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Is Knative the future standard for cloud-native applications?

Introduced by AWS in 2014, Serverless architectures mark the culmination of the idea of on-demand resources: only those resources that are needed, when they are needed, and for as long as needed are activated (and billed). This approach has two major advantages: on the one hand, it relieves teams of any concern about application execution, allowing them to focus exclusively on business issues; on the other hand, it reduces the hardware, environmental and, of course, financial footprint of application operation to a strict minimum.

But setting up a Serverless function in a container is a tricky task… unless a layer of abstraction masks this complexity! That’s the idea behind Knative, a framework designed to deploy, run and manage Serverless applications on Kubernetes. Knative thus allows you to benefit from both the convenience of containerisation and the frugality of Serverless.

How widely adopted is Knative?

Created by Google in 2018, Knative is now an open-source project, supported by many leading players (IBM, RedHat, VMware, SAP…) and, since March 2022, by the Cloud Native Computer Foundation (CNCF). Knative, whose version 1.0 was released in November 2021, is already used in production by companies such as Alibaba, Bloomberg and T-Mobile. It is an open, robust and promising alternative to proprietary Serverless solutions like AWS Lambda, Azure Functions and Google Cloud Functions, and could become a must-have solution for cloud-native applications.

How does Knative work?

To simplify, automate and manage Serverless deployments on Kubernetes, Knative relies on two main components: Knative Eventing and Knative Serving.

The first one, Knative Eventing, allows developers to create event-driven applications and connect them to event streams (Apache Kafka, for example). The second, Knative Serving, automates the activation, scaling and extinction of services on Kubernetes as needed. Knative Serving supports autoscaling, networking and revision tracking, among other things.

Knative Eventing and Knative Serving can be used separately, but they are most often deployed together to create event-driven execution scenarios that maximise the benefits of Serverless.

What are the Top 5 Benefits of Knative?

We briefly discussed the benefits of Knative at the beginning of this post, but now we’ll take a closer look at the top benefits, aside from general benefits such as convenience and frugality, in greater detail. The top five benefits of Knative are:

  • Productivity gains
  • Resource savings
  • Multi-cloud portability 
  • A DevOps enabler for cloud-native applications
  • Open-source community support

Let’s explore each of these in more detail.

1. Productivity gains

Knative relieves developers and administrators of complex, repetitive and time-consuming tasks. By abstracting and automating resource management, they can save valuable time on application development, deployment and maintenance.

2. Resource savings

This is one of the promises of Serverless that Knative makes possible, namely to activate resources only when they are needed. The enterprise only pays for what it uses, not what it could use.

3. Multi-cloud portability

As it is based on Kubernetes, the de facto standard for container orchestration, Knative enables access to serverless without having to tie up with a cloud provider’s functions-as-a-service platform.

4. A DevOps enabler for cloud-native applications

While Kubernetes has been a key driver of containerization and cloud-native applications in the enterprise, it remains a complex technology. Knative makes it possible to free oneself from the necessary expertise, whose deficit can be a brake on the speed sought in DevOps approaches. With Knative, developers and administrators don’t need as much advanced knowledge to quickly build, deploy and manage containerised applications.

5. Open-source community support

Knative’s open-source nature ensures robustness, sustainability and innovation. The fact that the project is now officially supported by the Cloud Native Computer Foundation gives it additional visibility and legitimacy that will further strengthen the interest of the community. Companies that would like to start are sure to find expert and reactive support from the Foundation.

Take Part in the Devoteam Community 

This article is a part of a greater series centred around the technologies and themes found within the first edition of the Devoteam TechRadar. To see what our community of tech leaders said about the current position of Knative in the market, take a look at the most recent edition of the Devoteam TechRadar.