Open sauce: Rancher 2.5 puts new UI forward, gets to continuously delivering

Rancher 2.5

Rancher 2.5, the first big release since the project’s parent company entered an agreement to become part of SUSE, has landed. 

Amongst other things, version 2.5 of the enterprise container management platform includes a stabilised and improved cluster explorer dashboard, continuous delivery helpers, and enhanced EKS provisioning.

The open source software company’s cluster explorer seems the most visible enhancement of the release. The user interface, which was initially released in Rancher 2.4, is meant to let users view logs and interact with the kubectl shell in an IDE-like viewer, provide visibility into resources based on RBAC permissions, and help with the management of Kubernetes cluster resources and Helm chart handling.

On top of that it comes with a couple of helpful new observability and operations tools, which let admins perform backups directly from the dashboard, and define Prometheus-based monitoring and alerting as part of the deployment configuration. 

While many will be busy getting started with the new UI, Rancher’s global director of product marketing, Tom Callway, told us he expects the newly introduced lifecycle management for Amazon EKS to be the biggest benefit. “EKS is by far the most popular of all the cloud hosted distributions, and a fantastic sort of commoditised Kubernetes platform that many developers go to and many IT ops people use as their default.” 

“But when it comes to full lifecycle management,” Callway said in an interview with DevClass, “there’s a lot of hand-cranking involved. And if you want to get that sort of full experience, particularly if you’re operating in a hybrid cloud environment using multi clouds or if you’ve got a combination of on-prem and cloud, you want to make sure that the lifecycle management capabilities, the experience on-prem will be reflected in your cloud hosted environment too. And that’s what we’ve been sort of focusing on with 2.5.”

The new version is basically meant to provide Rancher’s provisioning, management, and security features across the environments mentioned, in the hope that a few EKS customers will be lured away by the open source project’s ease of use.

Much like other open source companies, Rancher has also been busy getting a public sector-grade offer off the ground, which is now available in the form of RKE (Rancher Kubernetes Engine) Government. The product is a derivative of RKE which follows the US standard for federal information processing FIPS, is CIS compliant and has backup and restore capabilities with etcd built into it. Updating from regular RKE isn’t an option yet, though Callway said “that’s likely to change in the not so distant future”.

Other improvements in Rancher 2.5 include an integration with the company’s Fleet project, which “can [be] leverage[d] to deliver applications and configurations from a Git source repository across multiple clusters”. He said that following in the model of how Kubernetes deploys pods, “Rancher 2.5 allows users to define what we’re calling bundles as target clusters.

“We refer to the units as bundles and not applications because not only can Rancher 2.5 manage application deployments, more importantly, it can handle all of the Kubernetes resources needed to actually run those applications as well, and do that configuration, their single source of truth, for them.” Once those bundles have been deployed, the software supposedly monitors the setup to ensure availability and security. 

Earlier this year, Rancher announced it had been entered an agreement to be acquired by Linux distributor SUSE. While nothing much has changed for users yet, they may soon need to get used to seeing the Rancher portfolio under a new name. Details on this weren’t clear when we spoke to Rancher, but according to Olivier Maes, managing director for EMEA, the Rancher brand will start to be blended into SUSE “towards the end of this year”.

A possible new identity and merged engineering teams however won’t change the company’s agenda, Maes promised – at least for a while. “In terms of roadmap and technology, we continue to be the same company… [I] mean, we’ll have new products, and new innovation coming in, but for the next two releases, from what I can see, nothing changes. And you know, we’ll continue to support all of the different operating systems, there’s not going to be a tight integration immediately. So it’s going to be business as usual, until we have really the engineers working together.”