For more than 160 years, Northwestern Mutual has maintained its industry leadership in part by keeping a strong focus on risk management. For many years, the company took a similar approach to managing its technology and has recently undergone a digital transformation to advance the company’s digital strategy – including making a lot of noise in the cloud native world.
In this case study, Northwestern Mutual describes how they optimized their infrastructure in an environment of growth, using the public cloud and microservices infrastructure gave them the freedom to implement what was best for the organization, and how they provided their nearly 5 million clients the digital experience they’ve come to expect.
Kaitlyn: Hi Gianluca. You’re one of our CNCF ambassadors. Can you start by telling us a little bit about yourself?
Gianluca: I’m Gianluca. I come from Turin, Italy and I work for InfluxData. It’s a company that provides InfluxDB and all the TICK Stack. I like to travel, attend the conference, and share what I do or what I learn. So, that’s why I am happy to be an Ambassador and engage with the CNCF community.
Kaitlyn: So what have you been up to recently?
Gianluca: I started working with Influx one year ago. I’ve had my first year with a US start-up, so I’m kind of engaged with the culture, US culture, that is a bit different from what we have. But it’s fun, so I like that.
I’m working with the containerd community. We are trying to be the CI system for multi-architectural stuff, so containerd needs to write in different service kind of servers. We are working on that.
Kaitlyn: You are based out of Italy and you run a pretty large CNCF Meetup out of there. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
Gianluca: I’ve been working in cloud technology from a while now. And, in Turin, we have a good amount of companies that are working with AWS, Google, and other cloud providers. We have a big conference, in Turin, the CloudConf. So, I started the Meetup as a side car for that conference, because I saw that people were looking for content that was different from what the conference had.
Kubernetes, CoreDNS, OpenTracing – those were the topics people were looking for. And we have a small amount of companies that are using them, so it was always the challenge to get people to speak their language and share what they are doing.
We have 200 registered at the Meetup, and I try to organize them between Turin and Milan. In Milan we now have an official Meetup and because it’s a bigger city, a lot of people show up there. The number of CNCF Meetups is growing, and one of the purposes I started it was to support them and try to engage more speakers, and share them between major cities.
Kaitlyn: How would you describe the term cloud native?
Gianluca: Five years ago, I started working to migrate companies to AWS and the other cloud providers. That is when the movement started.
I think what drives the term more than just the technical part is that the companies are developing faster and they need more flexibility. Cloud native brings that flexibility almost for free. So, they need to be resilient and able to fix themselves when something goes wrong. Be ready for failure and be able to recover – an easy way to recover.
Kaitlyn: Let’s get into some fun personal questions. If someone has only 12 hours in Italy, what would you tell them to do?
Gianluca: You can eat 12 hours. 🙂 I would jump to Florence, and see a little bit of history in Florence, and move out a bit and see how the countryside is, and always look for something to eat, because that’s how it works.
Kaitlyn: We both work from home. I’m a big fan of what I call work from home pets, or co-workers. I think you have some furry co-workers as well. Can you tell us about them?
Gianluca: Yeah, I have two co-workers that are my cats. I really like them because they help me with my code review. But every time they jump, they make a mess when I’m looking at the code and reviewing it. And they really like to just sit on the keyboard; there is plenty of space but the keyboard is the place to go usually. That’s one reason I have an external keyboard, because they can sit on the other keyboard.
Kaitlyn: You have a decoy keyboard?
Gianluca: Yeah, I’m trying to joke them, sometimes works, sometimes doesn’t.
Kaitlyn: Thank you again so much for taking the time to talk to us today.
Gianluca: Thank you for organizing this and to keep the community up, so it’s really good.
Kim: Thank you Baruch for joining us for the Ambassador interview. Can you introduce yourself?
Baruch: Thank you for having me. I’ve been an Ambassador for the last month and I’m super excited, it’s a huge deal. I’m very proud to be an Ambassador. I’m the Head of Developer Relations at JFrog, a startup company based in Silicon Valley, in Sunnyvale, California. R&D in Israel, India, and all across the world. JFrog does stuff around managing binary files, like universal artifact repository (a.k.a. registry), software composition analysis tool, tools for software distribution and more.
