Eclipse Foundation, CNCF Work on Kubernetes for IoT

The Eclipse Foundation and the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) are teaming up to optimize Kubernetes for use within internet of things (IoT) environments.

Mike Milinkovich, executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, says the Kubernetes IoT Edge Working Group will focus on developing a common terminology, creating reference architectures and identifying use case recommendations for optimizing Kubernetes for deployments at the network edge. That work is necessary because Kubernetes originally was developed for deployments in a data center rather than highly distributed environment supporting an IoT application, he says.

IT organizations and vendors that have committed to participating in the Kubernetes IoT Edge Working Group include Bosch, Eurotech, InfluxData, Red Hat, Siemens, Vapor IO and VMware.

Among some of the requirements identified by the working group so far are the need for a Kubernetes ingress layer to scale to millions of connections and first-class support for IoT messaging protocols such as MQTT. Kubernetes also needs to support multi-tenancy for environments where devices and gateways are shared.

It’s still too early to precisely say what this working group will produce. There may be a need for a lighter-weight version of Kubernetes that could be deployed, for example, in a cell tower. The important thing to remember is that it provides a unique opportunity to create a common control system for managing IoT applications across a diverse range of processor types and classes, Milinkovich says, adding that, in fact, Kubernetes represents a unique opportunity to unify computing all the way from the cloud to IoT edge.

Other issues that need to be addressed include standardized approaches to connectivity, manageability, scalability, reliability and security, and bringing compute resources closer to edge devices for faster data processing in near real-time.

While there’s a lot of interest in building IoT applications it’s becoming clear that many of these highly distributed applications may become among the most complex to ever be deployed and managed. In addition, Milinkovich notes that most IoT applications will require a lot of expertise in a specific vertical industry to build. Finding that expertise may not be as a simple as finding a developer that knows how to build a web application. But progress is already being made. Chick-fil-A, for example, is running Kubernetes at the edge in every restaurant.

The Eclipse Foundation itself has been working on IoT issues for several years. The Eclipse IoT Working Group has been promoting the adoption and interoperability of open source technologies across endpoint, gateways and cloud services. The Kubernetes alliance with the CNCF represents a natural extension of those efforts, Milinkovich says.

Of course, it remains to be seen to what degree containerized applications will dominate IoT. As one of the most promising areas of greenfield application development in recent memory, it’s probable most IoT applications will be based on containers. Less clear at the moment is whether Kubernetes can duplicate its success in the data center in IoT environments, which tend to be considerably more complicated, if not downright hostile.

Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard is a seasoned IT journalist with over 25 years of experience. He also contributed to IT Business Edge, Channel Insider, Baseline and a variety of other IT titles. Previously, Vizard was the editorial director for Ziff-Davis Enterprise as well as Editor-in-Chief for CRN and InfoWorld.

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