CoreOS moves tectonic plates, Docker may feel earthquakes

CoreOS gets $12 million funding from Google Ventures, announced Tectonic.

containers 1
Credit: Glen/Flickr

Cloud is the next big front for some serious tech warfare and CoreOS just got the much needed ammunition.

First things first. CoreOS is a company that offers a solution with the same name. And this solution is an extremely light and minimalistic operating system based on Google’s Chrome OS (or you can also call it a fork).

Unlike Chrome OS, CoreOS is not targeted at the consumer space to power dirt cheap laptops. It’s aimed at a 'willing to pay’ enterprise market. CoreOS is designed to power web services running in datacenter and cloud.

CoreOS is challenging the traditional 'virtualization' players in the same way Docker challenged them through Linux containers. So far, CoreOS has been a 'partner' of Docker, but with the recent move it's turning into a competitor. Before we get into who will be CoreOS’ competitors, let’s see who is backing it up.

Google at the core

There are very close ties between Google and CoreOS and they go deeper than the source code. As Alex Polvi, the founder of CoreOS puts it, "Our technology is often characterized as “Google’s infrastructure for everyone else.”

That's not hyperbole. CoreOS has been working on offering the same infrastructure that Google uses to power its services and it just announced Tectonic, a platform based on Google’s open source project Kubernetes.

Tectonic is a commercial platform by CoreOS that combines CoreOS with Kubernetes. As a result, it offers customers the same kind of on-premise infrastructure that Google uses.

What’s Kubernets?

Kubernetes is an Open Source project started by Google to offer customers the same kind of infrastructure the search engine giant uses to power its own services. If you have read the book Rework by the founders of 37Signals you must be aware of the concept of byproducts.

Henry Ford turned waste coal into a profit-making byproduct and founded The Kingsford Company, which has become a major producer of charcoal for grilling and other usage. Kubernetes is also a byproduct where Google turned its internal infrastructure into a service that can be sold to customers.

Kubernetes enables companies to run Linux clusters as if they are a single system, thus making development, deployment and operations much easier.

According to the Kubernetes site, “The concepts and workflows in Kubernetes are designed to help engineers focus on their application instead of infrastructure and build for high availability of services. With the Kubernetes APIs, users can manage the application infrastructure - such as load balancing, service discovery, and rollout of new versions - in a way that is consistent and fault-tolerant.”

How does that affect Docker?

CoreOS used to be an integral part of the Docker ecosystem. However they started parting ways last year when the CoreOS team criticized Docker for having a ‘fundamentally’ flawed model. CoreOS offered an alternative called Rocket stating that they could not continue to support Docker.

Polvi said, “We cannot in good faith continue to support Docker’s broken security model without addressing these issues.”

Show me the money

The ties between CoreOS and Google go beyond the code. Google is ‘investing’ in CoreOS by pumping in $12.1 million through Google Ventures. In addition to Google Ventures, other VCs investing in CoreOS are Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers (KPCB); Fuel Capital; and Accel Partners. Which brings the total funding to $20 million.

With Tectonic, CoreOS has heated up the container space, especially for the traditional Linux companies such as Canonical and Red Hat who have been working on their own solutions around Kubernetes.

It’s hard to say who would win in the end. Time will tell which will be the last container floating in the cloud.

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