June 14, 2018

Going Global with Kubernetes

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Kubernetes
China has already adopted open source cloud-native technologies, and the CNCF wants to build a bridge to help the community increase their contributions to projects, such as Kubernetes.

Kubernetes is often touted as the Linux of the cloud world, and that comparison is fair when you consider its widespread adoption. But, with great power comes great responsibility and, as the home of  Kubernetes, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) shoulders many responsibilities, including learning from the mistakes of other open source projects while not losing sight of the main goal. The rapid global growth of CNCF also means increased responsibility in terms of cultural diversity and creating a welcoming environment.

Rise of Kubernetes in China

CNCF in general has more than 216 members, making it the second largest project under the umbrella of The Linux Foundation. The project is enjoying massive adoption and growth in new markets, especially in China. For example, JD.com, one of the largest e-commerce companies in China, has moved to Kubernetes.

“If you are looking to innovate as a company, you are not going to always buy off-the-shelf technologies, you take Open Source technologies and customize them to your needs. China has over a billion people and they have to meet the needs of these people; they need to scale. Open Source technologies like Kubernetes enable them to customize and scale technologies to their needs,” said Chris Aniszczyk, CTO, CNCF.

This growth in Asia has inspired CNCF to bring KubeCon and CloudNativeCon to China. The organization will be organizing their first KubeCon + CloudNativeCon in Shanghai, November 14-15, 2018. China is already using open source cloud-native technologies, and through these and other efforts, CNCF wants to build a bridge to help Chinese developers increase their contribution to various projects. CNCF is also gearing up to help the community by offering translations of documentations, exams, certifications, etc.

In interviews and at events in China, language often becomes a barrier to collaboration and the free exchange of ideas and information. CNCF is aware of this. And, according to Aniszczyk, is working on plans for live translation at events to allow presenters to speak in their native language.

CNCF projects are growing not only in new regions but also in scope; people are finding new use-cases every day. While they are enjoying this adoption, the community has also started to prepare themselves for what lies ahead. They certainly can’t predict how some smart organization will use their technology in an area they never envisioned; but they can prepare the community to embrace new requirements.

We have started to hear about CNCF 2020 vision that goes beyond Kubernetes proper and looks at areas such as security and policy. The community has started adding new projects that deal with some of these topics, including Spiffy, which helps users deal with service identity and security at scale for Kubernetes related services, and OPA, a policy management project.

“We are witnessing a wide expansion of areas that CNCF is investing in to bring cloud native technologies to users,” said Aniszczyk.

Bane or boon?

Adoption is great, but we have seen how many open source projects lose track of their core mission and became bloated in order to cater to every use-case. The CNCF is not immune to such problems, but the community -- at both developer and organizational level -- is acutely aware of the risk and is working to protect itself.

“We have taken several approaches. First and foremost, unlike many other open source projects, CNCF doesn’t force integration. We don’t have one major release that bundles everything. We don’t have any gatekeeping processes that other foundations have,” said Aniszczyk.

What CNCF does do is allow its members and end users to come up with integration themselves to build products that solves the problems of their users. If such integration is useful, then they contribute it back to CNCF.  “We have a set of loosely coupled projects that are integrated by users; we don’t force any such integration,” said Aniszczyk.

According to Aniszczyk, CNCF  acts almost like a release valve and experimentation center for new things. It creates an environment to test new projects. “They are like sandbox projects doing some interesting innovation, solving some serious problems. We will see if they work or not. If they do work then the community may decide to integrate them, but none of it is forced,” said Aniszczyk.

It’s magic

All of this makes CNCF a unique project in the open source ecosystem. Kubernetes has now been widely adopted across industries. Look at cloud providers, for example, and you see that Kubernetes has the blessing of the public cloud trinity, which includes AWS, Azure, and Google Cloud. Three top Linux vendors -- SUSE, Red Hat, and Canonical -- have put their weight behind Kubernetes, as well as many other companies and organizations.

“I'm so proud of being a person that's been involved in open source and seeing all these companies working together under one neutral umbrella,” Aniszczyk said.

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