If you operate a cloud-native IT environment, there's a good chance that some part of it is powered by open source software. Open source operating systems, orchestrators, service meshes and more are ubiquitous among modern IT stacks.
The open source community is a wonderful thing, and we feel privileged to be in a position to participate in it, both by contributing and using open source code and by supporting important open source projects doing what we do best: providing the cloud infrastructure they need to develop and distribute their software free of charge. We do this through our Open Source Partner Program, which originated at Packet in 2017 and continued after Equinix acquired Packet.
The projects use Equinix dedicated cloud to handle tasks that wouldn't be practical on other platforms. The single-tenant, bare-metal infrastructure gives open source developers high performance and scalability, as well as a level of configurability and control over their environments that they would not get elsewhere.
It’s Kubecon week and in today’s blog I want to highlight some of the ways in which massively popular and critical projects—including some key ones that are part of CNCF and the Linux Foundation—benefit from our open source program."The Linux Foundation and CNCF are beyond grateful for Equinix's generosity in donating infrastructure to support our mission. Whether it's providing multi-region hosting for mission critical services like git.kernel.org and mirrors.kernel.org or providing access to test environments for CNCF projects like Network Service Mesh, K3s and CRI-O, Equinix's dedicated cloud supports us with a level of hardware and routing control we can't get from virtualized environments." — Robert Reeves, VP of Strategic Partnerships at the Linux Foundation
If Linux runs on your servers, source code at your systems’ core likely came from kernel.org. Whoever compiled your kernel needed Linux source code in the version and format necessary for the infrastructure you're using. Kernel.org hosts custom Git repositories where anyone can access Linux code.
Doing this well requires solving an unusual challenge. The code needs to be hosted in multiple geographic regions so that developers can easily access it from anywhere in the world. It also needs to be synced across all those locations. Having versions of the Linux source code differ from region to region would be a big problem! This isn’t practical with conventional CDNs, which can't handle the rapid changes that take place in a Git repository.
Kernel.org solves this challenge by hosting its Git repositories on Equinix dedicated cloud across four global locations. The low-latency network connections that transmit data between those locations ensure that the code remains in sync. This ensures that Linux kernel development proceeds at a steady clip.
Etcd, a distributed key-value store, is one of the essential components in Kubernetes, which uses it to store vital configuration data. Because there are so many different Kubernetes distributions and versions running across multiple environments, the ability to constantly update Etcd and keep it compatible with other Kubernetes dependencies is a critical goal for developers.
Etcd developers achieve this by running Continuous Integration tests on Equinix infrastructure. Whenever they have new code to integrate into the project—which they do about a dozen times a day on average–Equinix’s platform enables them to complete integration tests quickly and keep their development pipeline running smoothly.
Cilium, an open source network observability and security solution, helps K8s admins manage and secure connections between microservices. To ensure that the tool can do this job reliably, Cilium developers rely on Equinix’s dedicated cloud for two key capabilities.
One is testing their code on bare metal. Because Cilium uses extended eBPF to collect data about network operations from deep inside the Linux kernel, testing Cilium in virtualized environments may not yield reliable results. Developers must validate their code on bare metal.
They also need fine-grained control over network configurations when testing. Equinix Metal gives them full control over BGP sessions, so they can simulate whichever networking conditions they want to test for.
Alpine Linux, a lightweight Linux distribution tailored to hosting containerized applications, is an open source project whose code runs seemingly everywhere. Yet the team and the resources behind it are relatively tiny. Alpine developers estimate that about half of the containers running today are hosted on their distribution, which adds up to hundreds of millions of deployments. (Alpine also happens to be the OS that powers rescue environments on Equinix Metal servers, thanks to its light footprint and fast boot time.)
Barely a dozen developers manage and maintain the distribution, and unlike some Linux-based platforms, it has no commercial variant generating revenue.
To ensure that they can build their code across multiple architectures, be they Arm or x86, the Alpine team relies on infrastructure provided through the Equinix Open Source Partner Program. Compiling on bare-metal machines enables much faster builds than a virtualized cloud could deliver.
Alpine also distributes its software using Equinix's global network of data centers. By mirroring packages in Equinix Metal sites across the world, the Alpine team ensures that users can access its code quickly, regardless of their location.
Powering Open Source at CNCF and Beyond
The list of Equinix open source partners goes on. For example, we also support Istio (which uses our dedicated cloud to ensure reliable performance testing—tough to do on cloud VMs) and the aforementioned K3s Kubernetes distribution, whose code is also tested using Equinix.
For a more detailed look at projects currently leveraging donated Equinix infrastructure, check out the CNCF Community Infrastructure Lab (CIL). And if you think your open source project is a good candidate for the Equinix Open Source Partner Program, consider submitting an issue at the CIL to request resources. Most of the projects we work with have already been accepted by the CNCF, but our open source partner list is not strictly limited to CNCF projects.
It’s not enough to write open source code; it also needs to be built, tested and distributed. We're happy to have the ability to support these crucial open source projects with the infrastructure they need to do those things reliably, quickly, efficiently and at global scale.
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