This week’s KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2018 event in Seattle was a pretty powerful showing on just how fast Kubernetes has permeated the cloud ecosystem. It seemed like just about every company we cover here at SDxCentral had a presence at the event and/or had some sort of Kubernetes-related announcement tied to the show.
The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), which organized the event, claimed 8,000 attendees with an additional 2,000 on a waitlist. And from my own attendance at the event’s keynotes, a handful of sessions, and roaming the show floor, I think those 2,000 on the waitlist found a way to sneak in.
Every attendee I spoke with said they were surprised by the growth of the event, noting that it was substantially busier than last year’s domestic KubeCon event in Austin, Texas.
So, what did I get out of the event?
It has become apparent that Kubernetes has made the jump from something that only early adopters are interested in to a platform that enterprises are beginning to build on. There were a number of organizations that provided deep insight into how they were using Kubernetes in their actual operations, including the likes of Uber, Lyft, and Capital One.
This has been helped by the number of larger cloud providers and software vendors that have at least one option of a managed Kubernetes service. This is important because while a good portion of enterprise IT departments have heard of Kubernetes, there is still an admitted steep learning curve in terms of actually deploying – and more importantly, managing – Kubernetes in a production environment.
It’s also apparent that Kubernetes is still maturing. While it has been in “GA” status for more than a year and is supporting production environments, the project itself continues to rollout substantial updates on a quarterly basis.
This fast pace is probably a good thing in terms of making sure Kubernetes is always on the leading edge, but also makes it harder for enterprises to adopt the technology without managed help from a vendor partner. Those companies listed above have made the move to provide the internal support necessary to deploy and manage Kubernetes, but most organizations lack those resources.
Now, this is probably a good thing for the vendor community, but IT departments are more likely to take the bigger plunge into Kubernetes if they have at least some level of comfort and insight into what they are diving into.
It was also noticeable that speakers at many of the keynote addresses and educational sessions touched on the continued need for developer training. Automation is a big part of the Kubernetes ethos, but the ecosystem continues to lack a sufficient quantity of qualified developers to help make that jump.
Numbers provided by CNCF touted that 108 companies were involved with training, distributing, and/or hosting of Kubernetes. And it cited a report from The Register that showed a 230 percent increase in Kubernetes-related job postings over the past year.
The event organizers also had placed a “hiring wall” outside the main show floor where companies could scribble out their hiring needs. Needless to say, that wall was filled within hours. My takeaway from this is that if you know anyone that is interested in coding, buy them a Kubernetes book for Christmas.
Lightening the Load
While Kubernetes was obviously the central point of circulation at KubeCon, it was also impressive to see so much attention focused on orbiting projects like Envoy, Helm, and Istio. This reminded me of a conversation I had earlier this year with CNCF Executive Director Dan Kohn who said that one area of focus for the community was in trying to make Kubernetes “smaller.” By this he meant there was a focus on having other projects take on some of the burden that was piling up on Kubernetes.
The recent CNCF “graduations” of Prometheus and Envoy showed that Kubernetes’ supporting cast is indeed maturing to the point that they can take on some of that load, which should feed into more focus for Kubernetes.
The one wildcard remains Istio, which is built on Envoy but currently sits outside of the CNCF framework. Those I spoke with at the event said that distance was not a major concern at the moment because those involved in Istio continue to work amicably together. However, some inside of that project also acknowledged they were working toward a migration path for Istio into some form of open source governance organization to help alleviate concerns.
The governance issue also highlighted that the Kubernetes ecosystem is at a precarious tipping point in terms of its maturation. To this point, the CNCF has done an admirable job in maintaining the open source neutrality of the project. This is even more impressive when you consider the number of deep-pocketed companies involved in the ecosystem.
But pressure remains on how Kubernetes will evolve. Similar to what happened in the early days of OpenStack, Kubernetes is being pulled by different interests into many directions that, if left unchecked, could blur its focus.
Vendors I spoke with at the show all continued to tout their ongoing support for how CNCF is handling Kubernetes governance. But with that list of vendors growing and the potential for real money to be made on Kubernetes, CNCF and the Kubernetes community will need to remain vigilant in monitoring any forks on Kubernetes’ continued maturation path.
Overall, I have to say I was impressed by the positive vibe from the show and just how powerful Kubernetes has become. I would have been more impressed if that power could have been used to make the event WiFi available more than just in name only and forced even just a smidgen of sun to shine in Seattle.