Oh my, the news keeps coming thick and fast.

Rancher is a company founded by cloud royalty. Sheng Liang and Shannon Williams last gig, Cloud.com, was acquired by Citrix, rebranded to CloudStack and then divested once Citrix realized it didn’t actually know what to do with it. No matter, Liang, and Williams did fine out of the deal and came back to found Rancher a few years ago.

When it was founded, Rancher was focused on making an operating system (imaginatively called RancherOS) which was touted as the smallest and easiest way to run Docker at scale. The focus of the company was solely on creating tools to help organizations run Docker.

Or… it was.

You see, the world has moved on and for a host of reasons that I have enumerated many times in the past, while Docker the project is still healthy, Docker the company, and the ecosystem around it is decidedly not. Companies seem to be moving in droves to downplay the Docker aspects and instead jump on the bandwagon du jour, Kubernetes.

The company is announcing its 2.0 release today and, instead of articulating it is the best tool with which to run Docker, Rancher is now saying that it is “the first container management platform that works with any Kubernetes cluster.” Available as a technical preview, Rancher is all about making it easier to use both self-managed and cloud-managed Kubernetes clusters. Users can stand up and manage new Kubernetes clusters using the Rancher Kubernetes distribution or import existing Kubernetes clusters, including hosted container services such as Google Container Engine.

Moving from an architecture built on Docker to Kubernetes

Most companies have been diplomatic about heir move away from Docker, messaging it as being more about embracing multiple options rather than turning their backs on a project that has the whiff of death around it. No such diplomacy from Rancher who explains that currently, Rancher 1.0 powers more than ten thousand Docker clusters, more than a thousand of which are running Kubernetes. Beginning with Rancher 2.0, every cluster will be based on Kubernetes. Apparently seeing Kubernetes as the way of the future, Rancher suggests that their 2.0 version makes it easy for users to take advantage of Kubernetes as well as its rapidly growing ecosystem. By providing a simple and intuitive user experience built on Kubernetes, Rancher 2.0 will apparently accelerate adoption of Kubernetes within the enterprise.

So, what does Rancher 2.0 actually do?

Beyond the popcorn-worth of a company adding salt to Docker’s wounds, there is some functional depth to this release. New features in Rancher 2.0 include:

  • Manage Kubernetes everywhere: With cloud providers increasingly offering Kubernetes clusters as a service, users no longer need to create their own cluster. Rancher 2.0 enables users to manage existing Kubernetes clusters from cloud service providers like Google Container Engine (GKE) as well as clusters running on-premises.
  • Multi-cluster management: Rancher 2.0 provides centralized management of user authentication, monitoring, and health check to give IT administrators increased visibility and control. Rancher 2.0 leverages role-based access control (RBAC) capabilities in Kubernetes to provide shared cluster and host access to users.
  • Improved user experience: The Rancher user experience has been enhanced to bring the simplicity of Docker command line and the elegance of Docker Compose to Kubernetes. Users can now have the same experience they love on their laptop on production Kubernetes clusters.
  • Enriched application catalog: The Rancher catalog has been extended to support Docker Compose, Kubernetes templates, and Helm charts so that users have access to more containerized applications.

Liang, the current CEO of Rancher, articulates the reasons for this release and the health of his company and the ecosystem around it saying:

The Rancher community, and our partner ecosystem, is incredibly active. Our team is fortunate to regularly receive feedback and requests on desired features and support items. In Rancher 2.0, we are dramatically improving Kubernetes support, making day-to-day Kubernetes use incredibly simple, to accelerate adoption of Kubernetes in the enterprise.


Kubernetes is, like Pepsi, OpenStack and Docker before it, the choice of a new generation. Of course, all of those choices have, to a greater or lesser extent, lost their luster and there is no guarantee that the same will not occur with Kubernetes. Rancher is doing the natural thing and jumping onto a project and movement that has captured the current zeitgeist. Will that change be long-lasting, and will Rancher be able to leverage for its own commercial success? Watch this space.

Ben Kepes

Ben Kepes is a technology evangelist, an investor, a commentator and a business adviser. Ben covers the convergence of technology, mobile, ubiquity and agility, all enabled by the Cloud. His areas of interest extend to enterprise software, software integration, financial/accounting software, platforms and infrastructure as well as articulating technology simply for everyday users.

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