CNCF debuts own tech radar, looking into continuous delivery

Linux Foundation child-organisation Cloud Native Computing Foundation has released the inaugural issue of what it calls an “opinionated guide to a set of emerging technologies”. 

The CNCF Technology Radar is planned to be a quarterly paper, meant to inform end users about what the rest of the CNCF ecosystem is using and what approaches have been proven a success. The group said each issue would focus on one specific use case, grouping appropriate tools into three rings: adopt, trial, and assess.

The data for the report is contributed by the CNCF End User Community, a group of over 140 companies whose aim is to “accelerate the adoption of cloud native technologies and improve the deployment experience”. Members of the group include well-known organisations such as Adidas, Bloomberg, eBay, GMX, Ticketmaster, Twitter and the Wikimedia foundation.

For the first issue, the CNCF looked into continuous delivery – a topic that tended to baffle many new to the cloud-native scene just two years ago. During May 2020, members of the end user community were asked to let the radar editors know which CD tools they had looked into before arriving at their current solution. 

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According to the feedback, many of the surveyed companies “had tried up to 10 options” settling on adopting 2-4 (though there isn’t any information as to whether this means they are spread between different departments or if they indeed piped 4 tools together). A lot also seem to have built their own tools and released components as open source, yet projects like Zalando’s stackset-controller or LunarWay’s release-manager aren’t exactly well known.

Overall, the radar results in a clear recommendation for Flux and Helm, since “few or none of the respondents recommended against.” Helm isn’t a downright CD tool and more known as a package manager for the Kubernetes ecosystem. CNCF director of ecosystem and radar editor Cheryl Hung however found in the survey results that the tool is “widely used and adopted as a component in different CD scenarios” as well.

Fewer companies recommended CircleCI, Kustomize, and GitLab, which therefore landed in the Trial ring of the radar. Tools in the Assess section meanwhile included Jenkins X and Jenkins, Travis CI, jsonnet, Spinnaker, GitHub Actions, Argo CD, Tekton CD, and TeamCity. “Jenkins has wide awareness, but the placement in Assess reflects comments from companies that are moving away from Jenkins for new applications. Spinnaker also showed broad awareness, but while many had tried it, none in this cohort positively recommended adoption.“

The results seem to imply that “all-in-one solutions” such as GitLab have been lacking some needed functionality when companies were initially assessing them. Additional information, such as when a solution was tried might therefore be helpful to get a better understanding of a company’s choices, along with details on what they thought was missing, since some will surely have developed in the meantime which might have led to another outcome.

The next radar topic is still up for debate, though other categories from the CNCF landscape seem to offer interesting topics such as security or runtimes. Tips for how to make the radar more useful have also started to trickle in, so let’s see if this one is able to make a name for itself.

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