KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2019 –Day 1: Searching for a standard

The batteries are low. In my cell phone, in my laptop, and mine as well. It must be my old age. There is no denying it. Second day started early. Morning coffee and croissant gave me a much needed boost. The blood started to flow a little quicker, forcing my brain to work.

I’ve started Day 1 with the keynote. The crowds were vast. I am certainly going to remember the words of Nikita Raghunath, a young girl and scholarship holder, who talked about her career development. After graduating from college, Nikita didn’t know what to do next. Apart from one thing – she wanted to work on OpenSource projects. And so she did. Few years later, she made it to KubeCon and received a scholarship. Now, at an age of 20, Nikita gave a speech that was a part of the main session. She is a living and breathing proof of what can be achieved if you not only take, but also give to the community. In a way, Nikita’s story accentuates my thoughts from yesterday about the significance of OpenSource in development. The amount of modern technologies is enormous, and because of that we are having more and more difficulties with grasping their numerous threads and layers. This leads to one conclusion – the more minds working on a given project, the better. And remember, you always get more then you give.

But the main topic of the day, a theme recurring in many conversations, was searching for the standard. The golden rule for implementing new infrastructure, one to launch and supply new applications. I think it is worth to mention a long conversation I had with the CTO of CircleCI Rob Zuber and the Engineering Manager of CircleCI Justin Cowperthwaite. We’ve talked about two things – norms and standards in a Cloud Native world, and people who see them, understand them, and want to improve them. As I said earlier, we were looking for the standard. Quite a lot of new companies participated in this year’s KubeCon + Cloud Native Con. I’ve counted about 15, maybe 20, dealing only in CI/CD. Probably, most of them will not last a year. And that is a good thing. The whole reason for their existence is to correct the shortcomings of others – leading members of the community, people focused on concluding strategic agreements, on developing the ecosystem based on partnership, on primary functionalities. The important stuff. New companies grow out of the needs of the community. They cover indicated gaps and deficiencies. And why it is a good thing? The answer is simple, really. Big fishes swallow little ones. Sometimes, it is easier to buy another company and go through the hell of integration, but in doing so avoid the valley of death, which is creating something yourself. That is why they show their feathers. It reminds me of a fashion show, the one for the end users and investors. I the long run, natural selection will lead to new norms. Standards everyone is waiting for. I am fortunate to witness this evolution firsthand. The transfer of essence into the alpha predator. This chain of events is inevitable. And that is a good thing as well, because it will make our work more scalable. Borings norms give chaos shape, they channel it into a process and thus help to achieve a goal. Isn’t that what it’s all about?

And now, the second topic I’ve discussed with CircleCI, meaning people. Nowadays, it is comparatively hard to find the right ones for designing and building IT environments. It does not mean, that there are none (although they are few and far between). It is the amount of new technologies that create problems. Building a scalable team becomes a daunting task, almost impossible. Various projects represent completely different technological stacks. Every client has its preferences and wants to work with things he likes best. This forces the supplier to make concessions (at least at the start of their cooperation). In other words, clients demand a high quality service for a relatively niche products. As a consequence, teams consist of specialists handy with different technologies. It may seem like an asset, but when you take scale effect into the account, you begin to see a flaw – the waste of energy. By chasing way too many tails, teams exert themselves to a breaking point instead of focusing on the fundamental goal – solving business problems. They start to create solutions just for the sake of creating them, and forget about fixing the issue. I admit, working in a team made of different specialists, who can learn from one another, may sound like fun. But at the same time, such arrangement restricts and flattens their expertise. They stop being Prometheans. They no longer illuminate the gloom and shadows of a dark infrastructure. Only new standards can change this status quo. First of all, by defining universal competencies, we can make planning team capacity easier. This would lead directly to the standardization of services, and the ability to provide them in a proper scale. As of now, we work in little workshops joined rather crudely into a bigger combine.

Day 1 is also about sessions. As I attended them, one thing stuck in my mind. Many people talked about the democratization of supplier access by creating a method of starting an application in any given place. That theme comes back like a boomerang every time. For the IT community it is Eldorado, Holy Grail, and Atlantis, all wrapped up in one. The app running anywhere and everywhere. Sound like an ultimate truth, doesn’t it? In fact, it is not as simple as many had thought. Each step we take leads us to new challenges and restrictions. I had many interesting conversations. People I’ve talked with reinforced my belief that Cloud Native is not the answer or a solution, but a way and hard work that comes with following it. There is no single, optimal rule (at least for now) for creating applications and infrastructures. There is no universal blueprint for it, no faultless process. Just don’t get me wrong. Cloud Native can give us all of that and more, but it won’t be that simple. It requires right people, working with adequate tools… And so the circle completes.