In-Depth

KubeCon 2022: What It's Like to Attend an In-Person Tech Event Post-Pandemic

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2022 was held in Detroit Oct. 24-28, 2022. A few months prior, the folks at KubeCon reached out to me to judge my interest in attending the event live. To be honest, Detroit wouldn't normally make my top 10 destinations for a technology conference, but as KubeCon is THE conference for Kubernetes (K8s) and cloud-native computing, I didn't want to miss it.

Also, I am a sucker for a good automobile museum, and Detroit does not disappoint in that regard. In this article, I will discuss my general experience at the event. You can find my other article about the announcements that were made at the event here. And you can find my discussion about some cool smaller companies at the event here.

16,000 participants registered for the event this year, with an equal division of live and virtual attendees. For comparison, KubeCon 2021 in Los Angeles, which was the first large-scale tech conference that I had attended since the pandemic started, drew in 4,000 in-person and 16,000 virtual participants. If you are curious to read about my experience attending that event, you can find my article here.

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Michigan had/has some of the most restrictive mandates around Covid-19 precautions, but there weren't any additional requirements for the flight into the city. The flight from the West Coast was four hours, and catching an Uber for the 30-minute drive to the hotel from the airport was easy.

After checking in to the hotel, I attended the Media & Analyst Welcome Reception at the Forty-Two Degrees North restaurant at the Detroit Marriott at the Renaissance Center downtown. There seemed to be far more people covering the event this year compared to last, and it was good to catch up with the others at the reception. Overall, everyone was in good spirits and excited for the event.

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The following day, I picked up my badge and was required to show either proof of full Covid-19 vaccination or a negative Covid-19 test. Attendees were required to wear a mask during the event. I picked up a green badge which indicated that I was willing to talk to anyone. Yellow and red badges were available for those who wanted to maintain a little more distance from others. They had other stickers you could festoon your badge-holder with, along with the obligatory T-shirt and wristband.

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The first day of KubeCon was kicked off by Priyanka Sharma, executive director of Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), who gave an overview of the conference and of CNCF. There were many presenters during the first 90 minutes of the conference, but I found Ayse Kaya, senior director of strategy and analytics at Slim.AI, to be the most interesting. She and her coworkers analyzed more than 100 of the world's most popular public container images using open source tools to better understand what developers encounter when running containers in K8s. Their results were fascinating, and I highly encourage you to watch her presentation, as well as the others, here.

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That evening, I participated in the Solution Showcase where over 250 booths were set up. You can read about some of the booths that I visited, and the companies that I talked to, here. The hall where the event was held was busy but not crowded, and I could easily walk up to most booths to chat with vendors without waiting very long, if at all.

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The sessions that I attended were a mixed bag; some were packed, while others were lightly attended. I spent a fair amount of time talking to vendors, most of whom expressed that the quality of leads they were getting was higher this year despite the fact that the number of guests visiting their booth was less than pre-pandemic years. It seemed to me that the startup and incubator solutions were getting more visitors than the more established vendors, which indicates that KubeCon is still a technology-focused conference.

The closing party, "A Taste of Detroit," was held Thursday night at over three different downtown locations and was very well attended. I liked the three-venue setup as it allowed me to sample a mix of cuisines and vibes at each of the venues. It was also nice to walk between the venues in the crisp night air.

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I first hit the Top of the Pontch located on the 25th Floor of the Fort Pontchartrain Wyndham Hotel, which had a live Motown band and an outstanding view of the city. I made this my first stop as I figured it would be the place to be at the end of the night and I wanted to avoid crowds. This strategy worked well as the line to the elevator to get to it was quite long when I exited.

Next, I headed over to the Detroit Princess Riverboat which had a 1920s casino theme. Many people enjoyed trying their hands at the gambling tables; however, I headed to the upper deck of the boat to take a gander at the Detroit and Windsor Canadian skyline.

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I finished off the night at the Huntington Place Grand Riverview Ballroom in the heart of Downtown Detroit. They had a station where you could build your own Lego car and race it against others at the Pit Stop. They also had a cool vintage arcade and a trivia contest going on. I really got a kick out of the human foosball game just outside of the hotel. The crowd was talkative, and it was an enjoyable way to spend the night.

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Whereas last year's event was somewhat subdued, this event had noticeably more life to it, though still not quite as much as the pre-Covid-19 events. Despite this, it was still good to see that things are getting back to normal. I was pleasantly surprised with the Motor City; I felt safe, and the activities, food and libations of downtown (hat tip to Detroit City Distillery and Stroh's Brewery) were outstanding! I am pleased to see that CNCF is willing to venture out and hold their events in non-traditional conference locations.

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The event itself, as always, was fantastic with lots of good information. If you are involved with K8s or cloud-native computing, KubeCon continues to be THE EVENT that you should attend. KubeCon Europe will be held April 17-21 at the RAI Convention center in Amsterdam, and CNCF announced that KubeCon 2023 North America will be held in Chicago in October 2023.

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While I previously wrote about interesting, established companies at the event, I will also discuss some of the more interesting smaller companies in an upcoming article, so stay tuned.

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.

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