Take Five With Tom Fenton

Take Five: Takeaways from KubeCon North America 2021

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation's flagship Kubernetes (K8s) conference, KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021 (aka "KubeCon"), was held as a live event at the Los Angeles Convention Center and virtually Oct. 13-15, 2021 (with a pre-event on Oct. 11-12). The virtual event had around 17,000 attendees, and around 4,000 attended in person. Below are some of the items that I found especially interesting at KubeCon.

Take 1: New Members added to Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF)
The CNCF announced the organization had incredible growth last year. They now have more than 725 members, up from 600 members last year. CNCF now has more than 138,000 contributors and 110 Graduated, Incubating and Sandbox projects. Following are some companies that caught my eye at the event.

  • Platform9: Platform9 is a multi-cloud K8s-as-a-service company that has been a mainstay at KubeCon for many years and at this year's event introduced Managed KubeVirt (PMK). This is a managed KubeVirt solution that offers a unified platform to run virtual machines (VMs) alongside containers. This is an interesting take, since last week at VMworld, VMware announced a project that allows VMs to be instantiated using K8S, which is the exact opposite. Platform9 also announced -- in conjunction with Intel's Open Retail Initiative (ORI) -- a software-defined store solution to help retailers roll out store applications and improve digital experiences for consumers by allowing the management of retailers remotely located converged infrastructure stacks that can run on both VMs or containers.
  • Kubecost: I had a chance to chat with Kubecost about the challenges around assigning charges for container usage. This is a topic that is getting more and more attention as containers become more prevalent. The challenge is that to be most effective, containers and K8S require resources from a common pool. Assigning cost back to specific lines of businesses can be a challenge. Kubecost allows the costs to be tracked and billed by deployment, service, namespace label and other K8S constructs from a single dashboard. They have a free version of the software that can monitor a single cluster.
  • InfluxData: InfluxData is the company behind InfluxDB, which is an open source time-series database. They have been around for more than eight years, and I was glad that I finally had a chance to sit down and talk with them. One of the areas that we keyed in during our discussion was the proliferation of IoT and Edge devices and the massive number of logs and data that they produce. InfluxData is keenly aware of the challenges around the amount of data that is produced by these devices and ensured me that InfluxDB can ingest it all. InfluxData has a free plan to get you started with their product.
  • MinIO: This is another company that I have seen around the K8S ecosphere for years but never had a chance to chat with. Amazon's S3 is the de facto standard for object storage, but what happens if you are developing and deploying on an in-house system or using a different cloud provider? Just as S3 has become the standard for object storage, MinIO has become the standard for S3 compatibility for non-AWS systems. There are other companies that offer S3 compatibility features for object storage, but MinIO is the only company that I know of that is solely dedicated to it. This laser focus has made them the predominant player in this field. If you want to see if MinIO is the right product for your S3 needs, they have a free community edition.

Take 2: VMware
VMware is a Platinum-level member of CNCF but didn't have a presence at KubeCon this year, although they did have employees presenting at it. I didn't see any announcements from them at KubeCon, but at VMworld last week they did make some major announcements that should be included. About three years ago VMware acquired Hepito, a Seattle-based company that was started by two of the Google engineers who developed Kubernetes. I believe that they have a heavy hand in the direction that VMware is taking with K8S.

By the way of background, Hepito, before being acquired by VMware, was best known for Sonobuoy, which runs conformance tests on a Kubernetes cluster. Sonobuoy is still a viable product and is now under VMware's Tanzu K8S product line. In order to get the community excited and familiar with Tanzu, VMware has released a community Edition of Tanzu. According to VMware, it's "a freely available, community-supported, open-source distribution of VMware Tanzu that you can install and configure in minutes on your local workstation or your favorite cloud."

As anyone who has paid attention to the K8S marketplace knows, there are other, better-known products that accomplish the same, so it will be interesting to see if VMware can capture K8S mind-share with this product. Also, at VMworld last week, the company announced a project for provisioning full VMs using Kubernetes APIs to deploy, configure and manage them. This will be an interesting project to watch.

Take 3: Windows and K8S
During KubeCon I was able to sit in on a few sessions. By the time you read this you should be able to search and find many that are available for on-demand viewing. Windows and K8S was an interesting session as it was jointly presented by VMware and Microsoft. Members of the SIG-Windows community provided an update on the efforts to bring Windows workloads to Kubernetes. It started off with a demo of the new HostProcess feature which enables "privileged" containers on Windows. They then talked about some of the improvements they are working on getting Windows and K8S to play nice together. They finished it off by discussing the development tools that they use. It will be interesting to see if Windows can break into the K8S space in a big way.

Take 4: Edge Computing Using K3s on Raspberry Pi
This was a nice session put on by a Lenovo engineer in which he discussed how he built a three node K8S cluster using 3 Raspberry Pi's. I liked it because it basically walked you through step-by-step how he did it, from purchasing the hardware to installing software the running the final application -- bourbon-finder.

Showing that they aren't interested in just the development of code in the IT community, they also announced a free training course and language recommendations to replace harmful language in code. They have a three-tier system for the classification of language. At the conference the released the Tier 1 terms. It identifies the most harmful terms and phrases that are used in software and provides replacements for them. They recommend these to be used immediately. Tier two and three guidance on words and phrases should be coming from CNCF shortly.

Take 5: Attending an In-Person Tech Event
As this is the first large-scale tech conference that I have attended since the pandemic started, I wrote a separate article about that experience and my thoughts on attending tech conferences live, which will serve as my 5th Take in this Take 5. As I reported, we're in strange times, but it was nice to see and talk with like-minded people again.

I would have to say KubeCon 2021 was a huge success, not because of the announcements that were made or CNCF's rapid growth, but because they were willing to have it in a very difficult climate and actually made it work in a secure and safe manner. It should be a template for other conferences to follow. No, tech-conferences will not see the number of attendees that they hade pre-pandemic, but it shows a commitment to the community. KubeCon is going to be a live event in Detroit and Valencia Spain in May 2022. Many of the sessions from last week's show were recorded and can be seen here.

About the Author

Tom Fenton has a wealth of hands-on IT experience gained over the past 25 years in a variety of technologies, with the past 15 years focusing on virtualization and storage. He currently works as a Technical Marketing Manager for ControlUp. He previously worked at VMware as a Senior Course Developer, Solutions Engineer, and in the Competitive Marketing group. He has also worked as a Senior Validation Engineer with The Taneja Group, where he headed the Validation Service Lab and was instrumental in starting up its vSphere Virtual Volumes practice. He's on Twitter @vDoppler.