Google will not donate Knative framework 'to any foundation for the foreseeable future'

Community dismayed as key Kubernetes project to remain in Chocolate Factory hands

The Knative framework, which enables serverless applications to be deployed and auto-scaled on Kubernetes, will not be donated to any foundation such as the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

In a strategic announcement from the top of Google, product manager and Knative Steering Committee member Donna Malayeri stated:

Since the start of the Knative project, there have been questions about whether Knative would be donated to a foundation, such as CNCF. Google leadership has considered this, and has decided not to donate Knative to any foundation for the foreseeable future.

Knative continues to be an open-source project with an open and diverse community, with several vendors represented on the Steering Committee. 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.

The announcement is presumed to apply also to Istio, the service mesh on which Knative depends.

That, at least, is the understanding of VMWare principal engineer Joe Beda, who expressed disappointment at the news alongside Microsoft's Brendan Burns, a Distinguished Engineer leading teams including the Azure Kubernetes Service. Burns was lead engineer on Kubernetes at Google until 2016.

"I'm pretty disappointed to see Knative forgo open governance," said Burns on Twitter. Beda added: "Knative steering committee has 7 members assigned by vendors and not the community. 4 of those belong to Google. And it takes a majority to change anything."

Another dismayed community member is Sebastien Goasguen, creator of the Kubeless project. "[If] I am IBM and VMware, I pull my devs off of Knative until Google does the right thing," he said.

A notable point about Google's announcement is that the company provides no rationale. There are many possible factors. Open governance foundations may be less agile than those managed by a corporation, for example, since consensus on decisions could be harder to reach.

Both Knative and Istio use the Apache License 2.0 and Google's announcement does confirm that Knative will remain open source and with multi-vendor participation.

However, the announcement does imply that Google intends to make the most of its advantage as the inventor of Kubernetes and home of these related projects, in competing with rival cloud vendors AWS, Microsoft Azure and others.

Kubernetes itself is under the stewardship of the CNCF.

It is worth noting that while both Knative and Istio were developed at Google, there have been many contributions from other vendors. This IBM post, for example, describes Istio as originating from "a joint collaboration between IBM, Google and Lyft".

The stakes are high since Kubernetes is poised to be the future of cloud application deployments and needs projects like Knative and Istio to make it useful.

The Reg has asked Google for further comment and background.

Outside Google, few will welcome this news. ®

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