April 28, 2023

5 Trends to Watch for at KubeCon EU 2023

Saad Malik
Saad Malik
CTO & Co-Founder

Edge means business

All the indicators are that edge Kubernetes has finally hit mainstream consciousness. The big analyst houses are publishing their first dedicated reports and vendor rankings. There are more articles, events, and bright new ideas from vendors.

This is all great, of course: the more discussion and collaboration, the stronger the community, even if it means having to wade through more buzzwords.

Importantly, there’s also meaningful progress toward solving for the real-world issues of commercial adoption in production. Issues like:

  • How can you truly secure a device and its workloads when it’s unattended in the field?
  • How can you keep supply chain costs and errors under control when you’re having to stage and ship new and replacement edge devices regularly for hundreds of locations?
  • How can you ensure availability and realistically perform day-2 tasks like patching when devices are remote and have intermittent connectivity?
  • How can you optimize K8s performance for power-constrained edge hardware?

Answering these questions takes a village, which is why you’ll see more and more joint initiatives like our collaboration with Canonical (and spoiler alert: we may have another announcement at KubeCon, so look out for it).

But the real progress is made in the partnership between vendors and the talented engineers working customer-side. That’s what you’ll hear when you attend our session at Edge Day with Israeli agritech startup Tevel Aerobotics.

flying robots picking fruit

They’re putting Kubernetes on fruit-picking drones to run real-time AI computer vision workloads. It’s super cool stuff. It’s also a trial by fire for any tech stack, between the razor-thin economics of the agriculture industry, the security and operational challenges of putting hardware literally in the field, and the need for outstanding application availability and performance. So if you’re working on edge yourself, don’t miss this talk.

More than ever, the developer experience matters

While ironically containers emerged as a technology to help developers create more portable applications, Kubernetes is still a set of infrastructure constructs used by operations teams. For years the focus in the K8s ecosystem has been helping ops folks do their jobs more effectively.

But in the world of constantly ‘shifting left’, that’s no longer enough — developers need to be part of the world of Kubernetes too. Only without having to deal with Kubernetes itself!

Starting with the hype around platform engineering last year, and a bit of a community backlash against the complexity inherent in Kubernetes, we’re noticing a sudden awareness that there’s a second partner in this marriage: the application developer, whose job it is to build applications for, and push applications to, K8s clusters.

Now the community is realizing that frustrated, unproductive developers are a drain on their businesses and we collectively need to help them abstract away some of the complexity of K8s infrastructure that they shouldn’t really have to deal with. Whether you call it ZeroOps or something else, it’s all about the developer experience.

Although several vendors are making a play for this space (including us, we have to admit, with our Palette Dev Engine), it feels like early days — and this is where events like KubeCon are invaluable for helping clear the air and share different perspectives.

Bare metal is marching on

Through our work with customers like Super League Gaming and partners like Cox Edge and Canonical, it’s clear to us that bare metal Kubernetes is not just here to stay, but making great strides in adoption beyond the kind of niche use cases it used to be known for, like AI/ML workloads.

One motivation might be economics — as budget screws are tightened, CIOs are more reluctant to pay the ‘V tax’ where there might be an alternative (especially with fears that Broadcom will ratchet up VMware’s pricing). And if bare metal has a performance advantage, that’s all the better.

Edge is another driver. When devices get smaller, the overhead of a hypervisor becomes infeasible (both in terms of resource requirements and license costs).

And while many started out running Kubernetes on top of virtualized infrastructure, It’s now even possible to flip the script entirely and bring your existing VM-based workloads to run on Kubernetes, through projects like KubeVirt.

Put all those trends together and we’re poised for a wholesale shift away from the world of virtualization. We’re already seeing more announcements about bare metal capabilities, and we’ll see more success stories in the coming months, too.

If you’re working on moving to bare metal, here are some tips.

Every dollar (or euro) counts

Compared to the glory days of early 2022, the business landscape is suddenly looking rather bleak. Hundreds of thousands of tech workers have been laid off. Inflation is high. Investors are shutting off the free-money tap. Belts are being tightened. Banks are failing. Fear is in the air.

These events have a ripple effect, and they will hit every organization that uses Kubernetes.

There’s likely to be more scrutiny over costs. A recent report from Sysdig identified the huge waste in Kubernetes resources. Do you have visibility over all your clusters, and the ability to report on cost and manage capacity effectively? Are you able to optimize your workloads across multiple clouds to streamline budgets? Is it time to ditch the cloud bill and move workloads back to on-prem? Of course, we’ve already spoken above about the cost of virtualization licenses.

Time equals money, and it’s not just developer productivity that’s seeing scrutiny: ops productivity will also be under the spotlight. For one thing, there’s unlikely to be budget for headcount, so if you’re feeling the lack of specialist K8s expertise, you’re unlikely to be able to hire it in. Expect those open reqs to stay unfilled.

And if you’re struggling to manage day-to-day operational tasks caring for clusters as Kubernetes use grows, or respond to new requests from internal customers, you may need to think about how you can do things smarter. CIOs will be comparing notes on the best in class for automation and if your platform engineers, sysadmins, architects and QA are soaking expensive hours in manual work across your clusters, it’s time to prepare for change.

It’s not about the distro

We’ve been saying it for a couple of years now, but the distro is just a layer in your stack, a component that you can swap in and out as your needs change (whether it’s for supporting limited hardware at the edge, or to get your workloads on to a different cloud).

It’s not that a distribution is a commodity: there are plenty of pros and cons and the choice matters. But you shouldn’t be committed to, or heaven forbid locked into, the first distro you deploy with in production. You shouldn’t feel bad for using multiple distros (our research found that everybody does it). This is now mainstream behavior, just like multicloud — and just like multicloud, it has plenty of advantages, including risk mitigation.

The question then has changed. It’s no longer ‘what’s the best Kubernetes distro’, it’s ‘how do I manage multiple distros (and everything on top) without losing my mind’. The answer may surprise you.

Reasons to be cheerful

Some of these five trends might sound pessimistic, even alarmist. But they’re really not. They’re about Kubernetes coming of age.

We’ve passed the tipping point of Kubernetes being an exciting tech project: now we’re into enterprise technology considerations. Skills and team productivity. Choice and lock-in. Security and availability. And wrapping them all up, the most important of them all, cost-efficiency and return on investment.

As a community of technology pioneers meeting at KubeCon, we love discussing what’s cool and innovative. But we also need to account for a sustainable future for our ecosystem as Kubernetes hits the mainstream in a time of uncertainty.

Come and see us at Edge Day, or all week at KubeCon on booth S22, and share what’s on your mind.

Thought Leadership
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