Five Key Takeaways from KubeCon 2016

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Now that KubeCon 2016 is over, we have some time to reflect on the State of the Kubernetes project and communities, the event itself, and the marketplace going forward into 2017. Red Hat has been a part of this community since well before it was launched, but it’s incredibly important to understand how a community evolves over time. If you we’re able to attend the events in Seattle, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has posted all of the videos online.

Looking back on the events in Seattle, here are five key takeways that will continue to shape the community and market for the next few years.

A Growing and Diverse Community 

Source: The New Stack at KubeCon2016 (via Chen Goldberg, Google)
Source: The New Stack at KubeCon2016 (via Chen Goldberg, Google)

The communities that develop around open source projects are always interesting to watch. Sometimes they are driven almost entirely by a single person or company. Other times they are highly fragmented. The Kubernetes community is neither of those. At nearly 1000 contributors, the community is rapidly growing and increasingly diversifying – larger than the next four largest container projects combined. While Google continues to be the largest contributor, and Red Hat continues to be the #1 Enterprise contributor, the level of broader contribution continues to growth at a very rapid pace. And the community is not just vendors, as was evident by the large number of “customers” presenting to the crowd of over 1200 people in attendance. This is a community that doesn’t need to answer the on-going question of, “Is Kubernetes being used in production?”, but is clearly more focused on how to help those companies expand their Kubernetes footprint to include a broader range of applications, and an acceleration of value back to their businesses. A healthy community is also focused on making it easier for more people to participate, and the governing body of the CNCF took some major steps forward with their announcement of certifications and trainings.

The other powerful measure of a community is how many new opportunities it creates, and how committed people are to it’s longevity. We saw this in Microsoft’s commitment to Kubernetes (here, here). We saw this as Kubernetes creators looked to expand the market for Kubernetes. And we’re seeing this as established cloud-native thought leaders (here, here) enter the Kubernetes community.

 

Customers are Building, Deploying and Hiring

The crowded "Jobs Board" at KubeCon 2016
The crowded “Jobs Board” at KubeCon 2016

In the 2nd year of an emerging project, it’s not unusual to have a few customers talk about their early deployments. These are normally universities, small departments of large companies, or early-adopter technology-centric companies. But the Kubernetes community has followed a different trajectory. We’ve seen many of the largest cloud providers delivering Kubernetes services. We heard from companies in Automotive, Banking, Financial Services, Media and Entertainment, Education, and Government, just to name few industries. The DIY crowd was also well represented, with lots of stories of teams that needed to create a wide range of integrations in order to navigate some of the internal organizational challenges in their business.

One of the really interesting aspects of the week was the number of companies that presented their Kubernetes story, and then open sourced the work they build to get them there. Pearson Technologies (Online Education) and Concur (Travel Management) were two of those companies. Not only had they solved some complex challenges, such as rolling upgrades and multi-region availability, but they had also overcome their internal legal challenges of publishing technology that previously would have been guarded Intellectual Property

As with any hot new technology, everyone is hiring. The encouraging part of this hiring rush is that it’s not just vendors that are trying to collect all the best developers – it’s being lead very heavily by companies building out their internal Kubernetes platforms. The job board (above) was crowded with opportunities, but we’re also seeing a daily increase of job postings on major jobs sites (Kubernetes, OpenShift). Not surprisingly, there are companies from across the Fortune 2000 that are looking for the best and the brightest to help them with their digital transformation.

Stateful Services allow Greater Adoption Rates

Red Hat's Clayton Coleman presents StatefulSets at KubeCon 2016.
Red Hat’s Clayton Coleman presents StatefulSets at KubeCon 2016.

On more than one occasion, this phrase was overhead in the hallways, “Stateless apps are cool, but all the money is in state. If you follow the data, you’ll follow the money.” Needless to say, it wasn’t surprising to see the breakout sessions on Stateful applications on Kubernetes were standing-room-only.  Unlike some other platforms, the Kubernetes community has been very aware that companies want to be able to run multiple types of applications natively on the platform. From stateless to batch to analytics to existing applications, and almost anything in between. As StatefulSets evolves, along with storage extensions such as Provisioned Volumes, we expect to see more and more companies bring a broader set of their new and existing application portfolios to Kubernetes platforms. The economics of these new platforms are just too compelling to ignore for much longer.

Red Hat has been supporting stateful applications on Kubernetes since OpenShift v3. It’s one of the biggest reasons that customers are adopting the platform in so many industries. The journey of digital transformation is one that requires companies to support both faster moving monolithic applications and cloud-native microservices.

 

The DIY’ers are Moving to Supported Production Environments

Far too often, while sitting in breakout sessions, I found myself thinking “the problem they spent 6 months trying to solve is already fixed in Red Hat OpenShift“. I don’t say that arrogantly. I say that from the perspective of companies focusing their attention on things that will create new value for their business. Things like multi-tenancy, CI/CD integrations, default security settings or storage provisioning are all interesting problems, but they won’t bring your business new customers if you get them 99.99% right. Red Hat brought all of those things (and more) to the upstream Kubernetes community, and deliver Enterprise support for them (and more) in OpenShift Container Platform.

The good news is that many of those same companies would come by the Red Hat booth later in the week and tell us that they were coming to those same conclusions. Their DIY efforts were a great way to truly understand the Kubernetes technologies, under the covers, but it was time to focus on optimizing their development pipelines and their production environments.

Timelines for new, market-facing projects are getting shorter and shorter for companies. It was good to see that they are beginning to understand the value of working with both open source communities and commercial supported offerings to balance the risks and innovation needed for those projects.

The Rise of CPaaS (Container Platform as a Service)

Back in 2007, when the NIST created the definition of the layers of Cloud Computing, it seemed like the separations were clear and distinct. But as technologies have evolved, the IaaS | PaaS | SaaS definitions no longer seem to work, especially at the intersection of IaaS, PaaS and now CaaS (Containers-as-a-Service). Containers have changed so much for both developers and operators. CaaS platforms are giving developers a simplified packaging and distribution mechanism, as well as giving operators the ability to deliver less opinionated (and more powerful) platforms. The abstractions are now in the right places for both Devs and Ops. We heard this loud and clear from nearly everyone attending KubeCon, from all sides of IT teams. Kubernetes is evolving into the optimal CPaaS for Hybrid Cloud.

 

It was a great week in Seattle. The energy from the community has us all inspired to continue to build upon this great platform foundation. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again in Berlin in March. If you can’t wait for that, check out some of the CNCF Roadshow events in January in the Pacific Northwest (January 24-26th)…we’ll be there!

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