Google's Keeping Knative Development Under Its Thumb 'For the Foreseeable Future'

In addition to Knative, which is for deploying serverless workloads, Google evidently plans to keep the Kubernetes service mesh, Istio, in-house.

Christine Hall

October 9, 2019

3 Min Read
Google Cloud exhibit at the 2019 IAA Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2019
Google Cloud exhibit at the 2019 IAA Frankfurt Auto Show in September 2019Sean Gallup/Getty Images

It appears that at least one major Kubernetes-related open source project, Knative, isn't destined to join its mother project at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. Indeed, it's not destined to join any foundation. According to an email sent last week to Knative developers by Donna Malayeri, a project manager at Google and a member of Knative's steering committee, Google won't be relinquishing control of the project anytime soon, if ever.

Knative is a promising but not yet ready for prime time Kubernetes-based platform for building, deploying, and managing modern serverless workloads.

"Since the start of the Knative project, there have been questions about whether Knative would be donated to a foundation, such as CNCF," Malayeri wrote, indicating in the signature line that she was writing "on behalf of Google." "Google leadership has considered this, and has decided not to donate Knative to any foundation for the foreseeable future."

This came as a surprise to many Knative developers and supporters, as it's been presumed by many that Google would eventually contribute Knative to Kubernetes' home at the Linux Foundation's CNCF or to the care of another foundation offering open governance, such as the Apache Software Foundation. That's become the expected route for open source projects, as open governance is seen as an important step for building robust developer communities around projects. Many developers (as well as potential users) are suspicious of projects where a handful of vendors control direction.

Which seems to be the direction Knative is headed. At least for the time being, community input will be limited. The project is governed by a steering committee of seven members, four of which are Google employees, with one seat each going to Pivotal (now part of VMware), IBM, and Red Hat. Since any action requires a majority vote, this puts Google completely in the driver's seat.

Google's lopsided representation on the steering committee might change, however. In the notice, Malayeri said, "Within the next few weeks, we plan to clarify how project members can attain leadership positions in Knative. As always, our goal is to ensure that Knative serves the needs of our users, the community, and everyone who benefits from using Knative." She also noted that the project remains open source, with no indication that that will change.

At this stage in the game, this might be much ado about nothing. Knative isn't yet recommended for production or expected to come out of beta until sometime in the spring.

Another Google-held Kubernetes-related project, Istio, wasn't mentioned in the email, but The Register reported that Google intends to hold it close to its chest too. One source closely involved in upstream Kubernetes development told Data Center Knowledge that Istio developers were told in a briefing that the project would remain under Google's control and not be contributed to a foundation.

In light of the Knative situation, this would make sense. Istio is a service mesh designed primarily to be used with Kubernetes, and it's also a necessary component for running Knative. Unlike Knative, Istio is out of beta and is already seeing production use.

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About the Author(s)

Christine Hall

Freelance author

Christine Hall has been a journalist since 1971. In 2001 she began writing a weekly consumer computer column and began covering IT full time in 2002, focusing on Linux and open source software. Since 2010 she's published and edited the website FOSS Force. Follow her on Twitter: @BrideOfLinux.

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