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The New Stack Update

ISSUE 251: Open Source Is Good for (Almost) Everybody?

Talk Talk Talk

Kubernetes “hasn’t actually simplified a lot of the problems we have as developers — the people writing the business logic.”

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David Cramer, Sentry. “Frontend Development Challenges for 2021
Add It Up
What environment have you performed chaos experiments on?

Chaos engineering has matured beyond Netflix’s original Chaos Monkey project, but what the practice actually means is still in the eye of the beholder. Sixty-three percent of over 400 IT professionals Gremlin surveyed for its “2021 State of Chaos Engineering” have performed a chaos experiment in a dev or test environment, but “only” 34% have done so in production. Isn’t chaos engineering by definition testing production systems? The overall state of market adoption is definitely lower than this self-selecting sample, but 40% of the study have never conducted a chaos attack before. For context, a 2020 study found that 26% of site reliability engineers used a chaos engineering tool.

When asked, practitioners asserted that availability and mean time to recovery (MTTR) top their lists of chaos engineering benefits, with a reduction in the number of pages (a proxy for severe incidents) being less important. While the study collected benchmarking data, there is no way to determine if chaos engineering actually caused an improvement in these stats.

We believe organizations that embrace progressive delivery practices are well-positioned with the ability to make experimental changes into production environments. Whether these are called canary deployments, feature flagging or chaos tests, it doesn’t really matter. Organizations with poor service availability levels are less likely to have these abilities than organizations with 99.9% or better uptime. The next step is to create a scalable model that lets us test the hypothesis that chaos engineering is worth the investment.

What's Happening

In this The New Stack Makers podcast hosted by TNS founder and Publisher Alex Williams, guest Nanda Vijaydev, distinguished technologist and lead data scientist, HPE, discusses how the concept of loosely coupled architectures is now playing a part in running data-centric applications on Kubernetes. It’s an evolution that has been taking shape by the use of Kubernetes for microservices development — as opposed to data-centric approaches that have historically been deployed on tightly coupled, monolithic architectures.

Nanda Vijaydev of HPE - How to Adapt Data-Centric Applications to a Kubernetes Architecture

Open Source Is Good for (Almost) Everybody?

Last week, Elasticsearch found itself back in the news for switching its open source license. A few years back, company execs expressed dismay as other competitors (notably the cloud giant Amazon Web Services) took the Elasticsearch and built competing products with it. AWS even forked the project. And earlier this month the company took action: The new license is markedly more restricted than the former very permissive Apache license, in that it straight up restricts cloud service providers from offering Elastic software as a service. This, of course, has raised a lot of questions in the community about whether a true open source license can restrict what the software can and can not be used for. But will Elastic be better off? Time will tell. 

Completely incidentally, we ran across a number of similar stories this week that shows how open source software can benefit users in multiple ways, while at the same time offering more ambiguous results for the companies that created the software. 

Take Linksys for example. The company found incredible success in the late 2000s by offering Wi-Fi routers for the emerging home market, and was acquired in 2003 by Cisco for half a billion dollars. But when doing its due diligence, Cisco found that Linksys, by way of a hardware supplier, had violated that GPL open source license, namely by using Linux code in the WRT54G router without providing its modifications to that code for public access. As a result, Cisco had to pay the Free Software Foundation a reparation fee. But more importantly, it had to release the source code, which sparked a whole generation of hardware hackers modding their WRT54Gs. The WRT54G became such an icon in the open source community that Cisco offers it to this day, as TNS culture reporter David Cassel pointed out in a post from last Sunday, “The Open Source Lesson of the Linksys WRT54G Router.”

CentOS was another piece of open source software that sparked a lot of joy in people, though it made its actual source, Red Hat, nervous. When it was first created in 2003, CentOS was a clone of Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Red Hat offered the open source packages of RHEL, but users had to compile and build it themselves — an arduous task. So a group of open source lovers started offering their own builds of the Red Hat software, and CentOS was born. Turns out a lot of people needed an enterprise-grade Linux distro, but couldn’t afford the subscription fees that came with RHEL: CentOS grew so popular, however, it actually dwarfed RHEL usage, at least on the internet. Today, CentOS is the third most widely used distribution on the internet, powering 17.3% of all servers, according to W3Techs. It is far, far more pervasive than even RHEL itself, powering only 1.7% of all the sites. 

Over time, Red Hat took control of the CentOS project, using it as a sales channel, though it allegedly still made Red Hat (and later IBM) marketing teams nervous, so, in December, they killed the distro in its current form, and instead upgraded to be a cloud native distro, “CentOS Stream” with rolling updates. In effect, the rolling updates moved the project away from guaranteeing enterprise stability for its many users.  

Now, one of the original creators of CentOS, Gregory Kurtzer, is heading back to the drawing board, creating another free, open source clone of RHEL, called Rocky Linux. And he vows not to let this get gobbled up by corporate interests. To be fair, since mutating CentOS, Red Hat has introduced two new free editions of RHEL for small workloads. But these releases don’t address the considerable market that can’t afford, but still need, a rock-solid Linux distribution (high-performance computing and cash-strapped scalable startups are two use cases that come to mind). 

Thanks to open source, enterprise computing is getting used by many more people around the world. But will Rocky Linux, out of Red Hat’s control, benefit Red Hat itself? Only time will tell. 

eBPF Tools: An Overview of Falco, Inspektor Gadget, Hubble and Cilium

Last year we wrote a number of times about the immense possibilities that eBPF brings to Linux by making the kernel programmable. Now Container Solutions’ Cloud Native Engineer Lucas Severo Alves writes about, in this excellent contributed article, some of the applications that have already been created from this this capability. Sysdig’s Falco, for instance, monitors anomalous activity in nodes and containers, while Kinvolk’s Inspektor Gadget helps with debugging, tracing, and observing applications inside of Kubernetes. Read this and you may get your own ideas for an eBPF-based application. 

Red Hat: Why CVE2020-8554 Is No Kubernetes Apocalypse

There’s been a lot of discussion around one long-time vulnerability (CVE2020-8554) in Kubernetes, and whether or not it is a fatal flaw within the Kubernetes design itself. In short, it allows Kubernetes users to get into the middle of traffic that is being routed to and from the Kubernetes cluster, by exploiting an unrestricted service property. While we’ll leave the design issues to others, we do appreciate this sponsored post from Red Hat explaining the pragmatic solutions the company brought to its own OpenShift customers to remedy the issue.

Longhorn Kubernetes Block Storage Adds Snapshots, ARM64 Support

The folks behind Longhorn, the distributed block storage solution for Kubernetes, released version 1.1 of their software this week. Longhorn 1.1 introduces support for ARM64 architecture, which improves its ability to operate on low-power edge devices, alongside features like data locality, which increases resilience in unstable network conditions as often found in edge situations.

On The Road
Conf42 Chaos Engineering // FEB.25 // VIRTUAL

FEB.25 // VIRTUAL

Conf42 Chaos Engineering

Chaos Engineering is back in 2021! Come and join other engineers and SREs and talk about failure, dealing with failure, breaking things on purpose and other fun things. Register now!

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Technologists building and managing new stack architectures join us for short conversations at conferences out on the tech conference circuit. These are the people defining how applications are developed and managed at scale.
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