Kubernetes begins: A brief history of Kubernetes

Jane Elizabeth
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Kubernetes has spearheaded the revolution in container management in the past few years. But this open source project almost never saw the light of day. How did this container manager go from a top secret at Google to one of the biggest projects on GitHub in less than five years?

Origin stories are important. If we know how something started, it’s possible to extrapolate where it might go. When we look at Kubernetes, it’s easy to see the motivation for creating this popular container-orchestration management system.

Kubernetes keeps bringing the hits, but sometimes it’s important to take a step back and look at how far we’ve come. In five years, Kubernetes has gone from top secret at Google to one of the top projects on GitHub. But how?

Setting the stage

When Kubernetes hit the scene, containers had just really become widely adopted. Google was very quietly using containers to manage their infrastructure for Google Search, Gmail and YouTube. The Google devs built Borg from scratch, creating a large-scale cluster management system that could handle the massive scale needed at Google in an efficient manner.

This was part of the foundation for Google Cloud Platform, the start of Google’s incredibly profitable Infrastructure-as-a-Service venture. But on the backend, Google developers and engineers noticed something weird: despite all the CPUs they were paying for, customers had incredibly low utilization rates because they were running VMs.

Clearly, the solution was containers. Docker was growing in popularity, but what developers really needed was a container management system. They needed access to Borg.

Unsurprisingly, higher ups at Google were less interested.

“So let me get this straight. You want to build an external version of the Borg task scheduler. One of our most important competitive advantages. The one we don’t even talk about externally. And, on top of that, you want to open source it?”

Ultimately, the idea was actually greenlit for general release. Keeping with the Star Trek theme, the project was developed as Seven of Nine, a friendlier Borg. (While the name was eventually changed, the Kubernetes logo has seven sides to honor the unforgettable Tertiary Adjunct of Unimatrix Zero One.) The goal was to build an elegant, simple to use UI.

What began as a top secret project at Google has now become one of the top projects on GitHub. With 68,304 commits and 1,749 contributors, the cat is certainly out of the bag on this container management system.

SEE ALSO: “Kubernetes is becoming central to cloud adoption”: More innovation coming

Getting Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a free and open source project. More information is available here. Help is always welcome – there’s no way this project could have grown without the help of developers like you!

Jane Elizabeth
Jane Elizabeth is an assistant editor for

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Stephen Lindsey
Stephen Lindsey
3 years ago

I have rarely seen such a poorly written article