Rancher Labs enhances user experience, expands use cases in new product release

The 2.5 release of the Rancher platform also adds the ability to deliver GitOps capabilities at scale, improved Amazon EKS cluster management, and a broader version of the government version of their platform.

Today, Rancher Labs is announcing the 2.5 release of their Rancher Kubernetes management platform. New enhancements include an improved user experience, with a new user interface and the ability to install Rancher on any certified Kubernetes cluster. Rancher Labs’ Fleet open source project, which provides the ability to delivers GitOps capabilities at scale, has been integrated into Rancher 2.5. The user experience for Amazon EKS cluster management has also been improved. As well, the 2.5 release introduces RKE Government, an updating of their previous RKE Fed.

“Our ‘Computing Everywhere’ vision has become a statement of fact,” said Sheng Liang, Rancher Labs’ CEO. “It’s not a vision any more. We have gone beyond that to have Kubernetes running anywhere – just like Linux. And then you need a platform to manage it all. We have a Kubernetes distro built around K3S, and we also can provide other Kubernetes distros.”

The 2.5 release comes on the heels of July’s announcement that Rancher Labs is  being acquired by SUSE, in a deal scheduled to close by the end of October. Sheng expects that the deal will significantly enhance Rancher’s total addressable market.

“It has significantly helped our business, by putting a lot of focus on this market segment and generating lot of interest for us,” he said. “Once the deal closes, they will be able to leverage much the bigger market team at SUSE to close more deals.”

Liang said that this new version of Rancher is significant in its ability to both simplify and expand use cases, including the new ability to start with a single local cluster.

“Rancher is going to even more places,” he said. “Until 2.5, it was a management server that you tied all the other clusters into. With 2.5, we dramatically simplify the Rancher installation to make it easier to use for any Kubernetes user. If you have a single Kubernetes user, you can just install Rancher on top of it.”

Version 2.5 also introduces a new cluster dashboard, that allows both developers and operations teams to inspect the performance of individual clusters.

“We have always led the industry in UX and UI, and our current dashboard has been really well received,” Liang stated. “However, this earlier one was based on an understanding to how Kubernetes was used a couple years ago. One of the big changes today is that there are more interactions with Kubernetes directly that creates custom resources inside the cluster. The new UI needs to be able to manage those custom resources a lot better. The new UI is also more responsive and more scalable.”

Rancher 2.5 also improves application monitoring and logging capabilities to let developers and operators identify bottlenecks and resolve issues quickly. It also provides improved support for Prometheus and Fluentd.

This version of Rancher also addresses the need for application deployment and management at scale, by integrating Rancher Labs’ Fleet open source project, which was announced earlier this year. Fleet allows for GitOps capabilities at scale, by letting users leverage a Git repository to store and manage application and Kubernetes resource configurations of up a million clusters in size.

“GitOps at scale for edge clusters is very exciting,” Liang said. “Fleet came out about six months ago. That’s usually how we develop things – not new features – but creating an open source project first. We then see how it’s received and then iterate, and we ‘ve collected a huge amount of feedback from Fleet. We have used this to let people manage a very large number of clusters on the edge. Today, most have a few hundred tops, and its easier to do.”

Enhanced lifecycle management for Amazon EKS clusters is another new feature. It now lets Amazon clusters be imported, provisioned and managed from a single pane of glass. It now also facilitates full lifecycle management of Amazon EKS clusters including node management, rolling upgrades, advanced observability, CIS benchmarking, push-button Istio service mesh, integrated OPA Gatekeeper and simplified autoscaling.

“Rancher was EKS’ launch partner and we are a large partner of theirs, but even though it has become table stakes for the industry, the way we managed it initially was really quite limited,” Liang indicated. “Back then, Kubernetes services were simpler. You just created clusters. But as these services have gotten more powerful, they have developed more and overlapping management capabilities with us. The result was that customers would have to dumb down some EKS capabilities, which was not what they wanted. They wanted EKS native ways, along with our better security and catalog. So we changed the architecture of how we managed these things. Now if EKS does something like add a node, we won’t think its an error.”

Finally, to more broadly support the growing popularity of Kubernetes for public sector applications, Rancher 2.5 introduces RKE Government, a FIPS compliant, security-hardened derivative of RKE, Rancher’s certified Kubernetes distribution

“This replaces RKE Fed, which was focused on the U.S. federal market,” Liang said. “Global government markets are looking for the same thing, so RKE government is not entirely focused on the US, although it is primarily driven by it. Going forward, we are figuring out ways to merge it back to the mainline product. Hopefully in the future there will be one edition for everyone.”

The new version is a big deal for partners with a public sector focus, especially outside of the U.S.

“We have a lot of public sector customers in the Canadian government,” Liang noted.

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