Archive for June 2019

Sometimes You Have to Walk the Walk

This blog does not in anyway represent the views of Amalgam Insights. They are mine alone and I take responsibility for that. Just so there’s no confusion.

As an IT industry analyst, I am given a bully pulpit to speak on the issues of my industry. Typically, these are technology matters such as the cost and usefulness of technology or trends that will affect the industry in the future. However, as Winston Churchill said, Where there is great power there is great responsibility.” This places on obligation on us, who have an audience that listens, to speak out on the ethics and behaviors of members of our community. Big technology companies also have great power and, hence, great responsibility. They too have an obligation. Their responsibility is to use their power for the greater good. Or at least, as the famous Google slogan says, “Don’t be evil.”

This slogan, embraced at the beginning of Google’s existence, is now dripping with irony and hypocrisy. Recently, there was a walkout of 20,000 Google workers for its handling of the sexual harassment complaints against one of its executives, Andy Rubin. There were further allegations of retaliation against some of the workers who organized the walkout even though Google publicly praised their actions. If that doesn’t indicate something about Google’s attitude toward women, then the latest news says it louder. On June 13, 2019, Sundar Pinchai said in his blog that he was “pleased to announce” a $600M investment in a data center in Oklahoma. This investment lays bare the true heart of the company.

For those who don’t typically pay attention to what goes on in Oklahoma, they are well known for their hostility towards women’s reproductive rights. The state has tried to revoke the licenses of doctors who provide safe abortions, enacted a fetal heartbeat bill (for the record, fetal heartbeats are not a matter of science), and tried for a complete abortion ban in 2016. These are some of the more egregious attempts on the part of the state to limit a woman’s access to safe abortions. They are by no means the only ones.

Let’s be clear about one thing, none of this legislation is about women’s health. Many of the attempts to get around Roe v. Wade run counter to science, such as the fetal heartbeat bill, and contradict the standard of practice in the medical community. We should also be clear that this is not about religion either. If it were, then the state would have no interest in it or they would legislate male reproduction choices, such as vasectomies, just as strongly. It’s about extending the power of the state over the bodies of women. Specifically women.

So, given the dismal record of the state of Oklahoma toward woman, why would a company whose motto is “Don’t be evil” invest over a half a billion additional dollars there, for a total investment of $3B? There are a number of technical reasons for this investment, such as locating cloud data centers near customers. Money also matters too. In 2015, for example, Google received $13.5M in property tax exemptions for the data center in Pryor, OK for using wind power. Imagine the other incentives a state such as Oklahoma might offer for the expansion of a data center and the addition of 100 high paying jobs. Money clearly matters more than the ethics of supporting a state that is dead set on subjugating woman through their biology.

The IT industry has always marketed itself as an inclusive meritocracy that wants more women in its ranks. Companies sponsor programs to recruit more women, hold “girls can code” days, and show heartwarming videos of female empowerment at their conferences. However, when Google not only invests in a state hostile to women but brags about it in a blog from the CEO, it becomes clear that none of this is genuine. How can tech companies talk about equality (which is a lie anyway) and then invest in a state that strives to remove a woman’s autonomy over her own body? At best it’s hypocrisy but more likely it’s about the bottom line above all else.

So, it’s time for honesty. Google, like most giant companies, do not care about women, underserved populations, social justice, LGBTQ+ people, or anything other than the how much money they can make. There is no greater mission. Remember that, when an IT company plays the Hallmark quality video showing their employees teaching girls and young women to write code so as to uplift them into IT society. It’s all a gimmick. All of the diversity programs, women’s councils, and talk of meritocracy is nothing more than clever marketing to improve their image. When the real choices need to be made, money will be the deciding factor. Don’t get sucked into believing that Google is better just because they say they are. Everything is about maximizing shareholder value and executive bonuses. That’s just bizspeak for “make as much money as possible, for the wealthiest people imaginable, no matter how you do it.”

IT companies have become the new robber barons. There’s a lot of good but the costs are high. One of the costs is enabling those who want to subjugate women, who want to create the Gilead from The Handmaiden’s Tale in real life. Don’t be evil indeed.

Kubernetes Grows Up – The View from KubeCon EU 2019

This was originally published on the Amalgam Insights site on Wednesday June 5 2019.

Our little Kubernetes is growing up.

