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kubernetes-logoMost techies have heard of Kubernetes, the leading container orchestration product. But some may not know how the name evolved, what it means, or even how to pronounce it.

GeekWire got the full story on all that in an interview this week with two founders of the Google-based Kubernetes project, Craig McLuckie and Joe Beda. They also explained the origin of their name of their new company, Heptio.

Kubernetes (“koo-burr-NET-eez”) is the no-doubt-mangled conventional pronunciation of a Greek word, κυβερνήτης, meaning “helmsman” or “pilot.” Get it? Helping you navigate the murky waters of cloud computing and containerized applications?

Hmm. I’m not so sure. When I typed ‘helmsman’ into Google Translate, I gotπηδαλιούχος. But that’s pronounced something like “pidalioúchos,” which probably would have been unmanageable.

In any case, you might find McLuckie’s explanation quite erudite. But in his modesty, he told us otherwise.

heptio logo“We had 13 other names we couldn’t get past Google’s legal department. It was the last day, and I had to pick something. I was driving in to work, and I thought, ‘Well, [the technology] is like driving a container ship. What would the helmsman be called?’ So I tried to find something exotic. I had no idea what the Greek for that was. I had to look it up.”

As to Heptio’s name, Beda explained: “When we were helping create Kubernetes, we pitched it as ‘Seven of Nine,’ a ‘Star Trek: Voyager’ character who’s a former Borg drone. That was a reference to the Borg, a code name for Google’s internal version of Kubernetes, the thing that runs its search and apps and ads. It’s total geek culture. We wanted a friendlier Borg. That name turned into ‘Project Seven.’ When we went public with Kubernetes, we didn’t want to lose track of the ‘seven.’ The Kubernetes logo has seven sides. ‘Hept’ is the Greek prefix for ‘seven,’ and it’s a way to pull the ‘seven’ through.”

He continued, “We’re playing on a soft reference to Kubernetes’ origins. We’re starting with Kubernetes as a core part of what we’re building, but we don’t want to be too overt, because the mission of the company goes beyond Kubernetes.”

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