Talos: A Cloud Native OS

Wed Jul 17 2019
Brad Beam

While I was eating lunch with my daughter the other day, I overheard a conversation that reminded me of the old days of infrastructure management and design. “...we’d need to find a port to use”, “but then it’d take two weeks to get a server.” “...then our security team needs to do their thing.” I realized that these were issues I hadn’t had to worry about in quite a while, but for many workplaces, they are still reality.

Over the past decade, cloud computing has become commonplace, and a term to describe infrastructure that has been built from the ground up with cloud computing principles in mind has emerged: “Cloud Native” The Cloud Native approach focuses on composable infrastructure–from the hardware layer up through the application layer. As engineering refinement is applied to these layers, the resulting product becomes much more resilient and digestible:

Cloud native technologies empower organizations to build and run scalable applications in modern, dynamic environments such as public, private, and hybrid clouds. Containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs exemplify this approach.

These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.

(Cloud Native definition by CNCF)

When organizations adopt Cloud Native principles, there is usually an initial uproar over the number of services and level of complexity involved. This is often a knee-jerk reaction due to the deconstruction of larger applications where this illuminates the high level of complexities implicitly defined within the application. Because of the high level of complexity in the larger application, this usually translates into moving very slowly with any sort of software updates, enhancements, or maintenance. There is just too much unpredictability and mental toil. As applications transform into smaller and more composable components, the mental model for each individual component becomes smaller and easier to reason about.

When looking through the CNCF Cloud Native Interactive Landscape, there are an overwhelming amount of technologies displayed. Luckily, the CNCF has grouped these up into various categories. Each of these categories are pieces of your Cloud Native picture, and each of these components begin to build upon each other. When a technology like Kubernetes is used, application and networking layers gain significant benefits with regards to the resiliency, predictability, security, and management. When Kubernetes is coupled with a Container Network Interface (CNI) like Calico, network security becomes more composable and easier to reason about and implement. When Kubernetes is coupled with Prometheus and Grafana, metrics, alerting, and observability are no longer hidden but at the forefront.

This is why we see such a strong value proposition with Talos. With Talos being an immutable, minimal operating system (OS), it fits nicely in the Cloud Native ecosystem. Since the focus is on bringing along just enough to run Kubernetes, we can help to reduce the mental model for the OS layer making it easier for your team or organization to focus on what really matters. Instead of waiting weeks to add a new server, a new Talos machine can be deployed with a minimal amount of configuration and joined to the Kubernetes cluster. Host and network layer policies can be automatically applied to the new node as applications get scheduled on it. As we continue to build and enhance Talos, our focus will remain on providing an environment that is resilient, manageable, and observable.

Try Talos

If you are interested in trying Talos, check out our Getting Started guide! You can set up a test cluster in a local Docker environment in just a couple of minutes.

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We’d love to talk to you about the project. Join our community to chat with us on Slack, join the mailing list, and check out the source code at GitHub.

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