Archive for conference

Three Things Happening with the Kubernetes Market

Kubernetes Icon

This was first published on the Amalgam Insights site.

This year’s KubeCon+CloudNativeCon was, to say the least, an experience. Normally sunny San Diego treated conference goers to torrential downpours. The unusual weather turned the block party event into a bit of a sog. My shoes are still drying out. The record crowds – this year’s attendance was 12,000 up from last year’s 8000 in Seattle – made navigating the show floor a challenge for many attendees.

Despite the weather and the crowds, this was an exciting KubeCon+CloudNativeCon. On display was the maturation of the Kubernetes and container market. Both the technology and the best practices discussions were less about “what is Kubernetes” and, instead more about “how does this fit into my architecture?” and “how enterprise ready is this stuff?” This shift from the “what” to the “how” is a sign that Kubernetes is heading quickly to the mainstream. There are other indicators at Kubecon+CloudNativeCon that, to me, show Kubernetes maturing into a real enterprise technology.

First, the makeup of the Kubernetes community is clearly changing. Two years ago, almost every company at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon was some form of digital forward company like Lyft or cloud technology vendor such as Google or Red Hat. Now, there are many more traditional companies on both the IT and vendor side. Vendors such as HPE, Oracle, Intel, and Microsoft, mainstays of technology for the past 30 years, are here in force. Industries like telecommunications (drawn by the promise of edge computing), finance, manufacturing, and retail are much more visible than they were just a short time ago. While microservices and Kubernetes are not yet as widely deployed as more traditional n-Tier architectures and classic middleware, the mainstream is clearly interested.

Another indicator of the changes in the Kubernetes space is the prominence of security in the community. Not only are there more vendors than ever, but we are seeing more keynote time given to security practices. Security is, of course, a major component of making Kubernetes enterprise ready. Without solid security practices and technology, Kubernetes will never be acceptable to a broad swatch of large to mid-sized businesses. That said, there is still so much more that needs to be done with Kubernetes security. The good news is that the community is working on it.

Finally, there is clearly more attention being paid to operating Kubernetes in a production environment. That’s most evident in the proliferation of tracing and logging technology, from both new and older companies, that were on display on the show floor and mainstage. Policy management was also an important area of discussion at the conference. These are all examples of the type of infrastructure that Operations teams will need to manage Kubernetes at scale and a sign that the community is thinking seriously about what happens after deployment.

It certainly helps that a lot of basic issues with Kubernetes have been solved but there is still more work to do. There are difficult challenges that need attention. How to migrate existing stateful apps originally written in Java and based on n-Tier architectures is still mostly an open question. Storage is another area that needs more innovation, though there’s serious work underway in that space. Despite the need for continued work, the progress seen at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon NA 2019 point to future where Kubernetes is a major platform for enterprise applications. 2020 will be another pivotal year for Kubernetes, containers, and microservices architectures. It may even be the year of mainstream adoption. We’ll be watching.

Canonical Takes a Third Path to New Platforms

This was originally published on the Amalgam Insights website.

We are in the midst of another change up in the IT world. Every 15 to 20 years there is a radical rethink of the platforms that applications are built upon. During the course of the history of IT we have moved from batch-oriented, pipelined systems (predominantly written in COBOL) to client-server and n-Tier systems that are the standards of today. These platforms were developed in the last century and designed for last century applications. After years of putting shims into systems to accommodate the scale and diversity of modern applications, IT has just begun to deploy new platforms based on containers and Kubernetes. These new platforms promise greater resiliency and scalability, as well as greater responsiveness to the business.

As is often the case with new technology, Kubernetes and container platforms began as a decidedly DIY affair. Over time, however, software vendors have begun to craft curated platform experiences for sale. The DIY platform is a customized experience but difficult and expensive to engineer; the vendor curated platform is much easier but has more constraints. These are typical tradeoffs seen in any emerging platform environment. Curation reduces risk and degree of difficulty but at the expense of choice. DIY has ultimate choice but requires additional personnel costs, not only to build but to support and maintain the platform. These are the two paths open to IT shops looking to Kubernetes and containers to solve the problems of their 21st century applications.

Canonical, however, is creating a third path to new platforms. At the Canonical Analyst Day (September 12, 2019) in New York City, Canonical CEO Mark Shuttleworth articulated a different vision for Kubernetes platforms than is typically expressed by vendors. Based on their Juju and Charms toolset, Canonical hopes to offer the benefits of the curated experience and the flexibility of the DIY. With Charms, Canonical hopes to encapsulate best practices and integrations, in effect curating the parts. Instead of combining these into a set platform, they are offering Juju as a way to combine these parts, Lego like, into a custom platform. Charms describes what the software should be; Juju says where the software should go. At the component level, Charms knows how to configure, provision, and deploy a piece of software while Juju knows the existing infrastructure and where a Charmed component can and should go.

So, why a third path? The most obvious benefit is flexibility. Most platform plays assume that you will want what they have already tested and integrated. Simplicity is the byword since complexity is harder to do and support. If the platform vendor has integrated Istio and Envoy for the service mesh, that is what is supported. If IT’s platform engineers believe Linkerd makes more sense, they now have the responsibility for figuring out how to integrate it and manage its deployment. It’s a simple trade off – the cost of engineering versus the constraints of pre-determined components. While this works for a lot of applications, there are plenty where deviation from the platform is called for. The third path that Canonical is envisioning changes that dynamic. It provides the advantages of DIY with the advantages of the curated platform. This is not to say that DIY or curated platforms are wrong. For many companies, one or the other works for them. Not all IT environments, however, can go in the two common directions. They lack the resources to build their own platforms from scratch but need more flexibility than a standard platform can give them. They need purpose-built platforms at standardized pricing. This is where the third path becomes valuable.

It’s not at all unexpected that Canonical would take a path that diverges from the pack. This has been their modus operandi since the very beginning. The Charm-Juju experience is just another example of Canonical refusing to accept the status quo and, instead, looking for a way to forge a different trail through the woods of IT.