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October 19, 2021

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021: Key Takeaways


Aishwarya Jagani

After 3 virtual-only conferences, the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021 went hybrid this year for the first time.

With over 70 presentations and 230 sessions (including keynotes and breakout sessions), the heavily-awaited event had tons of exciting activities for virtual and in-person attendees, in addition to the presentations.

The theme of the event was Resilience Realized, a salute to the resilience and strength the cloud community has shown over the past year and a half through the pandemic.

Explaining why she chose Resilience Realized, Priyanka Sharma, Executive Director/General Manager at CNCF said, “Think about the last year and a half or almost 2 years - all that we’ve gone through. The whole world was thrown topsy-turvy. We had to survive as a community - a lot of things that were usual for us, meeting up in person, having small group events, KubeCons, all that went away.”

“Second, because of the speed of light digitization, we had to take care of others too. We became the scaffolding of the pandemic era.”  

“We all fought through it. That showed our resilience. I think the pandemic era has shown a light on how strong we are as a community. That’s where I got the word resilience from,” she said.

Explaining why she chose ‘realized’, Sharma added, “The fact that this event is happening is a manifestation or realization of our resilience.”

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021 was all about peeking into the future of cloud native. Still, it also encapsulated the values of diversity and inclusion, with members of the cloud native community keen to welcome in and support newer members and continue building upon the culture of the cloud native community.

Here’s a look at some of the top takeaways for 2022 and beyond.

New Kid on the Block - Enhanced Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF)

CNCF’s Chief Technology Officer, Chris Aniszczyk, and CNCF TOC Chair Liz Rice expressed their excitement over eBPF (Enhanced Berkeley Packet Filter) technology and its possibilities.

eBPF is a kernel technology (starting in Linux 4.x) that allows programs to run without having to change the kernel source code or adding additional modules, which does away with the need for complicated infrastructure and abstracted layers.

Rice called it her “current favorite technology” because of its applications not just in Cilium, which she is involved with, but in projects like Falco, a runtime security project that CNCF also incubated, and Pixie, which is a new OSS that leverages eBPF for automatic data collection.

With powerful applications in system monitoring software, eBPF is an exciting new technology to watch out for in the years to come.

Kubernetes Expands to Support Newer Workloads

Answering a question about the most promising cloud native technologies at the CNCF End User Partner Summit, Aniszczyk said he sees a growing interest in stretching Kubernetes to support different kinds of workloads, including cars, embedded devices, and more.

“Kubernetes is stretching to support more specific end user needs, and I think we will see Kubernetes evolve in a similar way that Linux did in the past,” he said.

“Cloud native has become the baseline understanding - offshoots of cloud native are developing, and subcommunities are getting specialized,” added Sharma.

Newest Verticals for Cloud Native - Automotive and Telco

Sharma and Aniszczyk agreed that automotive and telco are two verticals where they see immediate expansion in terms of cloud native deployment.

Narrating a personal anecdote, Sharma shared how deeply automotive companies and other end users have embraced cloud native. “A month or so ago, I was in Europe, and I did an end user roadshow where I ended up meeting all kinds of companies - Audi, Daimler, Spotify. All of these really diverse companies were very far along in their cloud journeys,” she said.

“Automotive seems to be all in and working hard, from personal experience,” she added.

Sharma, Aniczczyk, and Rice, also agreed that they saw telco as another crucial vertical for cloud native.

“Telcos are so right for cloud native right now, and the best part is, they know it. Those are two verticals where I say immediate expansion,” said Sharma.  

Open Source System KubeEdge is Paving the Way for Kubernetes at the Edge

CNCF’s open source system KubeEdge is built upon Kubernetes and provides fundamental infrastructure support for network, app deployment, and metadata synchronization between cloud and edge.

KubeEdge co-founders Zefeng (Kevin) Wang and Yin Ding expounded upon the capabilities of KubeEdge v1.8, launched in August, explaining the architecture and giving an insight into how KubeEdge provides seamless cloud-edge coordination, reduces transmission costs, simplifies device communication, and shrinks latency.

