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Kubernetes, the orchestration engine itself, has reached a point of incremental innovation. This is to say that wholesale, quantum leaps of capabilities are no longer taking place directly in the platform. Instead, Kubernetes now provides a solid foundation for innovation on top of and around itself - just like the Linux kernel, OpenStack and Linux containers before it.

Red Hat continues to help drive this incremental innovation with the Kubernetes project as the second leading corporate contributor, but we have never stopped looking for ways to extend the innovation of Kubernetes outside of the orchestration engine. One of the most obvious ways we’re working to push this innovation envelope is with Kubernetes Operators, built on the backbone of the Operator Framework open source projects.

The CoreOS Legacy: Operators and the Operator Framework

In 2018, Red Hat acquired CoreOS, an innovative Kubernetes platform company that emphasized automation within a Kubernetes platform - essentially a "lights out" approach to cloud-native IT from an operations standpoint. Kubernetes Operators extend this concept into reality, codifying the operational knowledge, practices and principles required to run modern workloads at cloud-scale. In essence, Kubernetes Operators enable enterprise development teams to deploy and manage a wide variety of applications, from databases and monitoring tools to AI/ML and analytics frameworks, in a similar manner to how public cloud services perform.

More than just aiding developers, Operators enable IT operations teams to scale as well, providing the ability to more effectively maintain and control the next-generation applications on their hybrid cloud infrastructure. With Operators, administrators can more easily push updates across scaled-up and scaled-out operations, whether it’s on mixed hybrid and public cloud deployments or to workloads operating at the edge.

We believe that Operators lower the barriers of entry to deploying and managing Kubernetes, especially at scale. So much so, in fact, that we rebuilt Red Hat OpenShift to completely embrace the automated concept of Operators, abstracting away much of the complexity of building applications for, running workloads on and maintaining enterprise Kubernetes. Launched at Red Hat Summit 2019, Red Hat OpenShift 4 is built with the needs of next-generation IT in mind, and those needs include the automation and scale provided by Kubernetes Operators.

Operators now and tomorrow

At Red Hat, we don’t simply build our products and then work on the code by ourselves in the dark. The Operator Framework is fully open to the broader open source community, including our partners, customers and extended contributors. In just over a year, we’ve seen intense interest in the concept of Operators, noted by the growth of the online repository. More than 140 community Operators are now available there, ranging from databases to networking tools to load balancers.

We’re also dedicated to making Operators a standard, not just within the Red Hat ecosystem but broadly across the open source and enterprise IT worlds. This is why we’re pleased that the Operator Framework is officially an Incubating Project within the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), joining technologies like Helm, Prometheus and of course Kubernetes that are guided by the auspices of the larger cloud-native world.

We see Operators making cloud-native infrastructure and applications easier to deploy, scale and maintain. With the advancements of the Operator Framework and the project now under the stewardship of the CNCF, we hope that the broader world of enterprise IT, from end users to independent software vendors (ISVs) to enterprise developers and ops teams, will see the same promise that we do.

About the author

Product manager & experience designer with a passion for taming technical systems. Rob Szumski has expertise in producing and shipping open source software as part of a holistic product experience. 

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