June 13, 2017

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CoreOS Fest 2017

Just a bit over a week ago I had the opportunity to attend CoreOS Fest 2017 at the lovely Pier 27 in San Francisco. You might remember this same structure from my cruise posts as Pier 27 serves double duty as event center and cruise ship terminal. Now that I’ve had a chance to see both sides of the building, I definitely recommend the cruise terminal portion. Not that I didn’t greatly enjoy CoreOS Fest… but vacation always wins. Anyways, enough about the building, let’s talk about Kubernetes — because it was definitely the highlight of the conference. While I don’t think the Fest is bigger than Kubecon, it certainly was no slouch.

For those that don’t know, CoreOS is the company that helps develop Kubernetes (along with MANY other companies), along with Container Linux, Quay.io and their “self-driving Kubernetes” known as Tectonic. As the conference is known as “CoreOS Fest” one would assume it’d be all about themselves and their software, but you’d be wrong. Primarily the conference is about Kubernetes (K8s) and the ecosystem that surrounds it. Of course that means that the entire suite (especially Tectonic) will be out in force, but other large companies had big presences as well, such as: Microsoft, Oracle, and Google.

The schedule was fairly standard as far as tech conferences go. Each of the two days started with a keynote talk, followed by 3 tracks of sessions: Run, Build, & Security. The “Run” track was principally about how to run certain types of workloads, or how existing groups ran their K8s environments. The “Build” track was supposed to be for app developers and how to build in a container native way. The “Secure” track should be self-explanatory… all things security. This seems like a fairly good breakdown, but it is the source of my single gripe.

The tracks, while theoretically well defined, tended to be all over the place. The very first talk of the “Run” track was titled “Writing a custom controller: Extending the functionality of your cluster”. While I do code from an automation perspective, this was way too deep for “run”. The “Build” track was more focused, but a number of the talks felt like they tended to be around building K8s related functionality rather than your own application in a K8s world. Lastly the “Security” track: some of them were much better suited for “Build” track (due to the level of code they went into) and on day one security was just “gone”. Turns out on Day 1 the “Security” track was actually the “Wildcard” track which confused a lot of people (including staff I overheard discussing how there was no ‘Wildcard’ area) — oh and several of those were heavy on the development too.

Keep in mind that this complaint is based on my single perspective. If you’re in any way an app developer or getting under the hood of Kubernetes, it’d be fantastic. CoreOS Fest is also only a few years old and most tech conferences I’ve been to take time to find their groove. I’m sure next year will be better from the content side and continue to improve. That being said, a majority of the conference and topics were enjoyable (even if too deep in some cases). Listening to the CoreOS CEO talk about their vision of the Kubernetes ecosystem and how they support it was fascinating. Additionally the hidden gem of the conference was the Lightning talks & Office Hours.

Microsoft/Deis also brought awesome stickers with the characters from ‘The Illustrated Children’s Guide to Kubernetes
My favorite lighting talk was the unexciting sounding “The Open Service Broker API and the Kubernetes Service Catalog” by Aaron Schlesinger from Microsoft. He opened by explaining what the

Open Service Broker is (effectively a standard API for services, like Azure or AWS), the Kubernetes implementation known as “Service Catalog”, briefly how Azure had started to implement the K8s service catalog and lastly my favorite, he demo’d how it worked with some great real-life use cases. At the end of the talk I walked away realizing that one day we won’t even need to manage AWS resources, we’ll spin up Kubernetes and the applications (via Service Catalog) will generate the AWS resources they need themselves (via Helm Charts, of course).

So was it all worth the trip? You bet. If your company is serious about containers, you’re probably on your way to Kubernetes already. No container orchestration service out today is as fully featured or has a community anywhere near the size of K8s. With as rapid as the technology is evolving, sitting around and “waiting for the book to come out” just won’t be viable. DevOps people need to get in and get dirty today, to keep on top of this wave (even if we complain about said ‘getting dirty’). The one thing we need for next year to accomplish that? More power outlets!