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Highlights from KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2022

Now that KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe has come to a close, check out these updates from vendors across the conference floor.

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2022 did not disappoint and has picked up from last year. This event was held both virtually and live in Valencia, Spain, May 16-20, and included over 26,000 registered attendees, from developers, product management, DevOps, IT ops, architects and executives. There were over 9,000 companies in attendance across multiple industries.

The buzz continues to grow

There has been a lot of growth since my coverage from last year. I started my attendance at KubeCon EU this year by attending the reception hosted by Harness and Snyk. Harness CTO Nick Durkin and I connected to look at where Harness fits in the modern software delivery platform. Some of the highlights we discussed were focused on CI/CD pipelines, cloud costs, feature flags and the overall DevOps process. The biggest challenge for organizations is one they often don't know they have, and centers around automation and awareness of the ecosystem.

Cloud-native growth and Kubernetes adoption

The event was focused on accelerating the growth of organizations with their cloud-native adoption. This is not surprising, as our May 2022 Enterprise Strategy Group (ESG) survey "Distributed Cloud Series: Cloud-Native Applications" shows cloud-native adoption is accelerating rapidly.

In this latest research, we see:

  • 29% of respondents say their organizations use 250 to 499 total business applications -- container-based or not container-based.
  • 71% of respondents say their container-based applications are, or will be, deployed in a hybrid method, a combination of public cloud platforms and private data centers.
  • 39% of organizations surveyed say they have run production workloads on container technology for the last 12 to 23 months.

The IT skills gap was also a very real concern at the event. Organizations want to modernize, but are challenged with finding the appropriate resources to allow for the growth required for the business.

Briefings by the numbers

I had a number of briefings at this event -- actually, 25 over three days. It was exciting, informative and interesting to understand what vendors are doing to help organizations meet their modernization needs.

One of the biggest challenges is overcoming Day 2 failure and delay, which is driven by the IT skills gap and causing organizations to struggle to meet business needs. This lines up with what we are seeing at ESG. For example, our "2021 Data Infrastructure Trends" survey of 359 IT and business professionals found that 67% of organizations are looking to hire IT generalists over IT specialists. So, the focus is for vendors to reduce the complexity for these solutions.

Here are a few vendor summaries from the event about how they are addressing the challenges.

Ondat. CEO Alex Chircop met with me to discuss how the company's rebrand is going. The rebrand is strategic, as the company -- formerly StorageOS -- now focuses on offering data services. Ondat has a unique differentiation to the industry. First, the data services offering is delivered as a container and does not have any dependencies on a kernel. Second, it can be deployed anywhere, on any platform. A few additional cool features include different configurations for production and development, it does not use proprietary drivers, and it also offers a free version with unlimited nodes.

Cortex. CEO and co-founder Anish Dhar and chief of staff Anshul Shah discussed how Scorecards -- an offering within the Cortex platform -- helps build reliable software for organizations. Cortex provides the visibility into services to allow engineering teams to scale. Looking to the future, Cortex is on the right track by understanding custom mapping, auto-discovery and specific user profiles for optics into how teams are performing.

PlanetScale. I had a very passionate conversation with vice president of engineering Nick Van Wiggeren. He loves his product offerings, and I can see why. PlanetScale is changing the way databases are used and deployed. Growth is key for PlanetScale, along with differentiation -- such as workflow engine, at-scale database sharding -- as well as a unique offering called Rewind, which gives the ability to undo changes with schema changes. The changes made act and feel like code changes for databases. Also, it is a pay-as-you-go model that ensures you only pay for what you need. The company's future is promising, as PlanetScale is focused on outcomes. Some of the new product features include insights that use application performance management and observability. Multi-region read replication with one-click execution and data velocity enables near real-time data to Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3).

Stacklet. It was a pleasure to meet with CEO and co-founder Travis Stanfield, co-founder and CTO Kapil Thangavelu, as well as Umair Khan, director of marketing. I enjoyed discussing the differences between how research is showing the pace of cloud adoption, as well as how heritage systems are working to move to cloud-based solutions. Focusing on governance as code enables frictionless governance to innovate cloud-based solutions. Stacklet also delivers a service to provide optimal FinOps and cost protection.

