KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America, the Linux Foundation's flagship conference, just wrapped in Chicago with over 9,000 in-person attendees and 14,000 total attendees, including a whopping 53% of first timers. The conference celebrates the work of the open source community advancing the CNCF's 174 open source projects -- with 219,000 contributors from 190 countries.
Attendees were treated to a host of project announcements and a lot of discussion on how the current and future of artificial intelligence is built on Kubernetes, the CNCF's first and most widely adopted project. While AI was a major focus of the event, there was quite a bit of buzz around advancements in cloud-native observability and sustainability.
Morgan McClean of Splunk, a major contributor to OpenTelemetry, discussed that while OpenTelemetry is not a graduated project of CNCF, its adoption is widespread. OpenTelemetry is a collection of tools used to instrument, generate, collect and export telemetry data in an attempt to standardize it.
Research by TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group indicates that most organizations use multiple tools to create and collect telemetry data. Standardized data will allow for greater interoperability and easier deployments of new solutions.
In addition to Splunk, vendors New Relic, Dynatrace, Datadog, Grafana, Honeycomb, Chronosphere, Mezmo, Cribl and others all eagerly discussed how they incorporate OpenTelemetry into their offerings. OpenTelemetry demonstrates how good things can be delivered through cooperation when organizations, even competitors, work together to solve industry-wide challenges.
Observability based on Extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF) for cloud-native applications was also on display. The technology provides a way of inspecting traffic and resource utilization at a very granular level, allowing eBPF-based utilities like Kepler (Kubernetes-based Efficient Power Level Explorer) to collect data on CPU utilization to estimate the amount of power consumed by a process.
Sidero Labs, maintainers of Talos Linux, gave a talk on how the organization is cutting the climate cost of Kubernetes with an emissions-aware scheduler that uses watttime.org clean power data to influence when and where to run a workload based on energy usage, carbon impact and other factors.
While the demonstration included just a prototype of the tool, I expect that the dimension of carbon/energy usage will increase in importance going forward. Other approaches to energy-aware computing -- such as Greenpixie -- are other examples of trying to inform engineering and IT teams of the environmental impact of their code. Groundcover, a newer firm, is using eBPF to provide combined observability and cost management in a promising way.
Other show observations
While the CNCF approaches sustainability from operations and observability standpoints with end user organizations instrumenting and collecting their own data to measure resource usage, the Linux Foundation's sister organization, FinOps.org, focuses on enabling end user organizations ingesting cloud service provider usage and cost data to drive cost and resource efficiency within their organizations. This group is also working on sustainability and carbon footprint issues, albeit from another angle.
Given the expected growth in AI and subsequent increase in compute usage and intensity, building sustainability optimization into our automation plans makes a lot of sense. Two organizations that come to mind on this endeavor are Technical Advisory Group (TAG) Sustainability, whose goal is "to advocate for, develop, support and help evaluate environmental sustainability initiatives in cloud native technologies" and the Green Software Foundation that is "focusing on reducing the negative impacts of software on our climate by reducing the carbon emissions that software is responsible for emitting."
It's safe to say that the Linux Foundation is a prominent voice for promoting engineering sustainability into the fabric of compute.
KubeCon + CloudNative Con will host its next event in Paris in April 2024. Individuals should attend the event not only because of its location, but also because it's the most important event for cloud native developers and the IT Operations, platform engineering and security teams that support them.
Jon Brown is a senior analyst at TechTarget's Enterprise Strategy Group, where he researches IT operations and sustainability in IT. Jon has more than 20 years of experience in IT product management and is a frequent speaker at industry events.
Enterprise Strategy Group is a division of TechTarget. Its analysts have business relationships with technology vendors.