Cloud Native Computing Foundation planning 'Global South' outreach for Kubernetes

It's not all sunshine and roses at the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the Linux Foundation offshoot responsible for supporting cloud native open source projects such as Kubernetes, but it's pretty close, according to executive director Dan Kohn.

Speaking with Computerworld UK this week during the Linux Foundation's Open Source Summit in Edinburgh, he gave a potted history of the three-year-old CNCF, and the tremendous growth that it has seen during that time, particularly around Kubernetes adoption, and why China has proved such a success story.

The vendor-neutral organisation had just 28 members when it began, and with the three-year anniversary looming this December, it is now up to 322 members.

"We had 500 people at our event three years ago and we're on track now to sell out over 7,500 in Seattle," Kohn says. "We had zero projects, and Kubernetes was the first one - we are now up to 18 graduated and incubating projects, and another nine in the sandbox.

"I think all those are external indicators of the effect we have had, just an enormous level of excitement, engagement and adoption in our industry. I don't think that because of that everyone's happy and they all get along now - in some ways there's higher stakes on a lot of decisions and competitive pressures and everything else that you have in any sort of human collaboration - but overall I'd say things are going pretty great."

Kohn does acknowledge that the good news is not necessarily the most fascinating, and recognises that there are still challenges to be overcome: deciding on common tooling that sits on top of Kubernetes, for example, or low acceptance rates.

"With Kubecon we have a 13 percent acceptance rate, so I think there's some unhappiness or frustration that we are rejecting a lot of great, very thoughtful, very carefully crafted submissions," he says.

Within the leadership of the cloud native community, he adds, there's "almost unanimity" when it comes to the actual act of deploying applications on Kubernetes, however, there's not the "right level of abstraction for regular developers to be working with."

"It's too tedious, it has enough rope to shoot yourself in the foot," he adds, in a fit of mixed metaphors.

"[Google Cloud Platform's] Kelsey Hightower has a line that Kubernetes is a toolkit that lets you write the exact PaaS that you want for your organisation," adds Kohn. "Which is totally true, but there's also just a lot of discussion or debate right now about what the common set of tools that would sit on top of it are."

Regional expansion

The really fascinating developments for the foundation are happening regionally though. Although Kubernetes absolutely has its roots with Google there seems to have been little fuss about the open source container orchestration platform's enthusiastic reception in China - unlike Google's efforts to reportedly re-open consumer channels in China.

The CNCF's Devstats project - which looks through every Git commit in the four-year history of the project, and then carries out classification work - rates China as the third largest contributor contingent, after the US in first and Germany in second.

"Personally China has been one of my biggest investments," says Kohn. "I'm flying back over in three weeks, which will be my third trip in three months.

"There's so much interest and adoption there - the west tends to be moving from virtualisation to containerisation, kind of like how China was able to skip the whole fixed landline generation and move directly to mobile phones, they have something of a second-mover advantage for cloud native as well. Where if there's less investment in the previous technology, they can adopt Kubernetes extremely quickly."

China's second-largest retailer is a platinum end user member for instance, while Huawei and Alibaba are also platinum members. Baidu, Tencent and ZTE are all gold members that are "heavily invested" in the area, with "a ton" of startups accounting for much of the rest.

"A little more than 10 percent of our members are in China," says Kohn. "There's a lot of efforts underway, we finally have the internationalisation - almost all the documentation is in Chinese - we've been helping organise this group in China that's been translating it."

This documentation is available via a content delivery network that's actually within the 'great firewall'. Translating it was "a nightmare" and it's still not done, and other hurdles include trying to provide a mirror for the official Kubernetes containers - these are all currently hosted on the Google container registry which is, of course, blocked in the country.

"Most Chinese engineers have a VPN and they can get it, but we need to set up a container registry mirror in China," says Kohn, adding that to publish the website in that mirror they had to require an official ICP licence from the government to grant permission to host it.

And keep your eyes peeled on initiatives that will target the Global South, starting in 2019.

Currently the CNCF hosts KubeCon in North America, Europe, and China, but the organisation is seeking to expand into other areas with a series of day events. The plans are far from finalised but there is a willingness to branch out.

"It's going to start in Bangalore, but we'd like to be hitting a lot of other areas like Sao Paolo, Johannesburg, possibly Malaysia, and other folks that don't necessarily have the resources to travel but there's a lot of software developers there that are interested in learning about it," says Kohn. "The diversity scholarships we fund do also fund a number of international attendees, and I would say we are definitely open to other programs or other ways of supporting that."


Copyright © 2018 IDG Communications, Inc.

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