Upbound Founder and CEO, Bassam Tabbara, announces Crossplane 1.0 and details the promise and vision of Crossplane
2020 clearly brought into focus the importance of IT modernization and digital transformation. Through the challenges of year, with resources constrained and teams working remotely, organizations of all sizes felt the urgent need to increase productivity and accelerate the pace of innovation. A number of common challenges were cited by Tabbara, including the need to support multiple environments like hybrid and multi-cloud deployment, while still having strong controls for policy and compliance.
While cloud is a cornerstone of IT modernization, managing multi-cloud resources can be complex and there has been a shift in the way organizations use the cloud.
"What we're seeing is essentially a shift from a DevOps culture where people are accessing the cloud directly," Tabbara said. "We're seeing the rise of platform teams."
The platform teams essentially offer a set of shared services across cloud infrastructure that abstract the underlying complexity of the cloud provider's back end. Cloud providers themselves have pioneered an approach for enabling easy access to service management with the use of control planes. Tabbarra explained that when a user is provisioning a virtual machine instance or a storage bucket or anything else in the cloud, it all goes through the control plane. It acts as a single point of entry to the cloud and is responsible for storing configuration, lifecycle management and policy for security auditing as well as compliance.
"Essentially what motivated us to create Crossplane is we wanted to bring that same approach that has caused the cloud to become the largest platform in the world, bring that to your organization, to the enterprise, to the open source community," Tabbara said. "We wanted platform teams to actually use control planes to unlock the next level of efficiency and productivity."
The Core Vision of Crossplane
Tabbara explained that Crossplane has two primary functionalities. The first is to expose a single universal API for the cloud, which is a Kubernetes-style API, that enables users to address infrastructure and services across multiple vendors in a consistent approach.
The second is to enable developers to create their own platform APIs and do that without having to write code.
"You can expose your own catalog of services, you can capture your guardrails configuration automation policy, all of that lives behind the API, ready for your application teams to consume," Tabbara said.
The True Power of Kubernetes
Crossplane is based on the Kubernetes control plane, which is often just associated with controlling container resources.
"I think when we look back five years from now at Kubernetes, I think we will see that its true power is not just container orchestration," Tabbara observed. "It's the fact that it's a framework for control planes."
Kubernetes pioneered the model where you essentially use an API approach to manipulate desired state and a document store. Then a set of asynchronous controllers are able to take that state and essentially reconcile it with the real world. Tabbara noted that the control plane approach has worked really well for Kubernetes in the container space but it's actually widely applicable.
How Crossplane Expands on the Kubernetes Control Plane
One of the first challenges that Crossplane had to address was how to bring various resources exposed by different cloud vendors, into the same control plane. What the Crossplane project has done is invested in creating a set of providers that bring the different resources under the same Kubernetes style API.
"We created the Crossplane Resource Model which is an extension of the Kubernetes Resource Model, " Tabbara said. "It gives us consistency across the different vendors when you're provisioning resources."
With the Crossplane Resource Model (XRM) users will get the same style of resources across different cloud providers. Tabbara noted that the project has worked with multiple vendors to create an entire ecosystem of Crossplane Providers. Among the cloud platforms that have enabled Crossplane Providers are AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and Alibaba Cloud. At the Community Day Event Tabbara was also pleased to announce that IBM Cloud and Equinix have recently made their Crossplane Providers available as well.
Crossplane Composition, Configurations and Registry
Beyond the XRM there are multiple layers that build out the control plane vision that Crossplane enables.
Tabbara explained that with Composition, Crossplane users can create their own APIs. Crossplane has a concept known as Composite Resource Definition(XRD) which is similar to a Kubernetes Custom Resource Definition (CRD). An XRD is an abstracted API that developers use while Compositions are implementations of these APIs using templates or code.
Another layer that Crossplane provides is with Configuration which provides blueprints for comprehensive platform configurations.
"This enables you to create fully reproducible environments, made up of XRDs, policies of configurations of your managed resources, all packaged in essentially, a container that represents your platform," Tabbara said.
Finally there is also a Registry that contains a set of reference platforms and configurations for them. Over the next six months, Tabbara expects that there will be 20 to 30 reference platforms in the Registry that cover a wide range of scenarios including serverless, virtual machines and AI/ML workloads.
Two Years of Progress
The Crossplane project is only two years old and has made tremendous progress in a short period of time.
"We actually just released Crossplane 1.0 which is a massive milestone," Tabbara said. "The project is being used in production by a number of companies today and we believe it's ready to be deployed in production in every organization out there."
The second Crossplane Community Day was held December 15, 2020 and you can watch the complete replay on Youtube, as well as read the full wrap-up report. Ready to dive deeper? Join the Crossplane community on Slack, follow on Twitter or get started on GitHub.
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