A Year of Tekton

By November 15, 2019 Blog

Author: Dan Lorenc (dlorenc@google.com, twitter.com/lorenc_dan, github.com/dlorenc)

Last year at Kubecon Seattle, Tekton was just an idea in the heads of a few people, and a bit of code inside knative/build-pipeline. Fast forward to today, and we have a thriving community, independent governance inside a great foundation, and we’re quickly approaching our beta release! This year has flown by, so I wanted to highlight some of the original goals of the Tekton project, and some of the milestones we’ve hit toward them.

The Start

When Christie, Jason and I started sketching out the original Tekton APIs on a whiteboard in San Francisco, we had a straightforward goal in mind: make the hard parts of building CI/CD systems easy. There are already dozens of CI/CD systems designed to run on kubernetes, and for the most part they all have to build the same basic infrastructure before they can start solving customer problems. Kubernetes makes scheduling, orchestration and infrastructure management easier than anyone could have imagined, but it still leaves users with a few pieces to assemble before they can use it as an application delivery platform.

These were some of the original whiteboard sketches on what later became the Tekton Pipeline CRD.

Things like basic DAG orchestration, artifact management, and even reliable log storage are outside the bounds of the core Kubernetes APIs. Our plan was to use the new Custom Resource Definition feature to try to define a few more “nouns”, on top of the existing Kubernetes primitives, that were better suited for Continuous Delivery workloads. In doing so, we would make it easier for people and trans to create delivery systems designed for their exact use cases, while making sure the underlying primitives allowed for some degree of compatibility.

Vague ideas are great, but it’s much more productive to collaborate with others when you have something concrete to share and get feedback on. So in August of 2018, we released the sketch and principles we used to design it on knative-dev and to a few other interested parties. The feedback was amazing. The core pipeline team on Jenkins at Cloudbees jumped in with some hard earned lessons from their experience working on the most widely used orchestration system in history. The Concourse team at Pivotal helped redesign our extensibility system based on what they learned from the successful Concourse resource model.

Then we got to work building it all out! Our goal must have really resonated with others, because we could really feel the power of open source from day one. Even when there were only a few of us working together at Google, we were part of a much larger effort. We really wouldn’t be here today without the help of our contributors, maintainers and governing committee members.

A New Home

Around the time we prepared for our first release, it started to become obvious that Tekton (then called knative/build-pipeline) needed its own home. The knative brand and community helped immensely, but Tekton was meant to provide CI/CD for everyone – not just serverless or even kubernetes users. So in February of 2019, we decided to split out the project, name it “Tekton” and donate it to the newly-forming Continuous Delivery Foundation just in time for the 0.1.0 release. 

Kim Lewandowski announcing Tekton at the Open Source Leadership Summit

Open source, governance, and communities are hard. The move out of knative and into a new foundation was a big change for the project, but has proven worth the effort! Tekton still works great with other knative components, but has had the chance to grow its own community and evolve to a spot that its users need. Thanks to the community, Tekton has expanded into multiple projects like the Dashboard and CLI, and in Tekton Pipelines we have been so lucky to gain the expertise of folks like Vincent Demeester and Andrea Frittoli.

The rest of this year has felt like a blur, but I wanted to call out some major milestones we hit:

  • March – The first Tekton Pipelines release (v0.2.0) using Tekton itself!
  • June – First release of the Tekton CLI!
  • July – The first Tekton Pipelines release (v0.5.0) by a community member not at Google!
  • July – Tekton Friends repo created! 
  • August – First release of the Tekton Dashboard!
  • September – First Triggers release!
  • October – Tekton passed 100 contributors in October!

What’s Coming Next?

We’re rapidly approaching the first Tekton beta release! As part of this effort, we evaluated our API surface and identified quite a few areas that need hardening. This includes finishing up the table-stakes requirements for a CI/CD platform – things like triggers, metadata storage and building up our catalog. The Triggers v0.1.0 release has made Tekton usable in so many new ways, and we’re just getting started there still! 

Scott Seaward has has just started work on refactoring PipelineResources into an extensible system that will form the basis for the Tekton catalog, and Jason Hall is working on a metadata storage system that will help power some new ideas around software supply chain management.

If you’d like to get involved in the Tekton project, you can find us on Github, Slack or our email list . We’ll also be at Kubecon next week! Come attend one of the many sessions or the CD Summit. Here’s to Tekton in 2020!