As KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe 2021 unfolds in a virtual setting during the first week of May, users will be sorting through the usual blizzard of announcements to determine just what matters to them — and when and how they could incorporate it into their environments. The conference schedule is packed with Kubernetes at the edge, governance and security, and new project overviews. We will be covering the key topics from the conference this week. But amid the chaotic agenda, it can be hard to determine what matters to the community, and more importantly, what should matter to someone getting started. Why is this so hard to determine?

Six years on, K8s, despite growing adoption, is far from a finished and easily consumable. Craig McLuckie, a founder of the Kubernetes project, highlighted the issue at a 2019 Kubernetes meetup in Chicago, when he compared the K8s open source effort to that of Linux, where, McLuckie said, the kernel developer Linus Torvalds could act as a “benevolent dictator.” For Kubernetes, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) plays the leadership role — but with limits. The CNCF opted not for an individual decider but for a 13-person steering committee, with what McLuckie called “checks and balances.” The CNCF approach to oversight has allowed a wide scope for development that creates opportunities for new contributions but at the cost of some confusion for cloud leaders seeking the best way to deploy Kubernetes. Each leader has their own priorities, but collectively, they try to bring an agenda together for conferences that encapsulates their collective vision. This vision usually focuses on forward-leaning development and not how to get started, unless you are attending those targeted 101 sessions.

On this note, as Amazon Web Services VP and lead architect Adrian Cockcroft put it at the AWS re:Invent 2020 event, the CNCF landscape has become so broad that it resembles an “eye chart.” For a new adopter, this can be overwhelming. Using a Wardley map — a methodology to strategize product positioning and movement — Cockcroft highlighted his view of key Kubernetes projects and how Amazon implemented them in AWS. For AWS, that’s the Grafana application to visualize Kubernetes cluster performance and the Prometheus event monitoring and alerting tool (both currently in preview mode). Kubernetes users can similarly create their own map or lean on the K8s vendor community to help draw/simplify their map.

But what looks like CNCF sprawl to others spells opportunity to the substantial build-your-own community in large organizations with technical heft or the smaller, growing companies with little technical debt on legacy systems. For many, this expanding scope shows a lively and thriving community that is expanding to solve real enterprise problems.

So what should you do if you’re new to Kubernetes and trying to navigate the KubeCon Europe 2021 agenda? Forrester recommends that you:

  • Navigate the 101 track sessions.
  • Amplify with case studies (not tagged) such as Citi, the US Department of Defense, Mastercard, Spotify (advanced), etc.
  • Get a feel for what the leadership is unifying around with the keynotes.

My Forrester colleagues and I will follow key developments and continue to provide our assessments and advice on practical next steps.