mesh), Envoy (distributed proxy), and MicroProfile (microservices portability).
  • Serverless computing is receiving more attention stemming from vendors’ OSS projects, including Knative and CloudEvents.

This summer has seen a raft of activities in OSS projects aimed at easing configuration complexity and furthering adoption around emerging DevOps architectures including microservices and serverless computing. The most notable OSS technologies shoring modern application development/deployment methods are Istio (service mesh) and Knative (serverless), projects spearheaded by Google and others. Yet, rival projects are emerging, promising to throw a wrench into the mix, such as Oracle’s efforts around CloudEvents, now backed by CNCF. Another competitive threat lies in the potential for disruption brewing among little-known startups offering their own pure-play versions of service mesh and serverless technology to developers and software engineers in the form of easy-to-use SaaS offerings.

These DevOps and APLM (application and platform lifecycle management) solutions are fast becoming key components of application platforms and/or cloud providers’ private/hybrid cloud solutions. Not only do these advanced technologies represent the most efficient way to support complex distributed systems within CI/CD environments, they also hold the promise of significantly reducing the costs associated with running workloads in the cloud. Equally important is the need for portability so that modernized apps can be housed and run from any cloud platform as enterprises seek multi-cloud options.

Because of the importance of this growing market, as well as the constant speed of change among competitors’ product lineups and OSS backing, we are providing a snapshot of the current status of leading players’ portfolios and strategies.

Application Platform Vendors’ Status Recap:

IBM has invested heavily in OSS efforts, stemming from its donation of OpenWhisk serverless computing technology to CNCF, and more recently, shifting its support to Knative efforts. Knative represents a serverless OSS project with participants IBM, Pivotal, Red Hat, and SAP. IBM began initially addressing complexities around microservices via the MicroProfile project, aiming to simplify the movement of microservices-based apps to various clouds. Since then, it is promoting Istio service mesh via IBM Cloud Private, addressing APLM issues including APM available through IBM App Connect, which serves as an API gateway for service mesh.

Oracle expanded its cloud native architecture strategy earlier this year, including work on a new serverless technology called CloudEvents, and embraced by CNCF, which supports Oracle’s earlier Fn project. CloudEvent brings the promise of greater portability of serverless apps across various clouds such as AWS Lambda and Google Cloud Functions. The company also stepped up efforts to ease microservices deployments via its PaaS and Java technologies, in addition to APLM technologies including Vizceral. Like most competitors, it leverages Istio service mesh, Kafka event manager, and Grafana dashboard.

Microsoft Azure Service Fabric addresses microservices and containerized apps for Windows and Linux; it also includes a preview of Azure Service Fabric Mesh, which abstracts complex VMs, storage, and networking configurations. While Microsoft addresses key distributed systems issues, it lacks the professional services of some rivals listed here for helping enterprises modernize application architectures.

Red Hat, like IBM, has shown early thought leadership in service mesh and serverless technologies in the OSS space, including Istio and Knative. Its CoreOS acquisition helps solidify Red Hat’s early lead in CaaS and its role as a leading contributor to Kubernetes; however, it faces increased pressure from rival Pivotal and its Spring Boot platform which is optimized for microservices.

Enterprises continuing to struggle with complex microservices implementations are pinning new hopes on service mesh technologies, as vendors take various approaches on delivering the new technology. Some are vendors rallying around the popular OSS initiative, Istio, backed by Google, IBM, and Lyft. IBM, for example, will integrate Istio service mesh into its flagship private cloud offering, IBM Cloud Private.

Other options targeting enterprises’ application modernization projects include offering service mesh to savvy software engineers in the form of SaaS. HashiCorp, an OSS service mesh solutions provider which competes with Istio, will GA its Consul offering in coming months, aimed at helping developers and operations teams ease the building, connecting, and provisioning of distributed microservices apps across various infrastructures. Another example of a microservices disruptor is APM vendor LightStep, whose technology is being integrated with service mesh technologies thanks to OSSs including Istio and OpenTracing.

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