In the summer of 2014, Box was feeling the pain of a decade’s worth of hardware and software infrastructure that wasn’t keeping up with the company’s needs.
A platform that allows its more than 50 million users (including governments and big businesses like General Electric
) to manage and share content in the cloud, Box was originally a PHP
monolith of millions of lines of code built exclusively with bare metal inside of its own data centers. It had already begun to slowly chip away at the monolith, decomposing it into microservices. And "as we’ve been expanding into regions around the globe, and as the public cloud wars have been heating up, we’ve been focusing a lot more on figuring out how we run our workload across many different environments and many different cloud infrastructure providers," says Box Cofounder and Services Architect Sam Ghods. "It’s been a huge challenge thus far because of all these different providers, especially bare metal, have very different interfaces and ways in which you work with them."
Box’s cloud native journey accelerated that June, when Ghods attended DockerCon
. The company had come to the realization that it could no longer run its applications only off bare metal, and was researching containerizing with Docker, virtualizing with OpenStack, and supporting public cloud.
At that conference, Google announced the release of its Kubernetes container management system, and Ghods was won over. "We looked at a lot of different options, but Kubernetes really stood out, especially because of the incredibly strong team of Borg
veterans and the vision of having a completely infrastructure-agnostic way of being able to run cloud software," he says, referencing Google’s internal container orchestrator Borg. "The fact that on day one it was designed to run on bare metal just as well as Google Cloud
meant that we could actually migrate to it inside of our data centers, and then use those same tools and concepts to run across public cloud providers as well."
Another plus: Ghods liked that Kubernetes
has a universal set of API objects like pod, service, replica set and deployment object, which created a consistent surface to build tooling against. "Even PaaS layers like OpenShift
that build on top of Kubernetes still treat those objects as first-class principles," he says. "We were excited about having these abstractions shared across the entire ecosystem, which would result in a lot more momentum than we saw in other potential solutions."
Box deployed Kubernetes in a cluster in a production data center just six months later. Kubernetes was then still pre-beta, on version 0.11. They started small: The very first thing Ghods’s team ran on Kubernetes was a Box API checker that confirms Box is up. "That was just to write and deploy some software to get the whole pipeline functioning," he says. Next came some daemons that process jobs, which was "nice and safe because if they experienced any interruptions, we wouldn’t fail synchronous incoming requests from customers."