Project Crossplane could disrupt infrastructure as code

A CNCF Kubernetes orchestration project that was promoted from sandbox to incubation last month will replace infrastructure tools as code and reinvent cloud resource management, if its creator gets what he wants.

Crossplane extends the Kubernetes control plane, originally created to manage container workloads, to also manage resources such as virtual machines and cloud storage objects. This is typically the territory of infrastructure-as-code tools like HashiCorp’s Terraform and AWS CloudFormation, which are widely used to automate the provisioning of the infrastructure that underpins Kubernetes clusters.

“Using a Kubernetes control plane and declarative API to manage the infrastructure, as well as a set of controllers to reconcile and automate the lifecycle of those resources… is a step up from the infrastructure as code, ”said Bassam Tabbara, creator and founder of Crossplane. and CEO of its commercial funder, Upbound.

Crossplane can also orchestrate higher-level application components such as databases and message queues, pretty much anything accessible through an API. Two of the big three public cloud providers, AWS and Azure, have Crossplane providers certified for their cloud infrastructure and services, including identity and access management accounts. Google Cloud Platform certification is underway, Tabbara said.

Bassam tabbara

“We see Crossplane as the convergence project for all cloud services and cloud APIs,” he said. “A universal API for cloud computing.”

Crossplane and Upbound.io were created by Tabbara at the end of 2018. Crossplane was accepted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) as a sandbox project in May 2020 and promoted to the middle incubation stage last month. To achieve incubation, Crossplane had to demonstrate the use of production, among other criteria. He cited users including Accenture, Deutsche Bahn, Plotly, Ripcord and Zego.

Then, the project must continue to expand its user base and community of contributors to reach the CNCF graduation stage. Companies other than Upbound – which include Alibaba, Red Hat and IBM, according to Tabbara – account for half of the contributions to the project, but it will take more work to ensure that the governance of the project is evenly distributed among more companies. , did he declare. noted.

While Red Hat contributes to Crossplane, company officials declined to say whether there are any plans to integrate it with the OpenShift Kubernetes platform.

Crossplane turns heads at KubeCon

Crossplane first caught the attention of the CNCF community at the virtual KubeCon North America last November, but its promotion in incubation and increasing use in production has brought more enterprise IT professionals to the test in the coming months.

“I started getting better last year,” said Matt Young, senior cloud architect for the EverQuote online insurance market in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who said he was experimenting to see if Crossplane could. replace Terraform in its DevOps environment. “Crossplane is a good way to compose systems … [and] expose a simple set of buttons and levers to development teams. “

Crossplane’s Compositions mechanism could mean that the EverQuote platform team can enable developers to deliver resources like MySQL databases or S3 buckets with their applications without requiring them to manage critical settings like the instance type and memory size, Young said.

At CERN, a European particle physics research center based in Geneva, Switzerland, the transition from infrastructure-as-code tools such as Puppet to Crossplane has already started.

All workloads [are] move gradually to Kubernetes, including items that would not traditionally be suitable. This allows us to rely on ArgoCD or Flux for the entire stack.

Ricardo RochaComputer Engineer, CERN

“All workloads [are] move gradually to Kubernetes, including things that would not traditionally be suitable, ”said Ricardo Rocha, computer engineer at CERN. “This allows us to rely on Argo CD or Flux for the entire stack. “

Accenture consultants also used Crossplane as part of the foundation of a DevOps platform they built last year for German rail company Deutsche Bahn.

Crossplane was attractive to the project architect because it extends the automation of the Kubernetes reconciliation loop to all platform resources. This reconciliation loop keeps resources consistent with a desired state and avoids drifts, without micromanaging IT operations.

“I’m quite sold on Kubernetes as an extension framework to provide services [because of] this reconciliation loop, ”said Jan Willies, platform architect at Accenture Berlin. “Kubernetes brings the real world to the state that we [told] to do.”

ArgoCD integration, overlap presents obstacles

The Kubernetes reconciliation loop is also part of the foundation of GitOps, an approach to Kubernetes deployment in which the desired state of a system is declared declaratively in code and the running system is continuously updated. day to reflect this desired state.

A project associated with one of the two main CNCF GitOps tools, Intuit’s Argo CD, also pushes this Kubernetes orchestration philosophy beyond container clusters with a utility called Argo CloudOps, which competes with Crossplane.

Meanwhile, Crossplane maintainers such as Willies at Accenture are still fixing issues in integrating the tool with Argo CD for GitOps users such as Rocha at CERN.

“I had a lousy hack to get things done, but some kind of integration with GitOps tools to do it in a better way would be great,” Rocha said.

Argo CloudOps and Crossplane take different positions on infrastructure as code tools – Argo CloudOps invokes tools like Terraform and CloudFormation through Kubernetes, while Crossplane replaces them.

“As Intuit acquires and grows, we will acquire new organizations with different approaches. [and] we want them to be hyper focused on solving customer problems, not refactoring their infrastructure automation that works, ”said Brett Weaver, Distinguished Engineer at Intuit. allow us to support them without changing their focus. “

Upbound’s Tabbara countered that this subjects Argo CloudOps to the same issues like drift and cognitive load that users already have with existing infrastructure as code tools.

Nonetheless, for Tabbara’s vision of a new universal cloud control plane to succeed, he and the other Crossplane backers will need to convince the wider market to move away from tools that may be flawed but are familiar, while Competitors such as Argo CloudOps continue to emerge, analysts say.

“I think [Crossplane] may become influential, but that space could end up being quite fractured, “said Gary Chen, analyst at IDC.” Right now, for them, the immediate goal is to continue building the project and the community. And they’ll probably need some of the bigger vendors to market it, too. “

Beth Pariseau, Senior Editor at TechTarget, is an award-winning veteran of computer journalism. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @PariseauTT.

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