How is Talos different from other container optimized Linux distros?

Talos shares a lot of attributes with other distros, but there are some important differences. Talos integrates tightly with Kubernetes, and is not meant to be a general-purpose operating system. The most important difference is that Talos is fully controlled by an API via a gRPC interface, instead of an ordinary shell. We don't ship SSH, and there is no console access. Removing components such as these has allowed us to dramatically reduce the footprint of Talos, and in turn, improve a number of other areas like security, predictability, reliability, and consistency across platforms. It's a big change from how operating systems have been managed in the past, but we believe that API-driven OSes are the future.

Why no shell or SSH?

Since Talos is fully API-driven, all maintenance and debugging operations should be possible via the OS API. We would like for Talos users to start thinking about what a "machine" is in the context of a Kubernetes cluster. That is, that a Kubernetes cluster can be thought of as one massive machine, and the nodes are merely additional, undifferentiated resources. We don't want humans to focus on the nodes, but rather on the machine that is the Kubernetes cluster. Should an issue arise at the node level, talosctl should provide the necessary tooling to assist in the identification, debugging, and remedation of the issue. However, the API is based on the Principle of Least Privilege, and exposes only a limited set of methods. We envision Talos being a great place for the application of control theory in order to provide a self-healing platform.

Why the name "Talos"?

Talos was an automaton created by the Greek God of the forge to protect the island of Crete. He would patrol the coast and enforce laws throughout the land. We felt it was a fitting name for a security focused operating system designed to run Kubernetes.