Advancing Keptn to the CNCF Incubator


Oleg Nenashev

July 14, 2022

Keptn is an open source event-driven orchestration engine that connects observability with operations in cloud-native environments.

This post was co-authored by Andreas Grabner, Andreas, Giulia Di Pietro, Johannes Bräuer, and Oleg Nenashev.

We are happy to announce that Keptn, one of the open source projects born within Dynatrace, has been promoted to the Cloud-Native Computing Foundation Incubator.

To celebrate this milestone and give a huge thank you to the Keptn community, and in particular the team at Dynatrace that contributes to Keptn, we wanted to go on a trip down memory lane to highlight our biggest milestones since its inception.

Keptn: a short history

As the technology world started to move services to Kubernetes, it was seeking ways to apply DevOps practices around delivery and operations to their container-based workloads. At the same time, Google’s SRE (Site Reliability Engineering) centered around resiliency driven through SLOs (Service Level Objectives) became a popular topic among those operating systems at scale.

The Dynatrace Innovation Lab team recognized that need and started collecting all the best practices and techniques that were being used at Dynatrace for deploying and operating cloud-native applications. The goal was to create a reference implementation using available tools that automate cloud-native delivery and operations with a tight integration to observability to ensure deployed services are not violating SLOs.

The first reference implementation was used in several workshops delivered to partners and customers. While those attendees came back to their organizations inspired and ready to implement what they have learned, adoption was minimal as the reference implementation only worked with a specific set of tools not found in all organizations.

Keptn 1-year anniversary cake

It was January 2019 when the team decided it was time to convert the reference implementation into a real framework that allows applying all those best-practice lessons in any organization regardless of the existing tools or processes. That’s when Keptn was born!

When we started to move from observability towards automation, we were unhappy with the status quo, so we created Keptn to fill these gaps,” said Alois Reitbauer, Chief Product Officer at Dynatrace and creator of Keptn. “Automation platforms did not have a good separation of strategy or workflow from the actual implementation of tasks. This led to lengthy scripts that were hard to manage and made tool integrations difficult as there was no common definition for application lifecycle events.

Dynatrace quickly decided that Keptn shouldn’t be kept as proprietary value, so they open sourced it on GitHub to make it available for a wide range of users as well as inspiring more organizations to actively contribute.

From there on, the path was set. First Dynatrace donated Keptn to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation as a Sandbox project, putting Keptn on a map and leading to a growing community of adopters as well as contributors. Dynatrace itself also grew the team that actively contributed to Keptn, allowing it to implement requested features, integrations as well as doing several architectural iterations to make it more lightweight and scalable.

The internal Keptn conference at Dynatrace Linz Headquarters

In the middle of 2021, adoption and quality reached a level where Dynatrace initiated the process of applying for CNCF Incubation status. Being able to present and be present at KubeCon EMEA and NORAM 2021 helped boost adoption even further. It also showed the CNCF community that Keptn is here to stay as it brings observability-driven cloud-native delivery and operations to the CNCF community. The benefit for the Keptn users being that they spend less time in building their own automation & orchestration and always being sure that only those software changes that don’t violate their SLOs make it into production.

Fast forward to July 2022: The CNCF approves the Incubation proposal and elevates Keptn into a rank of CNCF projects such as Argo, Tekton and others …

The journey is not yet over, but it’s always great to remember how it started and which release milestones we have achieved:

  • Keptn 0.1 to 0.5 — Stabilization of initial demo assets and installation optimization
  • Keptn 0.6. — Quality Gates capability to validate quality aspects through a delivery workflow
  • Keptn 0.7 — Delivery Assistant capability to control which version to promote
  • Keptn 0.8 — Shipyard v2 to support customized delivery and operational processes
  • Keptn 0.10 — Support for seamless DevOps tool integrations
  • Keptn 0.13 — Enabling Keptn to connect to a user authentication provider — foundation for role-based access control (RBAC)
  • Keptn 0.16 — Allowing an upgrade of Keptn without downtime and triggering automation sequences from the Bridge

Furthermore, Dynatrace, having seen the value of Keptn from the very beginning, has decided to incorporate it into their own product to realize use cases like validating software against business-critical metrics or SLOs out-of-the-box. The Cloud Automation Module of the Dynatrace platform helps teams and SREs ensure that the software they ship is of constant quality by validating it automatically at every commit. While DevOps platform engineers utilize the GitOps-like approach of sharing SLIs, SLOs and the environments/stages configurations.

Rest assured — the Keptn story isn’t over yet. There are many more milestones to come!

A big thank you to the Keptn community!

Every great project has a great team behind it. Many open source enthusiasts have joined (or left) the Keptn team and contributed to its success. We are thankful for each and every contribution, big or small, that our community has made. It wouldn’t have been possible to reach Incubation without you!

The Keptn team at Dynatrace and some external contributors during a Keptn community meeting.
A group of Keptn contributors from Dynatrace at KubeCon Valencia 2022 (from left: Andreas Kroier, Pol Fenollar Villa, Michael Winkler, Thomas Schuetz, Christian Heckelmann, Dominik Augustin)
The Keptn team at Dynatrace during a team event
What a fantastic Keptn journey with a bright future ahead of us,” said Johannes Bräuer, Keptn co-founder. “It is such an honor to be part of shaping this vision and driving the Keptn project from day one. Seeing Keptn now joining CNCF at the incubation level is even a more honorable achievement that would not have been possible without the amazing Keptn community!

Want to contribute to the future of Keptn?

Learn more about Keptn on our website, follow us on Twitter, or join the Keptn Slack.

Advancing Keptn to the CNCF Incubator was originally published in Dynatrace Engineering on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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Oleg Nenashev