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KubeCon NA 2019

Back in November, just before Thanksgiving, I attended my second KubeCon. My first was in Copenhagen last year. A lot has changed in the past eighteen months, both for me an Kubernetes at large. When I attended then, I was working at a container startup and spent my time there making connections with old and new colleagues at various organizations and working the booth. This year I’m working for one of the oldest computer companies on mainframes, and I had a speaking slot.

KubeCon North America is a huge event for me, I heard that the number of attendees this time was around 12,000. It’s somewhat cliche to compare it to the hype cycle that OpenStack went through, but I’m going to do it anyway. At the height, the events felt very similar. It’s very different for me though. In OpenStack I was a core contributor and my role in the project infrastructure team meant that I worked with a lot of people in the community. I would attend for both the OpenStack Summit and the Developer event, much like the community events exist around KubeCon. That means my KubeCon experience differs a lot from those like Chris Short, but just the three days of the main event was pretty exhausting. I think part of it is the noise of the expo hall and the sheer size of the keynote room.

First day keynotes!

It was also quite overloaded socially, I met up with over a dozen people while I was there, which was great, but tiring for an introvert like me. Of particular note work-wise, I was able to meet up with the IBM Z folks who were there. I only knew a couple via email and conference calls, and so it was nice to meet more. It was also somewhat unexpected, even though the premise of my talk was that people often don’t think about Kubernetes and mainframes at the same time, even I’m still surprised when I find mainframers at container events! We got a picture of some of us, but due to the nature of the event, we never got all of us in one place at one time.

IBM Z representing!

There were also a bunch of other people who I knew were there but didn’t manage to sync up with. Thankfully most of them will be at other events in the coming months. It’s fun how many folks I knew from OpenStack were there too. Many have transitioned into roles that are similar to what they worked on in OpenStack, some are still working on OpenStack but working with Kubernetes integration, others like me have completely gone off in a different direction. The continuity of having a few familiar faces does help me feel comfortable at these larger events though.

Content! I may have been able to skip most of the keynotes. I like attending them generally because they tend to set a tone for the event, but some of them were heavy on the sponsorship side. I’m also kind of over 5G demos, as fun as it is to wheel hardware onto the stage.

I think my favorite talks of the event were operations talks. One came from Ricardo Rocha of CERN (he’s another OpenStack alum!) who gave a talk on Managing Helm Deployments with Gitops at CERN (video). CERN has done a remarkable amount of innovative operations work over the years, so it’s been fascinating following their journey through the OpenStack days and on to their path with Kubernetes. In this talk he traced some of that history, and the way that their deployments have sped up over the years from bare metal, to VMs, and now with containers. I’m also a sucker for a good GitOps talk, so it was nice to see their work in practice.

There was also a talk from Chris Carty of the City Of Ottawa that I quite enjoyed, Moving from Legacy Infrastructure to the Cloud in a Government Organization (video). I was somewhat concerned that he might mean mainframes when he said “legacy” but that wasn’t the case, instead it was just the more traditional stack of x86 Linux machines that were reaching their end of life. He took the audience through a walk-through of their journey, from being overwhelmed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) list of projects, to actually trying them out and implementing solutions. It was a really great talk that considered things like support for key open source components of Kubernetes when selecting a vendor and distribution, on and off-prem options (hybrid cloud), and role-based access controls (RBAC). He also talks about how they encouraged departments to adopt the new infrastructure and how to get early and easy wins. If you are considering a Kubernetes deployment and watch just one talk from the event, I suggest it be this one. And he talks about GitOps too!

On Wednesday, the day my talk “Wait, People Run Kubernetes on Mainframes?” was scheduled, San Diego had a bit of a disaster: It rained. Not major rain, just rain, but San Diego clearly is not equipped to handle any sort of rain. The convention center leaked and worse, a large chunk of the venue lost power. Without knowing when power would be restored, they made the decision to move a whole swath of talks over to a nearby hotel. Kudos to the event staff for managing to pull this off instead of canceling the talks, but my talk was one of the ones that was moved, and it was quite the trek to make it over to the new location. For what was already a niche topic with a limited audience, I was worried this would mean death to my talk, but instead I had about 30 people attending and my hope is that the ones who were there are the people who really wanted to be there. The talk went well, and I indeed seemed to have the right audience, from people with mainframes in their infrastructure that they weren’t familiar with, to the curious who really were surprised to see a talk like mine on the agenda. It was definitely nice for sparking fun post-talk discussions. Resources for my talk are online: slides and video.

Thanks to Jin VanStee for taking the photo on the right during my talk! source

On Thursday things really started to wind down for me. I had some work to do in the morning so didn’t see as many talks, and most of my time was spent chatting with people more casually than previous days when I had more scheduled meetings. It was a nice way to conclude my final big event of the year. Plus, with the rain wrapping up on Thursday, we got a nice KubeCon rainbow!

More photos from the event here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/pleia2/albums/72157711951648431

While Kubernetes isn’t the main focus of my work these days, it’s definitely a key component of some of my efforts, particularly with OpenShift fully coming to Z in 2020. I submitted a couple talks to KubeCon EU next year (fingers crossed!) I’m looking forward to weaving in more future KubeCon events into our team strategy.