DevOps Tools / Kubernetes / Software Development

The ‘Foreseeable Future’ Ends with Knative’s CNCF Application

4 Dec 2021 6:00am, by
programming diagram

Well, well, well — after all that, it looks like the Knative project is poised to join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

Back in 2019, Google caused a bit of controversy when Donna Malayeri, a product manager for Google Cloud Run and a member of the Knative steering committee at the time, wrote in an update that Google had “decided not to donate Knative to any foundation for the foreseeable future.”

This week, the Knative project opened a pull request to join the CNCF as an incubating project, officially ending said “foreseeable future,” with no reason offered as to what had changed in the interim. In a separate blog post, the Knative Steering and Trademark committees wrote that they were “very excited” about the news that Google had “just announced its intention to donate the Knative project.”

The Google blog post on the topic offers a brief history of the project, noting that it was first founded and released by Google in 2018, before it was “subsequently developed in close partnership with IBM, Red Hat, VMware, and SAP.” As for reasons behind the change of mind, again, mum’s mostly the word. The only passage that could even apply offers bland platitudes about open source:

“Finding a home in the CNCF secures Knative’s long-term future and encourages continuing and open innovation. This donation recognizes the adoption and investment in Knative from the community, and will encourage further multivendor innovation, broader education and training,” Google writes.

Chris DiBona, Google’s director of open source, offered the reason as summing up to “maturity” in one tweet:

This, of course, is a far cry from what was said about a potential donation when we wrote about Knative’s independent future outside of a foundation in early 2020, when former steering committee member Jaice DuMars said in an Ask Me Anything (AMA) that donating Knative wouldn’t really offer the project or its users anything beyond what Google could offer.

“There’s a whole slew of assumptions about what the CNCF does and doesn’t do and I think that it’s a little bit dangerous to make those assumptions because if you assume that by donating you get these things, that’s not true. If we donated this project tomorrow, nothing would change in terms of governance,” said DuMars at the time. “CNCF would not make any changes. The only thing that would be different is that they would hold the copyright for the name Knative.”

It was right around this time that Knative actually adopted an elected steering committee, officially severing Google control of the project, which was perhaps the first step on the project’s way to independence. Without any specific public word on the reasoning, however, there’s only speculation to go by.

One such speculation may be that there was some pressure exerted on Google by those aforementioned “close partnerships” — IBM, Red Hat, VMware, and SAP — who could just as easily fork the project. With many of the original players in Knative having left Google for these other organizations, it seems like a distinct possibility that a forked version could be created and separately submitted to the CNCF, leaving Google to play with the original Knative by itself.

But again, that’s just speculation.

IBM, one of those partner companies, offered its own applause regarding the application, writing that the news was “a major step in the right direction for the future of Knative,” again laying out the basics of what it means to join an independent foundation, summing it up as “a win-win.”

Of course, you might find yourself wondering after all of this — what about Istio?

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