Takeaways and emerging trends from KubeCon Europe 2023

An industry analyst shares key highlights and trends to watch from this year's KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe, including adoption of large language models and WebAssembly.

Amsterdam is certainly in bloom with tulips this time of year, and it is no surprise that this year's theme at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2023 was a community in bloom.

KubeCon is growing dramatically: This year's sold-out event saw more than 10,000 in-person attendees and more than 2,000 on the waitlist, with more than 5,000 attending virtually. For 58% of attendees, this event was their first KubeCon.

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) had more than 200 sponsors in the solution showcase. The CNCF now has more than 800 members, 1,300 maintainers and 200,000 contributors as well as 159 graduated, incubating and sandbox projects, with more than 170 end user organizations and 12.2 million contributors.

With more than 52,000 community group members, 406 group chapters and 24 Kubernetes community days, it is obvious the interest is real. And given the conversations I had with CIOs, cloud-native modernization is top of mind -- if not the highest priority -- for many organizations.

Takeaways and highlights from KubeCon Europe 2023

With cloud-native modernization so crucial to many organizations, I was not surprised to see KubeCon's growth at the 2023 European conference.

Organizations are struggling to understand the next steps to take in their cloud-native journey. Although this event showed that there is a lot of interest, organizations often also experience confusion when starting their modernization journeys.

With the continuing gap in IT skills only getting larger, vendors must simplify their offerings, allowing organizations to crawl, walk, then run. This can be done through education as well as working with IT service delivery partners to achieve organizations' goals.

Organizations debate whether to build or buy

In addition to the obvious Kubernetes focus, many vendors at this year's conference discussed the "build vs. buy" challenge.

Deciding whether to build software in-house or buy an existing product is a challenge many organizations are facing due to the skills gap in tech, which has left organizations struggling to find the right talent to deliver against business goals. There are a variety of ways to optimize teams, and many vendors are attempting to overcome the build vs. buy challenge.

For example, I met with Humanitec, a DevOps and platform engineering automation provider that aims to address DevOps challenges. Another clear example was Rafay, which provides developers and operations teams with self-service and automation tools along with a mix of standardization and control for the business.

Additionally, I saw changes to vendor strategies. For instance, CloudCasa is pivoting to a focus on application portability across distributed clouds versus solely positioning itself as a backup offering. Cerbos also entered the market this year as a way to address the build vs. buy approach in role and attribute based authentication.

The GPT model could have use cases in enterprise software stacks

With all the buzz around ChatGPT, I saw an emerging use case among vendors: taking ChatGPT's underlying GPT model and embedding it into software stacks.

I had several conversations about this approach, with potential use cases including customer success and support, roadmap development and feature enhancements, and documentation creation using AI and automation. There is more to come in this space.

WebAssembly adoption continues to rise

Another highlight of the event was the continued growth and adoption of WebAssembly (Wasm), which could be the future of cloud-native application development. In research by TechTarget’s Enterprise Strategy Group, 39% of approximately 400 respondents reported using Wasm today and planned to continue growing and developing their Wasm use cases over the next 12 to 18 months.

Another view of Wasm involves not only bridging heritage applications in VMs but also building future-looking cloud-native tech stacks. This could connect the past, present and future, with VMs for heritage encapsulation, containerization for modern cloud-ready and cloud-native apps, and Wasm for future cloud-native apps.

Next Steps

At KubeCon 2023, observability and FinOps high on the agenda

Dig Deeper on DevOps

Software Quality
App Architecture
Cloud Computing
Data Center