The 8,000 attendees attending the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s (CNCF) KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Kubernetes conference this week in Seattle demonstrated the exponential growth in interest in this complex, technical combination of open source technologies.
Kubernetes is container orchestration software – essentially, plumbing for running enterprise-class software in the cloud. Not the kind of nuts-and-bolts tech that you might think would generate such enthusiasm.
Why all the excitement? The answer: containers represent the reinvention of virtualization for the cloud. Virtualization was the core innovation that transformed enterprise IT in the last decade, and containers promise the same for the next.
As the leading platform technology underlying containers, Kubernetes is at the heart of how both enterprises and Web-scale companies will run their technology for years to come.
And as the KubeCon crowd would tell you, that’s a very big deal.
MY SEVEN TAKEAWAYS FROM KUBECON
I attend many technology conferences, most recently a blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), and Internet of things conference (see my article from that event). Compared to blockchain in particular as well as AI, my FIRST KUBECON TAKEAWAY IS THAT KUBERNETES ACTUALLY WORKS.
Both blockchain and AI, in contrast, suffer from systemic problems that nobody really knows how to solve.
To be sure, Kubernetes is still young, and there remain many missing or immature pieces necessary to complete its story. That being said, there’s widespread confidence that the community is quite capable of filling in the blanks. It’s not a question of how. It’s simply a question of when.
TAKEAWAY #2: KUBERNETES IS LEAPING OVER THE CHASM. Author Geoffrey Moore postulated a chasm between early adopters of a technology and the early majority, who wait for the early adopters to prove the technology before jumping in.
However, as Moore concluded, many new technologies never make it over the chasm, instead falling to their ignominious death before the majority has a chance to take a spin.
With Kubernetes, however, the early adopters are hardly done with their deployments, only to find the early majority jumping over with both feet.
True, the early birds put in plenty of extra time assembling the pieces of the Kubernetes puzzle by hand. At KubeCon, however, numerous vendors were offering solutions that mitigated such hand-coding, and enterprise attendees were ready to buy. (My next article will focus on the most interesting vendors at KubeCon.)
GET THE ARCHITECTURE RIGHT
Such rapid adoption wouldn’t be possible if the vision for Kubernetes wasn’t right on the money – and for the CNCF, being on the money means making the right architectural decisions about Kubernetes early on.
MY THIRD TAKEAWAY, IN FACT, IS THAT THE KUBERNETES COMMUNITY HAS LEARNED THE HARD LESSONS OF OPENSTACK.
Like Kubernetes, OpenStack was a wildly popular open source enterprise infrastructure software effort. Unlike Kubernetes, too many vendors jumped on the OpenStack bandwagon, leading to a plethora of poorly coordinated projects and way too much politics.
Many of the same vendors (and individuals) are involved in both initiatives – but unlike OpenStack, Kubernetes benefits from a single architectural vision that limits the herding cats problem. Politics may still be somewhat of an issue, but it appeared at this KubeCon that the big vendors driving the effort were on their best behavior.
Kubernetes’ architecture, in fact, leads to my FOURTH KEY TAKEAWAY: ASTUTE ARCHITECTURAL DECISIONS MITIGATE KUBERNETES’ ESSENTIALLY COMPLICATED NATURE.
The most important of these characteristics is extensibility. Because Kubernetes is open source, anybody is welcome to lift the hood and monkey around with the engine. Just one problem: such uncoordinated (and possibly ill-advised) tampering can lead to different, possibly incompatible versions of the software.
Instead, Kubernetes’ architects built it to be extensible, so it’s possible to add functionality or even make changes to its existing functionality without screwing with its insides. Such extensibility has given the large ecosystem of vendors exhibiting at KubeCon a leg up on building their products, and is a core reason why the users of Kubernetes jumped so quickly over the chasm.
BRINGING ‘CLOUD NATIVE’ TO THE ENTERPRISE
NUMBER FIVE on my list centers on THE NOTION OF CLOUD NATIVE.
In common parlance, cloud native refers to software that developers have built in – and for – the cloud.
From the enterprise perspective, then, this definition of cloud native might apply to some of the new software they’re building, but the cloud native world would forever be separate from the on-premises context for enterprise IT that has been with us for generations.
At KubeCon, however, it’s clear this definition is shifting. The takeaway: ‘cloud native’ is more than ‘cloud only.’ It means bringing cloud-centric best practices to software and IT generally, whether that be in the cloud or on premises.
The big win for enterprises: Kubernetes provides cloud-native approaches to modernizing legacy assets.
In fact, from my perspective, this part of the Kubernetes story is the most exciting of all, as how enterprises modernize their tech is itself undergoing its own transformation – and Kubernetes is rapidly becoming an essential part of such transformations.
IN THE END, IT’S ALL ABOUT THE PEOPLE
TAKEAWAY #6: THE SKILLS SHORTAGE IS THE LIMITING FACTOR THAT WILL SLOW KUBERNETES ADOPTION DOWN. It’s no secret that there are nowhere nearly enough techies to go around – and when the cool Web-scale companies suck up the best ones, enterprises find themselves scrabbling over who’s left.
On the one hand, yes, this is a great time to be a Kubernetes techie – including developers, architects, ops people, and cloud aficionados, among others. It’s also a call to arms for vendors, who are hammering out tools as fast as they can to lower the bar for less senior people to step up to the plate.
For my SEVENTH TAKEAWAY, I saved the most remarkable for last: WOMEN ARE LEADING THE KUBERNETES CHARGE. Yes, you read that right. While the audience at KubeCon was perhaps 90% male, the keynote speakers were more than half female.
And no, these women weren’t the result of some well-meaning but desperate effort to fill out the speaker ranks to make CNCF look good. These women were senior people in their organizations, many of whom are leading the Kubernetes effort for their companies and the community at large.
To sum up: it warms the cockles of this old tech skeptic’s heart to see how well Kubernetes is doing. Its progress is eclipsed only by its promise. It won’t be long till we take Kubernetes for granted as a ubiquitous part of the enterprise IT landscape, as we do technologies like Linux and TCP/IP today.
Finally, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in my years covering the enterprise technology space, it’s this: if you want something done right, make sure women are in charge.
originally posted on Forbes.com by Jason Bloomberg