KubeEdge is now supported by over 800 contributors and over 60 organizations, including Huawei, China Mobile, and Dao Cloud.

Open Source is Becoming More Inclusive (and Women and Non-Binary People Agree)

A DEI (diversity and inclusion) micro survey conducted by CNCF indicated that 75% of respondents believe open source is growing more diverse, with 71% of women and 64% of non-binary persons agreeing with the sentiment.

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021, with three keynotes and multiple sessions around supply chain and supply chain security.  

“Given the increase in cadence and impact of cyber-attacks, this is a critical time for the industry to take action,” said Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

One of the solutions put forward at the conference was the Kubernetes software factory approach. But the question of whether singular approaches can mitigate the risk entirely or not, still remains unanswered.

More Organizations Are Relying on Open Source Software to Modernize Security

Another CNCF micro survey with over 125 respondents concluded that organizations are taking to open source software in a big way, with 85% of respondents asserting that modernizing security is very important to their organization’s cloud native deployment.

But only 9% of respondents had a fully documented set of automatically implemented procedures, indicating that while organizations realize the importance of modernized security, adoption and implementation are still a long way off.

SBOMs Are More Critical Than Ever Before

Anthem AI Chief Frederick Kautz and CISA Senior Advisor and Strategist Allan Friedman’s keynote talk highlighted how important SBOMs (Software Bill of Materials) are becoming for most customers.

SBOMs are essentially lists of ingredients that make up software components. They give vital information about software components and the supply chain relationships between them.

Everyone, from hospitals using medical devices to keep patients alive, to banks using the most secure applications, to governments - everyone wants to know what software goes into these devices and programs. And so everyone is now asking for SBOMs.  

Kautz suggests getting started by building SBOMs internally and using them as inputs to other processes. Developing SBOMs can be very complex, but with practice, the process gets easier.

Supply Chain Security is One of the Most Critical Challenges Today

Software supply chain security is a critical issue of our time and was one of the most important topics at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021, with three keynotes and multiple sessions around supply chain and supply chain security.

“Given the increase in cadence and impact of cyber-attacks, this is a critical time for the industry to take action,” said Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

One of the solutions put forward at the conference was the Kubernetes software factory approach. But the question of whether singular approaches can mitigate the risk entirely or not, still remains unanswered.

‘The Spotlight on Cloud Native Has Never Shown Brighter’

Large-scale migration to the cloud was already in motion, but the pandemic accelerated this trend leading to a deluge of natively-built applications.

A huge number of companies have announced the launch of cloud native solutions over the past few months alone, including Nokia, Ericsson, and Honeywell.

As Sharma put it, “The spotlight on cloud native has never shown brighter”.

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Key CNCF Announcements:

Cloud Native Credits Program: CNCF announced the launch of the Cloud Native Credits Program, to enable companies to support CNCF’s projects with meaningful infrastructure donations. Companies like Cox Communications are already on board.

CNCF announces the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate Certification: One of CNCF’s efforts to support the ecosystem and bring in more people is to establish a Kubernetes certification exam for beginners, which will be available by the end of the year. This program will teach anyone who’s brand new to Kubernetes about the fundamentals of Kubernetes, cloud native landscape, cloud projects, and more.

CNCF Project Updates: KubeCon co-chairs Constance Caramanolis, and Jasmine James gave an update on the 24 CNCF projects currently in incubation, including Argo, Cilium, Keda, Flux, Crossplane, and OpenTelemetry.  

Newest Members of CNCF: Priyanka Sharma announced the inclusion of American Express as a gold member, and AT&T as a platinum member of CNCF, at the first keynote address. These companies, along with over 100 silver members, will be supporting new open-source projects at CNCF.  Virtasant is also proud to become part of “Team Cloud Native” by joining CNCF as a new Silver member.

New End Users Joining CNCF: Katie Gamanji, Ecosystem Advocate at CNCF, announced the new end users joining CNCF, including augmented reality platform Niantic, fintech company Robinhood, and healthcare services provider Cardinal Health. Over 155 end users now use cloud native to release their products.