Kentik Labs launched with open source networking tools leveraging eBPF


Kentik, an 8-year-old San Francisco-based software-as-a-service network observability company, has created open-source network traffic observation tools. At the same time, the company created Kentik Labs as a platform for accessing these tools as well as helping them to use them.

This will help developers, DevOps teams, and site reliability engineers observe the traffic within their cloud native networks to diagnose issues such as bottlenecks that could slow their operations.

“As a business, we traditionally sell to network engineers, or that side of the house: people who care about who their primary speakers are, where their traffic is going, optimizing costs in terms of ensuring that high-cost traffic goes via CDNs rather than expensive public transport, and things like that, ”Nick Stinemates, Kentik’s vice president of business development (and co-chair of the new Kentik Labs), told Data Knowledge Center. “The efforts of the Labs are aimed at democratizing this concept for different types of users, such as developers, DevOps and traditional system administrators. “

Network engineers love Kentik’s SaaS platform because it take advantage of eBPF (Extended Berkeley Packet Filter), a feature that began to be added to Linux in 2014, allowing programs to be run in a sandbox from the Linux kernel. This gives programs the ability to do things that are not possible in user space, such as directly accessing structure files used by drivers and the like, which are not directly accessible by user programs. This avoids having to use pcap, an API to capture network traffic that can put a noticeable load on a server’s CPU.

“It’s basically a small program that you would run on your server,” said Ian Pye, co-founder and director of engineering at Kentik. “He knows about Docker containers, so he shows you all the containers that are running and who they are talking to.”

Do not open the supply of its SaaS tools

Kentik Labs was launched with five open source tools that, like its SaaS platform, can help observe the flow of traffic between applications within a network: kTranslate, to pull and push data from the network; NetDiag, for low level network diagnostics such as ping and trace (with a custom diagnostic tool called knock); Convis, which is sample code showing how to use eBPF to assign process and container information to network traffic; kProbe, a high performance host and sensor network probe; and Grafana App, to ingest and query network data in real time.

While these tools perform similar functions to those available on the company’s SaaS platform, they are not necessarily exactly the same.

“It’s more like spiritual derivatives, if you will,” Stinemates said. “In some cases, like kProbe, it is used as part of our SaaS offering, but Convis, for example, is not the eBPF agent [we use]. Some of them are related, but… it’s a loose connection. “

Stinemates, whose background is open source (he was part of the original team at dotCloud, the pioneering container company that changed its name to Docker in 2013), said the goal behind Kentik Labs is to create a community of open source users and developers around their technology, not as a method to sell their SaaS business platform.

“It is completely disjointed from our business operations,” he said. “This is the only way to credibly participate in the open source community: to really have a spirit of giving and learning, and doing it all in the open, instead of being a horse of Trojan for your commercial products. “

Kentik Labs is free to access and use by anyone. The project has a website which can be used to access all projects, which are available on GitHub. In addition, there is also a community Slack Channel where members can not only exchange information with other users and developers, but also connect with Kentik’s IT staff.

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