Being the experts in dependency managers and package managers we are helping Helm to raise to an enterprise level. While it’s great as it is, there are some aspects that can be done better, and we are working with the Helm team to improve it. And that’s our main connection to the CNCF projects – we contribute to one of them. I did a CNCF webinar about it not long ago.
Kim: So you live in Silicon Valley now.
Baruch: Yeah, I live in California for the last three years. Before that I lived most of my life, 25 years, in Israel. And I was born and raised in Moscow Russia.
Kim: What do you like to do for fun when you’re not working?
Baruch: I have two kids and we do the normal stuff. We hike, travel, and go places. If I need fun, it is home automation – smart home and stuff. The best thing about this hobby, it costs a lot but it’s not for me. It’s for the home, it’s for the family. It’s like everybody uses it, it’s not mine right? I just improve the home right? That’s how we justify it, but it’s a great hobby.
Kim: What do you see as the next big thing in cloud native, containers, and open source in terms of technology? Where do you see it going next?
Baruch: I think we should start with not trying to predict the future because I personally think we don’t have enough knowledge to make those predictions. Who thought that cloud native would be such a huge thing three years ago? It started with a very limited group of people with strange interests and look where we are now. I feel we don’t have the ability to understand the complexity of that past and make predictions today. But for short term, I think we are on the right track of trying to build this complete landscape of cloud native computing and feel the gaps that we still have.
As our offerings with those projects become more comprehensive and complete, more people in the industry will adopt it. Big data, artificial intelligence – those things happen in the cloud, which requires a lot of computing power and a lot of storage. Another big advantage of the cloud in terms of looking into the future is the frequency and the quality of software updates. And cloud helps with that because it makes the continuous delivery, continuous deployment, and continuous update. The infinite stream like process makes the life of the consumers of the software easier. But also of the producers of the software that need provide those samples.
The ease of manipulating huge amounts of data in very smart ways and the ease of updating the software in the cloud, I think that’s what we will see more in the future. And thank you to Cloud Native Foundation and the projects we have in the Foundation.
Kim: And do you feel that’s what’s driving this higher adoption and getting cloud native enterprise ready where we see more enterprises adopting it?
Baruch: Absolutely, yes. This is exactly the process that we see because it’s the most complete, easy to use, and easy to adopt for massive computing capabilities today. The transition to the cloud wasn’t as rapid as we expected five or eight years ago. But now everything is going to the cloud. It didn’t happen then but it’s happening now more and more.
Some very traditional industries and organizations eventually have come to the cloud because they cannot afford not to. Not because it’s high paying, not because it’s cheaper, but because that’s the only place when they can do what they try to do.
And Cloud Native Foundation today is the stack that people pick. Again, not because people are in love with it and it’s trendy. But because this is an out of the box set of tools and solutions that they hope for.
Kim: One last question, you got a hat. You wear it all the time?
Baruch: I wear it all the time; its part of my personal branding. This and the strange accent and the hard to pronounce name. It all comes together. People will come to our booth and ask for the guy with the hat. It’s all my wife who did my branding. She’s in marketing and I am her pet project of personal branding.
Kim: Well she’s doing a great job! Thank you for joining me.
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much for joining me today, Ariel. You’re one of our CNCF Ambassadors and you help me out by moderating some of the webinars for the CNCF webinar series, which I’m very grateful for. Can you start by introducing yourself?
Ariel: My name’s Ariel Jatib. I’m one of the founders of a company called StackPointCloud. We make it really easy to deploy and manage Kubernetes clusters and other cloud native technologies.
Kaitlyn: How did you get started in cloud native?
Ariel: We predate the CNCF a little bit. As Kubernetes was coming out of Google, we started organizing a couple of different meetups around the country, including the one in New York.
Kaitlyn: In your experience, what is the biggest challenge for adopting and scaling cloud native applications right now?
Ariel: A lot of it has been education focused. And that’s been one of the central roles for the meetups. There’s a lot of emergent projects and technologies that are associated with the cloud native movement and the meetups are a great place to go and learn about how to implement and leverage these technologies in end-user environments.
Kaitlyn: Why did you want to be a CNCF ambassador?
Ariel: Early on, as we started organizing these meetups, we connected with organizers in other cities. And one of the things I did, having a background in design, was designing logos for all these other local meetups. When the CNCF Ambassador’s Program was put together, that felt like a natural extension, as a lot of those people participate in the program.
