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Mirantis buys Lens Kubernetes IDE to reach developers

With the Lens Kubernetes IDE in hand, Mirantis wants to connect directly to a developer base that is becoming more influential in the enterprise.

Mirantis has acquired Lens, a popular integrated development environment, or IDE, for Kubernetes, to provide developers building apps for Kubernetes environments with multi-cluster management and other key features.

Lens helps to eliminate the complexity of Kubernetes for developers, as it enables them to manage, develop, debug, monitor and troubleshoot workloads across multiple clusters in real time, said Adrian Ionel, co-founder and CEO of Mirantis. It is a desktop application that works with macOS, Windows and Linux operating systems.

Is it an IDE?

In reality, Lens is more than an IDE, as it appeals to both developers and operations staff in the DevOps equation, said Jeffrey Hammond, an analyst at Forrester Research. "It looks like Lens is actually an 'IOE' -- an integrated operating environment," he said.

Key features of Lens include a context-aware terminal that automatically downloads and assigns the correct version of the kubectl command-line tool that is always API-compatible with the developer's cluster. And, as the user switches from one cluster to another, the terminal maintains the correct kubectl version and context, Ionel said.

It's different enough from a traditional IDE that the moniker doesn't quite make sense, said Dave Bartoletti, an analyst at Forrester.

"Lens is a multi-cluster K8s dashboard -- not sure why they're calling it an IDE," he said. "Rancher, Docker Enterprise, which Mirantis also owns, OpenShift, Tanzu Mission Control -- they all have K8s ops consoles and include monitoring, like this claims to."

Adrian IonelAdrian Ionel

But Ionel likened Lens to Visual Studio, Microsoft's flagship IDE that is the foundation of the company's close relationship to its developer base.

"Lens gives us a direct line to developers," Ionel said, adding that he believes it will open the door to Kubernetes developers and operators much like Visual Studio has for Microsoft and its developer base. "Developers are gaining more power and influence, and for us to be directly connected with them, understand their needs, their desires and be able to create value for them directly is hugely valuable to us."

Multi-cloud chops

Lens also enables developers to work with multiple Kubernetes clusters on any cloud from a single environment. These may include clusters on minikube, Docker Desktop, Docker Enterprise, Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service, Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service, Google Kubernetes Engine, Rancher or Red Hat OpenShift. Developers can add clusters by importing the kubeconfig file with the cluster details. A kubeconfig file is a file used to configure access to Kubernetes.

"Operations teams are moving into a stage of productivity with app modernization projects and are, therefore, seeking solutions that help them manage the complexities of running Kubernetes clusters across various clouds," said Charlotte Dunlap, an analyst with GlobalData in Santa Cruz, Calif. "Mirantis offers a compelling alternative to Red Hat OpenShift and VMware Tanzu for DevOps teams trying to juggle the demands of lifecycle management and streamline development workflows.''

In addition, Lens features built-in Prometheus stats. Prometheus is an application for event monitoring and alerting.

I opt to use something a bit more traditional with the CLI K9s, because my qualms included learning a whole different tool, rather than just doing a super-charged kubectl alternative.
Jeff CorpuzDevOps engineer, Fearless

It's good to have options

A Kubernetes IDE is not for everyone. Jeff Corpuz, a DevOps engineer at Fearless, a full-stack digital services firm based in Baltimore, is not a believer.

"I opt to use something a bit more traditional with the CLI [command-line interface] K9s, because my qualms included learning a whole different tool, rather than just doing a super-charged kubectl alternative," Corpuz said. However, "with all things, it is all about developer preference. If it helps a developer work better with K8s through a visual dashboard like Lens, all the more to them."

Depending on the needs and working habits of the developer, a Kubernetes IDE may be useful. Moreover, the option to be able to choose from several tools is a plus that can give developers an advantage.

"Container-based development has its own intricacies and challenges, so a purpose-built IDE for containers and Kubernetes has a large enough demand and market," said Holger Mueller, an analyst at Constellation Research. "Mirantis is competing with Microsoft, AWS, Oracle, Google, IBM, etc., for the IDE and needs to have the tooling for it. There is the old adage in software: The vendor who gets the eyes and clicks of the user gets the money -- not the one in the background, with no UI."

Lens is available on GitHub under the MIT license. Commercialization is not a primary concern for Lens at Mirantis, the company said.

"We want to continue building an open source community around the project and maintain its high pace of adoption and innovation," said Dave Van Everen, senior vice president of marketing. "We are considering adding a 'pluggable' architecture that would foster an ecosystem of enterprise plugins; that's likely where Mirantis and possibly others could commercialize Lens."

Since its launch as an open source project in March 2020, Lens has garnered a community of 35,000 users on GitHub where it is one of the top trending open source projects in the cloud-native ecosystem.

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