Speedscale. Co-founder and CTO Matt LeRay and co-founder Nate Lee are solving a problem many organizations do not know how to solve. The CI/CD process is key to app delivery for organizations, but the testing phase is often an afterthought, creating a lack of application quality and a delay in releases. Speedscale puts testing at the forefront of the CI/CD process, enabling delivery of higher-quality applications. The company achieves this by using traffic replay, replicating patterns from production data to test environments -- applying real-world use cases without the risk. Speedscale provides insurance for the CI/CD process to speed up releases while improving application quality. In addition, by applying AI to the test environment, they can replicate the entire process.

VMware Tanzu. Ben Hale, technical lead for Tanzu, provided an in-depth approach to VMware's Tanzu strategy. He delivered a keynote presentation as well, where he focused on the dev-first approach and how platform teams are overwhelmed by "bags of bits." The build approach Tanzu is taking provides an abstraction layer on top of Kubernetes, which enables developers to focus on areas of expertise, rather than complexity. Tanzu package delivery offers Kubernetes API integration and workload management. Developers can be experts in Kubernetes, but it reduces complexity -- allowing for flexibility, greater simplicity and focus on the customer experience. VMware acts as the "Switzerland of clouds" and is able to act as one platform running multiple clouds. As data sovereignty is increasing in importance, VMware provides a cloud-broker approach to governance.

Canonical (Ubuntu). David Booth, vice president of cloud-native apps, and Alex Jones, director of Kubernetes engineering, provided me with an overview of Canonical's recent branding, representing more than Ubuntu. Highlights from the event include Canonical's flexible offering that abstracts the underlying technology, which creates a highly customizable Kubernetes experience. The other main highlights from this discussion emphasized support and services for cloud-native configurations, app management, tooling to support Day 2 operations with automation, and AI advancements with Kubeflow. Another key focus is supply chain security and the acceleration of Kubernetes deployments --anywhere. It is clear that Canonical strives to be a trusted partner for open source growth, providing managed services to augment businesses as needed.

Hazelcast. I had a great discussion with chief product officer Manish Devgan and his approach to product experience. Hazelcast provides a unique approach that combines access to real-time data platforms. The convergence between streaming and data management provides insights into overall business success metrics -- both enterprise and midmarket. Streaming analytics and data management across on-prem and in the cloud deliver optics for real-time business decisions. I look forward to seeing the next announcement coming out later this year.

Replicated. Nikki Rouda, vice president of product marketing, and Zivai Campbell, EMEA sales leader, demonstrated the value of Replicated in the Kubernetes space. My takeaways from our conversation are that this offering provides software vendors an easier way to deliver apps to enterprise organizations. By providing an ease-of-use way to move traditional apps to Kubernetes, Replicated provides tooling to manage licensing, support, entitlement and version control. From offering support on the vendor side as well as end-user support, masking the need-to-know Kubernetes, Replicated provides an advantage without having to have a deep bench of knowledge about Kubernetes.

Cisco. Sanjeev Mervana, vice president of product management, emerging technologies and incubation, and Tim Szigeti, director of technical marketing, introduced me to a series of new offerings, including:

  • Calisti.app -- service mesh manager
  • Telescope.app -- cloud-native app troubleshooting
  • Panoptica.app -- secure application cloud

This trifecta of tools provides a holistic view across the app creation, security and DevOps environment. This suite enables optics throughout the CI/CD-to-runtime pipeline, while allowing for fault isolation and detection. It is available as a free offering, but Cisco also offers enterprise support.

CloudCasa. From auto-discovery, centralized backup, inventory sync and compliance, namespace mapping, and a composable infrastructure, CloudCasa is looking to advance Kubernetes protection. Chief operating officer Sathya Sankaran and chief strategy officer Mike Miracle explained the in-depth approach of API integration into AWS Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes (EKS) and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). When exploring offerings to protect Kubernetes, CloudCasa's area of focus is to deliver an offering as a service -- not an appliance. Their approach consists of three key points: The service should not coexist with the production data, proactive protection is critical, and auto-discovery of EKS and AKS clusters simplifies the deployment.

SUSE. Chief marketing officer Peter Smails and senior director of product marketing Tom Callway provided an in-depth update on the goings-on at SUSE. There are three major focal points from KubeCon: The Linux focus on supply chain security, Rancher and the NeuVector acquisition, and edge computing. For Linux and the edge, stay tuned for updates at SUSECon in June. But there was a lot to discuss around Rancher and the NeuVector integration. The focus is a "better together" story that starts with authentication, protecting against container drift, cloud-native security and automated protection mode. Rancher 2.6.5 introduces FIPS compliance, support for Windows 2022 and Prometheus federation, providing views of multiple instances. Another update is on Rancher Desktop 1.3. With 50,000 active users and a developer focus, it is also free to try.

