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Six Takeaways from Past KubeCon Contributor Summits to Keep in Mind This Year

Going into KubeCon, the idea of bringing about processes that make it easier for more people to both participate in and benefit from the work the collective community has created in the Kubernetes project was top of mind. As I shared with Tim Pepper and Bryan Liles during a podcast on The New Stack shortly before last year’s San Diego conference, it’s really about understanding who’s trying to use Kubernetes and what they need out of Kubernetes on a holistic level.  The last KubeCon conference was the biggest and best ever, and has me more excited than ever for the future of the world’s leading container orchestration platform. Here are my top six takeaways.

  1. There are a lot of new people here!

My favorite part of every KubeCon is seeing the release from the Linux Foundation of first-time attendees – 65% for KubeCon 2019 in San Diego. Knowing that there are so many people new to the technology at each event really drives home that we need to make sure we’re focusing on on-boarding and enablement sessions as well as cool deep dive use cases. Of course, this data also highlights the work we still need to do on diversity and outreach and making people safe and able to participate in our community, and how we improve our culture in order to do that.

KubeCon Contributor Summit

  1. KubeCon Contributor Summit needs more love

Contributor Summit, the day before KubeCon, is a unique opportunity for all the contributors who are flying to a city to participate in KubeCon to have face-to-face conversations about the future of Kubernetes. It’s also a fantastic opportunity for people who want to become contributors to take “Contributor Workshop” 101 and 201 levels and get enabled to make their first PR. I want to be clear: the organizers do a great and heroic job organizing this each KubeCon, and the community clearly benefits from their work. Also: heroism leads to burnout. The timing of this event directly conflicts with a bunch of other “Day Zero” events (including NSMcon for Network Service Mesh), and a lot of contributors are overwhelmed with their day job commitments and unable to participate or volunteer. As a community, we need to make space to talk to each other cross-organization, in an open forum that is accessible. We also must make it easy for new people to get started and feel confident as new contributors in our professional community. How can we do this better?

  1. Vendors have gotten the memo – the market demands upstream conformance

The first question users ask when you describe a product is, “is it API compatible? Can I use the vast ecosystem of cloud native tools with it?” The way to be able to easily answer “yes” is to ship upstream conformant Kubernetes.

  1. Vendors need to free their engineers to contribute to open source

It’s always a bummer to go to a talk that addresses a problem you’re having or a space you’re deeply interested in and learn how a team of bright engineers came together and solved it…only to learn that they haven’t managed to throw it in an open GitHub repo due to their company’s policies on open source.

The only way this ecosystem remains viable and vibrant is if we continue to make it easier and easier for new users to contribute their features, projects, bug fixes, and patches – and if we’re going to get there, companies need to step up and away from their fear-based refusal to enable their employees to contribute. Patching Kubernetes is not going to lose you some sort of IP. It will do great service toward making everyone’s lives better and ensuring that this community and project are a vibrant, healthy, growing place.

  1. My favorite keynotes from KubeCon 2019! 

  • Kelsey Hightower lays out his view of the future of Kubernetes and its movement up the stack and across the spectrum through the use APIs. Kelsey compares Kubernetes to a Swiss Army Knife: which piece of the tool is appropriate for you, and how can you make best use of the remaining tools in the knife?
  • Bryan Liles draws comparisons between two of his passions: HipHop and Kubernetes and how Ruby on Rails transformed the software developing methodology that we all use today. You’ll want to watch his fun renditions of the lyric-like evolutionary journeys we have transcended within the Open Source Community. It was a hit with the KubeCon 2019 crowd!
  • Ian Coldwater challenges us to think more carefully about security and about how we all design software to protect against unwanted attacks. She models ways to think carefully about what and from whom we are trying to protect.
  1. Challenges ahead

  • Growth: With the current trajectory, KubeCon is feeling more and more like a tradeshow rather than a developer conference. How can we sustain this level of growth while nurturing the community feel of cooperative code contribution?
  • Health of OSS community: The Open Source Software Community is continually growing and that is a good thing. Projects like the Automated Compliance Tool which sponsor FOSSologyQMSTR, SPDX Tools and Tern and help regulate compliance across the board, hopefully easing the pain of the duller side of new solution creation.
  • Developer experience: A significant multiplier of more people will stand up Kubernetes than will be maintainers of Kubernetes. A significant multiplier of more people will deploy applications onto Kubernetes than will maintain a Kubernetes platform. We need to make their lives a whole lot more awesome. There is some great work in this space – Octant creates a pluggable developer dashboard and a platform for tools to expose information to them, and Helm continues to evolve as the package manager of choice with the release of a Tiller-less Helm 3, and there’s a ton of opportunity for the release and improvement of new tools to make developers’ and operators’ lives better. As Bryan Liles’ said in his KubeCon 2019 keynote: when is Kubernetes going to have its Ruby on Rails moment?


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