By “growing up” I mean it is almost in a state that a mainstream company can consider it fit for production. While there are several factors that act as a drag against mainstream reception, a lack of completeness has been a major force against Kubernetes broader acceptance. Completeness, in this context, means that all the parts of an enterprise platform are available off the shelf and won’t require a major engineering effort on the part of conventional IT departments. The good news from KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 in Barcelona, Spain (May 20 – 23 2019) is that the Kubernetes and related communities are zeroing in on that ever so important target. There are a number of markers pointing toward mainstream acceptance. Projects are filling out the infrastructure – gaining completeness – and the community is growing.

Project Updates

While Kubernetes may be at the core, there are many supporting projects that are striving to add capabilities to the ecosystem that will result in a more complete platform for microservices. Some of the projects featured in the project updates show the drive for completeness. For example, OpenEBS and Rook are two projects striving to make container storage more enterprise friendly. Updates to both projects were announced at the conference. Storage, like networking, is an area that must be tackled before mainstream IT can seriously consider container microservices platforms based on Kubernetes.

Managing microservices performance and failure is a big part of the ability to deploy containers at scale. For this reason, the announcement that two projects that provide application tracing capabilities, OpenTracing and OpenCensus, were merging into OpenTelemetry is especially important. Ultimately, developers need a unified approach to gathering data for managing container-based applications at scale. Removing duplication of effort and competing agendas will speed up the realization of that vision.

Also announced at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 were updates to Helm and Harbor, two projects that tackle thorny issues of packaging and distributing containers to Kubernetes. These are necessary parts of the process of deploying Kubernetes applications. Securely managing container lifecycles through packaging and repositories is a key component of DevOps support for new container architectures. Forward momentum in these projects is forward movement toward the mainstream.

There were other project updates, including updates to Kubernetes itself and Crio-io. Clearly, the community is filling in the blank spots in container architectures, making Kubernetes a more viable application platform for everyone.

The Community is Growing

Another gauge pointing toward mainstream acceptance is the growth in the community. The bigger the community, the more hands to do the work and the better the chances of achieving feature critical mass. This year in Barcelona, KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU saw 7700 attendees, nearly twice last year in Copenhagen. In the core Kubernetes project, there are 164K commits and 1.2M comments in Github. This speaks to broad involvement in making Kubernetes better. Completeness requires lots of work and that is more achievable when there are more people involved.

Unfortunately, as Cheryl Hung, Director of Ecosystems at CNCF says, only 3% of contributors are women. The alarming lack of diversity in the IT industry shows up even in Kubernetes despite the high-profile women involved in the conference such as Janet Kuo of Google. Diversity brings more and different ideas to a project and it would be great to see the participation of women grow.

Service Mesh Was the Talk of the Town

The number of conversations I had about service mesh was astounding. It’s true that I had released a pair of papers on it, one just before KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. That may have explained why people want to talk to me about it but not the general buzz. There was service mesh talk in the halls, at lunch, in sessions, and from the mainstage. It’s pretty much what everyone wanted to know about. That’s not surprising since a service mesh is going to be a vital part of large scale out microservices applications. What was surprising was that even attendees who were new to Kubernetes were keen to know more. This was a very good omen.

It certainly helped that there was a big service mesh related announcement from the mainstage on Tuesday. Microsoft, in conjunction with a host of companies, announced the Service Mesh Interface. It’s a common API for different vendor and project service mesh components. Think of it as a lingua franca of service mesh. There were shout-outs to Linkerd and The latter especially had much to do with creating SMI. The fast maturation of the service mesh segment of the Kubernetes market is another steppingstone toward the completeness necessary for mainstream adoption.

Already Way Too Many Distros

There were a lot of Kubernetes distributions a KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. A lot. Really. A lot. While this is a testimony the growth in Kubernetes as a platform, it’s confusing to IT professionals making choices. Some are managed cloud services; others are distributions for on-premises or when you want to install your own on a cloud instance. Here’s some of the Kubernetes distros I saw on the expo floor. I’m sure I missed a few:

Microsoft Azure Google
Digital Ocean Alibaba
Canonical (Ubuntu) Oracle
IBM Red Hat
Rancher Pivotal
Mirantis Platform9

From what I hear this is a sample not a comprehensive list. The dark side of this enormous choice is confusion. Choosing is hard when you get beyond a handful of options. Still, only five years into the evolution of Kubernetes, it’s a good sign to see this much commercial support for it.

The Kubernetes and Cloud Native architecture is like a teenager. It’s growing rapidly but not quite done. As the industry fills in the blanks, as communities better networking, storage, and deployment capabilities it will go mainstream and become applicable to companies of all sizes and types. Soon. Not yet but very soon.