Rackspace is giving a boost to developers interested in using containers thanks to its Carina service that lets users build and run applications in the public cloud now, with a version of the same platform suitable for on-premise deployment coming in the future.
Carina by Rackspace is currently being offered free of charge as a beta service, and focuses on making it easier and quicker for developers to build and deploy an application using a cluster of containers, while keeping portability through compatibility with the Docker application programming interface (API) set.
However, Rackspace plans to have Carina operate as a full commercial cloud service sometime in 2016, and also offer the platform in a version that can be deployed behind the firewall, giving customers choice over where to operate their finished applications.
Carina is described by Rackspace as a "zero infrastructure" container environment, meaning that users do not have to worry about managing the underlying infrastructure, which is pretty much what users have come to expect when deploying applications into virtual machines in the cloud.
With Carina, Rackspace has implemented a way to let users choose whether to run their containers inside a virtual machine or on bare metal for better performance, the firm claimed.
"Carina is running on the Rackspace cloud and offers pretty flexible options, letting you choose virtual machines for the foundation of your container deployment, or bare metal machines, which offers better performance," said Rackspace chief technology officer John Engates.
However, the bare metal option is not currently implemented, but is a feature that is among those planned for next year, according to Rackspace.
"And because it is based on Docker it will be very familiar to many developers already working with containers, as it literally lets you use the same command line tools as you would with Docker locally, but now you get to use them in the cloud," Engates told V3.
Rackspace believes that Carina is a breakthrough because it has found a way to carve up machines using containers that is safer than "just slapping Docker on top of a machine" and which will allow the firm to sell these tiny increments in capacity once the service goes commercial.
"There are service providers in the market today who offer services where you can run containers on clouds, but they are all doing it using virtualisation, and depending on your workload, you might be taking 20 percent to 60 percent of your performance away by running it in a virtualised environment, and it could work a whole lot better if you could just run it on the server directly," said Rackspace distinguished architect Adrian Otto.
And the whole process has been made simple enough that it isn't just for "god developers" who have the most in-depth understanding of cloud and server infrastructures, Otto claimed.
"Any developer can use this tool, so we're super pumped about the possibilities here," he added.
Rackspace is offering Carina as a free preview during the beta period, in order to tempt those developers to try it.
"You can come and use the service, the software and the cloud capacity all for free," explained Otto "This is different from some container platforms that are also ‘free', but for which you still have to buy capacity on a cloud in order to use those free products," he added.
In early 2016, Rackspace aims to start adding additional features and capabilities, for which it will charge a small fee.
"We've been getting a lot of questions about what those fees will be, and we don't have an answer yet, but we are providing guidance that those prices will be more attractive than comparable capacity on our public cloud," Otto said.
While Carina is currently using Docker Swarm for orchestration, Rackspace aims to open this up in future to offer other choices such as Kubernetes or Apache Mesos.
It will be able to do this because the Rackspace cloud is underpinned by OpenStack, and the OpenStack framework has a project dubbed Magnum under development that acts as an umbrella service that Swarm and other container orchestration tools can plug into.
Rackspace also intends to offer Carina in a private cloud version as well.
"Because we're using OpenStack technology, we're using the same open source technology stack in our public cloud that we can in our Rackspace private cloud, and that will give customers an option to have their own instance of Carina that runs within their own data centre," Otto explained.
This will enable Rackspace customers to build a containerised application and choose whether they want to run it on premise or in the public cloud at deployment time. It could also be used to create a hybrid application, with some components in the private and some in the public cloud, but Otto said that most customers are unlikely to do that.
"Cloud providers charge you money for data transfer outside their walls, so if you've got a lot of chatter between your private cloud and the hosted part of the application that can be cost prohibitive," he explained.
Instead, Rackspace sees Carina as offering the opportunity to build new kinds of applications that would have been impractical previously.
"You don't need to have a whole fleet of virtual machines on standby waiting for something to come along. Instead, you can run a container just for the few seconds that might be necessary, and then it can go away. We refer to these as ‘ephemeral' workloads," Otto said.
"From a Rackspace perspective, we're really excited about this. We want to make it easier for customers to go further and faster with containers, and I think the team behind Carina has done a great job at making it fast and simple," Engates said.
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