Welcome Tilt: Fixing the pains of microservice development for Kubernetes

May 24 2022

Big news! The Tilt team is joining Docker. The Tilt project is joining too.

We think this is a great fit and I will tell you why.

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The Problem

Modern apps are made of so many services. They’re everywhere. Every team we talk to is trying to figure out how to set up environments to run their apps in dev.  Simple `start.sh` scripts inevitably grow into mini bespoke orchestrators. They need to start servers in the right order, update them in-place, and monitor when one is failing. We built Tilt, a dev environment as code for teams on Kubernetes, to help solve these problems. Whether your dev env is local processes or containers, in a local cluster or a remote cloud, Tilt keeps you in flow and your feedback loops fast.

So how does this make sense at Docker?

When we started building Tilt in 2018, we thought of Docker as the container company selling Swarm to enterprises. In 2019, the Docker’s Next Chapter blog post announced a change in focus to invest more in great tools for developers and development teams to help them spend more time on innovation, less time on everything else. 

Tilt interoperates with Docker Buildkit, Docker Desktop, and Docker Compose. Improvements to these tools help Tilt users too! We always had a hunch that our product roadmaps might overlap. And in the years since Docker focused on developers, we’ve been converging more and more.

Once we started talking more with Docker, we found more in common than just a problem space including:

  • A product philosophy around deeply understanding devs’ existing workflows, so we can make dramatic improvements in user experience that feel magic;
  • An engineering philosophy around patterns and flexibility so devs can adapt their tools to their needs;
  • A business philosophy around building a sustainable company so we can continue to make great free, open-source tools for every developer.

 

So you could say we got along. What’s next?

What Does a Combined Tilt + Docker Look Like?

Tilt will remain open-source. It’s great! You should try it! We’ll still be responding to issues and hanging out in the community slack channelBut this has never been about Tilt the technology. Or even about Kubernetes. Our history is full of experiments. Dan Bentley and I started hacking on ideas in 2017. We knew we were unhappy about microservice dev. But we weren’t sure what the first stepping stone might be.

This was more of a research project than a company. Some examples:

  • Our first prototype was a more interactive, developer-focused CI.
  • We almost trolled ourselves into becoming a Bazel company.
  • We bought two lab coats, poster board, glue, and glitter so we could show off our prototypes at the GothamGo conference.
  • We built many weird demos: (1) Mishell (an interactive multi-service shell) represented by a French-speaking hermit crab named Michel, and PETS (Process for Editing Tons of Services) represented by three cats overwhelmed by microservice dev. Our teammate Han Yu had a blast with mascot design (yeah to Docker for animal mascots):

 

Tilt cats Tilt crab

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The first version of Tilt was a bare-bones terminal app to update containers in a Kubernetes cluster. It resonated immediately. Tilt has grown a lot since then. Running all or just a few of your services is easier than ever. Why did we focus on Kubernetes? Kubernetes contains a few simple, brilliant ideas for how to operate apps. Tilt borrows a lot of ideas (and a lot of core libraries) from Kubernetes on how to be scriptable and adaptable. But more importantly, the Kubernetes community is lovely. They appreciate Goose-themed trolling. We found a worldwide community of people enthusiastic about building better tools.

We’re sad we missed everyone at Kubecon EU this year! We didn’t know if this deal would finish before, during, or after the conference.

That said, over the next couple months, we’ll be swapping notes with the Docker team about what we’ve both learned and what we’ve both tried.  We don’t know yet where this will take us. Maybe you’ll see Tilt & Kubernetes features in Docker Compose. Or maybe you’ll see Docker Desktop features in Tilt. There will be research and tinkering, where we’ll be in our lab coats and glitter, but do expect us to bring the power of Tilt to Docker.

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