Kaitlyn: That’s so cool. What is the most revealing DevOps or cloud native stat that you’ve heard recently, and why?
Ariel: I think, actually, the growth of KubeCon. That has been amazing. I was in Austin late last year, and I don’t think any of us expected to have higher turnout here, this year, in Copenhagen than we had just a few months ago.
Kaitlyn: All right, so we’ve been talking a lot about how we both have some type of background in film, which ruins you for watching movies and having a critical eye for them. I know Atomic Blonde is one of the movies we were talking about. What is your favorite song from the movie?
Ariel: Oh, that’s a great question! I’m going to go with the one that’s resonated most with my seven-year old and that’s Der Kommissar, The 7” Mix. Got to please the kids. It’s great when you can seed those kinds of things with them early on.
Kaitlyn: I also just learned that you’re on a basketball team.
Ariel: Yes, I still play basketball, so it’s not necessarily a team. It is a pickup game that’s been running for about 50 years, multi-generational. We have folks approaching 70 years old. We run full court, and we have people as young as 16 / 17 and their dads also play in the game. We play twice a week on the weekends really early, and it’s been such a gift to connect with people in that way.
Kaitlyn: Very cool. Awesome, well thank you so much for joining us today. Really appreciate your time.
We are happy to announce that as of today, Prometheus graduates within the CNCF.
Prometheus is the second project ever to make it to this tier. By graduating Prometheus, CNCF shows that it’s confident in our code and feature velocity, our maturity and stability, and our governance and community processes. This also acts as an external verification of quality for anyone in internal discussions around choice of monitoring tool.
Since reaching incubation level, a lot of things happened; some of which stand out:
We completely rewrote our storage back-end to support high churn in services
We had a large push towards stability, especially with 2.3.2
We started a documentation push with a special focus on making Prometheus adoption and joining the community easier
Especially the last point is important as we currently enter our fourth phase of adoption. These phases were adoption by
Monitoring-centric users actively looking for the very best in monitoring
Hyperscale users facing a monitoring landscape which couldn’t keep up with their scale
Companies from small to Fortune 50 redoing their monitoring infrastructure
Users lacking funding and/or resources to focus on monitoring, but hearing about the benefits of Prometheus from various places
Looking into the future, we anticipate even wider adoption and remain committed to handling tomorrow’s scale, today.
After eight years in existence, Pinterest has grown into 1000 microservices, multiple layers of infrastructure, and a diverse set-up of tools and platforms. In order to manage all of this they needed a compute platform that enabled the fastest path from idea to production with simplicity for their engineers.
Pinterest turned to Kubernetes on Docker containers. In this case study, they describe their journey, using Jenkins clusters, and how the team was able to build on-demand scaling and new failover policies in addition to simplifying the overall deployment and management.
Running on AWS since 2010, Pinterest sees themselves as a ‘cloud native pioneer’ and is eager to share their ongoing cloud native journey and contribute their learnings back to the community.
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much for joining me today to talk about your community involvement and our Ambassador Program. Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
Cheryl: I’ve been involved with Cloud Native for a couple of years, I used to work at Google as a software engineer. Now I’m the Product and DevOps Manager at a London start-up called StorageOS, building persistent storage for containers, and I also run the Cloud Native London Meetup group.
Kaitlyn: You’ve been talking about storage recently. Can you talk a little bit about some of the trends and challenges you’re seeing the in cloud native storage space right now?
Cheryl: It’s definitely an evolving space, because containers were designed to be stateless and immutable so storage is not really a concern. Except that at the end of the day, pretty much everybody has data that they need to store somewhere! It’s clearly an unsolved problem about what’s the best way to do databases and other stateful applications with Kubernetes, which is why I work at StorageOS, because it provides that storage abstraction layer and that means you can run databases within Kubernetes and have replication and failover, etc.
In terms of what I see coming next, the Container Storage Interface is one of the big things to be aware of in the cloud native space. Over the course of the next six months to a year, all of the vendors, cloud providers, and cloud orchestrators are going to get behind this interface. So hopefully, by this time next year, storage will be a solved problem as far as end users are concerned.