Solo.io. The growth in Solo over the past year has been substantial. Chief marketing officer Erik Frieberg provided me with the highlights, including the interest in Istio joining the CNCF. This provides a new level of acceptance for Istio. The combination of Istio, Envoy, Kubernetes and GraphQL highlights a stack approach to a feature-rich delivery. Frieberg described how adding Cilium CNI (Container Network Interface) support as a product interface for containers provides a streamlined approach to observability. Another highlight from the event is the addition of workspaces and how teams work together. The Gloo admin can provide a role-based type access to deliver customizable interfaces for specific feature sets. Solo works with customers that might need a more advanced service mesh and work with upgrading heritage API approaches.

D2iQ. "Day 2 IQ" is an interesting way to think about overall Kubernetes projects. Many organizations find it relatively easy to get started with a Kubernetes project, only to run into challenges on Day 2. CEO Tobi Knaup and president of worldwide field operations Joe Taborek spent some time with me to review and understand these challenges. When thinking of D2iQ, their philosophy is "Kubernetes done right." By delivering a fully automated approach that reduces complexity -- by embracing Kubernetes' declarative API -- it enforces a separation of responsibilities that enables the controller to reconcile requests. This "done right" approach relies on a cluster API and GitOps approach. With its best-of-breed alignment to open source and upstream components, D2iQ delivers an approach otherwise managed by a DIY or vendor-dependent delivery. The cloud-native approach enables the AI pipeline to be more tightly connected to intelligent apps and is believed to be the next wave for Kubernetes.

Cosmonic. Heading a commercial platform as a service for WasmCloud, founder Liam Randall provided an overview of WebAssembly (Wasm) and how it is the next generation of code development to "release developers from code." WasmCloud can be viewed similar to what Docker did for containers, or what React is to HTML. This is viewed as the most dramatic transformation since containers. Wasm is the fourth web language, following HTML, CSS and JavaScript. One of its value propositions is that rather than developers writing and managing common code elements -- sometimes up to 90% -- they are able to write only the code that is needed to meet business logic. Wasm provides universal portability across major browsers, adheres to W3C standards and provides the boilerplate code elements in the platform. WasmCloud continues to gain interest and adoption, and you can see the progression of app dev with Wasm in Figure 1.

Image comparing different formats and execution options for Kubernetes.

MinIO. Chief marketing office Jonathan Symonds provided an update on MinIO's highlights from the event. When it comes to multi-cloud, how does Kubernetes enable it? MinIO provides a high-performance, S3-compatible storage approach for native Kubernetes. The second highlight is the rise of the operator -- everyone has one, and for everything. This is a challenge, as organizations are dealing with the IT skills gap, and they are tasked to find the resources to deliver results. Because of this, the maturity of Kubernetes has taken a massive leap forward in the enterprise. According to Symonds, the "gold rush" mentality of San Diego (2019) has morphed into a legitimate industry and will continue to pressure legacy technologies. The cloud is an operating model, not a place. Moving to the cloud means adopting a suite of technologies, not moving your data to AWS, Google Cloud or Azure. You can't containerize an appliance. Organizations will need to consider this when modernizing.

In addition, I had an opportunity to meet with Davanum Srinivas, CNCF governing board member and technical oversight committee chair. He helped clarify the landscape and provide direction for organizations just starting in their Kubernetes journey. The individual special interest groups provide focus and direction for the topic. The technical advisor groups also help provide interest and focus across the projects. When organizations are thinking about a new project, the CNCF offers different stages of maturity: Sandbox (think alpha), incubator (think beta) and graduate (think general availability) are the stages of project that can be found on the selectable landscape based on your project needs.

Final point of view

This event did not disappoint. First of all, after the past few years of virtual-only events, it was exciting to attend a live conference and hear the latest messaging and positioning around Kubernetes in person. Walking on the show floor and discovering how the vendors mentioned above are approaching challenges in the marketplace was truly insightful. I needed an additional week to hear from the many other vendors I was unable to connect with at the conference and understand their approach to organizational challenges -- hopefully, I will get to them in 2023! In addition, the research we have been conducting at ESG aligns with the approaches covered, and I look forward to continuing these conversations, as well as watching vendors evolve to continually meet industry challenges.

ESG is a division of TechTarget.

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