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How Kubernetes is transforming the industrial edge


on 2 November 2020

This article is more than 3 years old.

According to leading independent researchers teknowlogy | PAC, open source platforms – and Kubernetes in particular – are central to the future of digital factories. 

The PAC RADAR report offers a detailed market analysis of industrial digitalisation trends, and it predicts that Kubernetes-based platforms that bring together edge and cloud technologies will soon dominate the digital factory landscape. This blog will take a closer look at the report’s findings, and examine why Canonical was rated Excellent for industrial edge cloud through the strength of Charmed Kubernetes, MicroK8s and Ubuntu Core.

“Kubernetes will be the next big thing at the edge”

In recent years, various platforms have emerged to support agile digital factory DevOps, but most industrial edge platforms have been held back by limitations to application scaling and management – and this is where Kubernetes at the edge comes in.

Kubernetes is a container orchestration system. Containers make it possible to manage applications independently from their underlying technologies, and since factories are often highly heterogeneous environments, this independence is invaluable. Kubernetes simplifies matters even further by enabling an automated approach to scaling and managing large numbers of containerised applications across distributed infrastructure. 

Kubernetes is already well-established in the cloud arena, and the PAC RADAR report anticipates that it will soon gain traction at the industrial edge as organisations increasingly look to leverage cloud agility within their IoT environments. As the report explains: “Thanks to the latest innovations in the cloud world, we can predict quite easily what the next wave of ‘cloud-native’ innovations will bring to the industrial edge (and the data center). Kubernetes will be the next big thing at the edge, as it already is in the cloud.”

In this respect, Canonical is ahead of the curve. MicroK8s is a fully containerised, lightweight, fast, and secure Kubernetes distribution optimised for edge and IoT production environments. As the report notes, MicroK8s has already reached 3,750 stars on GitHub – clearly demonstrating both its popularity and the developer appetite for Kubernetes at the edge. Additionally, MicroK8s offers a zero-ops experience, eliminating the main drawback to Kubernetes-based solutions identified in the report: complexity.

Another advantage of Kubernetes is that it is multi-cloud, meaning it can integrate with cloud infrastructure across providers to enable further scalability beyond the edge. According to the report, this is another area in which Canonical excels thanks to Charmed Kubernetes: a composable Kubernetes distribution that can run on bare metal, VMware, Openstack and all major public clouds.

The importance of openness

Both MicroK8s and Charmed Kubernetes are fully open source, which the report found to be a key feature of successful digital platforms for the industrial world.  Given the wide variety of devices, infrastructures, and applications found on the factory floor, an open ecosystem is essential for avoiding vendor lock-in and ensuring that new technologies from various sources can be integrated seamlessly.

“Only a big ecosystem and openness to all 3rd-party application developers can provide the maximum agility required in the market today. In a high-speed world, no individual application creates a lasting competitive advantage–it is the ability to move faster on a large scale that makes the difference.”

Accelerating industrial IoT with micro clouds and apps

Canonical’s established footprint in the industrial edge sector was the final reason for its high ranking in this report. Canonical’s approach to industry 4.0 is centered around micro clouds and apps. Micro clouds are minimal infrastructure fit for deployment in the field of industrial operations. They are lightweight, autonomous and resilient, thanks to Microk8s and LXD. Ubuntu Core is an app-centric operating system built for mission-critical IoT devices, and it was chosen by Bosch Rexroth as the foundation for a new app store dedicated to industrial automation. This is just one of several major partnerships between Canonical and leading industrial enterprises.

To learn more, download the full PAC RADAR report.

kubernetes logo

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, or K8s for short, is an open source platform pioneered by Google, which started as a simple container orchestration tool but has grown into a platform for deploying, monitoring and managing apps and services across clouds.

Learn more about Kubernetes ›

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