To bring Kubernetes to the edge, Rancher 2.4 scales up cluster support

The latest release of the popular Kubernetes management platform offers architectural support for one million clusters.

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Rancher Labs on Tuesday announced the general availability of Rancher 2.4, the latest release of its popular Kubernetes management platform. The new release takes Rancher one step closer to its vision of running Kubernetes everywhere, with architectural support for one million clusters. It also includes updates related to security and general performance. 

Rancher 2.4 specifically offers support for one million clusters in preview, while the GA product supports 2,000 clusters and 100,000 nodes. Those numbers will increase as Rancher continues higher-scale testing, said CMO Peter Smails. 

"Foundationally, it's an architectural shift for us to build in that level of scalability," he said. 

The focus on scalability reflects the changing ways organizations are deploying Kubernetes, Rancher CEO Sheng Liang explained to ZDNet. While Kubernetes itself is quite scalable, supporting clusters with up to 5,000 nodes each, organizations are moving toward more, smaller clusters. In the enterprise, for instance, it makes sense to have development workloads and production workloads in different clusters or different teams in different clusters. 

Meanwhile, the advent of edge computing is bringing cluster management to a whole new level of scale. A retailer could be running a cluster for each point of presence, or each surveillance camera, for instance. 

"As the number of clusters go up, generally the size of clusters goes down," Liang said. "They're no longer big data center deployments, it's just one server, one node at the edge."

Rancher expects that trend to grow with the rollout of connected cars, connected factories, and other IoT use cases. With the coming 2.5 version of Rancher, the company plans to offer fleet management of clusters. 

Rancher 2.4 also offers zero downtime maintenance for RKE, which should be valuable for organizations running workloads in production. 

It also offers limited connectivity maintenance for K3s, Rancher's certified Kubernetes distribution designed for production workloads in remote locations or inside IoT appliances. Limited connectivity maintenance is designed for clusters that may not have a fixed or stable network connection. Rancher 2.4 kicks off an upgrade remotely, while the process is then managed on local K3s clusters, allowing users to manage upgrades and patches locally. Once connectivity is restored, it will sync with the management server.

To improve security, Rancher 2.4 introduces CIS Scan, allowing users to run ad-hoc security scans of their RKE clusters against more than 100 benchmarks published by the Center for Internet Security. Users can create custom test configurations and generate reports on the results. The reports provide feedback in terms of corrective actions and remediation that users can take within Rancher.

Lastly, Rancher 2.4 is now available in a Hosted Rancher deployment. Customers can get a dedicated AWS instance of a Rancher Server management control plane. The deployment option provides a full-featured Rancher server, delivers 99.9% SLA, and provides upgrades, security patches, and backups. It's not a fully-managed service -- Rancher manages the server but not the control plane or downstream Kubernetes clusters. 

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