Kaitlyn: You run one of the largest CNCF meetups that we have. Why and how did you start the Cloud Native London Meetup?
Cheryl: I started it in about June of 2017. At the time there was Cloud Native Paris, Cloud Native Berlin, Cloud Native Barcelona, and there was a Cloud Native London, but it had been quiet and dormant for a couple of years. I thought this was a really good time to revive that Meetup and to bring in all the new knowledge, community, and interest around Kubernetes and Docker and also Prometheus, Linkerd, and all the other projects.
It was about bringing in people from all different interests, but all in the same infrastructure and DevOps mindset and having a space where people can teach others as well. So I really encourage new speakers to join and share their stories, because there’s always a mindset around, “Oh, am I good enough to do public speaking?”. I see it as part of my role as the organizer to tell people that, “Yes, your stories are interesting and people do want to hear from you.”
Kaitlyn: Why did you want to be a CNCF ambassador?
Cheryl: I’m probably one of the truest cloud natives in that when I joined Google, I was 21. I was using Borg, which was Google’s internal predecessor to Kubernetes. Because I was so young, I really didn’t have a memory of how software was done before. So to me, it’s always been natural to containerize your software into running with an orchestrator, like Kubernetes, and to package it as microservices. It seems like the whole industry is moving that way. So becoming a CNCF ambassador has been about taking what I know and bringing that attitude, culture, tools, and infrastructure out to the entire industry.
Kaitlyn: You travel a lot, I see you at a lot of conferences. What has been your favorite place that you visited so far?
Cheryl: I travel mostly in the Bay Area and then around Europe. Last year we met at Los Angeles, Open Source Summit, that was really cool because I had not been to Los Angeles before and that was a really interesting place. Some really great stuff and some stuff that was a bit scary, but fun. That was really cool to see.
One thing about being at all these conferences, when I was here last year at the Berlin KubeCon I really didn’t know anybody, I was completely on my own. This time, as I’ve been walking around, it’s been, “Hey, Cheryl” and “Oh, I know you,” “Oh, you run the meetup, right?”. That’s been awesome, that’s been fantastic to have so many people get involved with the community, know about me, and come up and say hi.
Kaitlyn: It’s fun. Even though it’s 4,300 people now, which is crazy growth in the first place, it’s still a small community and everyone still kind of knows each other.
Cheryl: Exactly. And it’s still a really friendly and open community, which I love.
Kaitlyn: What do you do in your free time?
Cheryl: I’m getting married at the end of August! I’m incredibly excited about it, but it means that any time I’m not planning my work, my engineering team, and what they’re working on, I’m planning my wedding, which is a challenge in its own right! It’s a two day thing, a western wedding and a Chinese wedding, so I spend a lot of time negotiating with people about, “What kind of stationary do I like? What kind of flowers do I like?” It’s crazy!
Kaitlyn: Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today.
Cheryl: You are very welcome. Thank you for inviting me.
Pearson, a global education company serving 75 million learners, set a goal to more than double that number to 200 million by 2025. To serve the digital learning experiences of their users, they needed to scale and adapt to this growing online audience.
In this case study, Pearson describes their process to build a platform that would enable their developers to build, manage, and deploy applications, thus improving their engineer’s productivity.
Read about the benefits they saw from their Kubernetes implementation not only for their team, but in customer experience. As Pearson states: “We’re not worried about 9s. There aren’t any. It’s 100% (uptime)”.
Kaitlyn: Thank you for joining me today to talk about the CNFC Ambassador Program and what you’re doing in the community. Can you start by introducing yourself?
Chris: My name is Chris Gaun. I am a CNCF ambassador and product marketing manager at Mesosphere.
Kaitlyn: I know you have a new baby at home. Five weeks old now. How’s the new dad life treating you?
Chris: Lack of sleep. It’s our first kid, and it’s exciting, amazing.
Kaitlyn: In your experience, what is the biggest challenge for adopting and scaling cloud native applications right now?
Chris: I feel that there’s really great tools out there: open source tools, a lot of them under the CNCF umbrella and some of them not. To piece those together, Prometheus, Kubernetes, Jenkins, or CI/CD pipeline, is still somewhat difficult. There’s a lot of great vendors, cloud providers, giving users a lot of help in this area. But if you’re coming from an old-school, larger organization where most of your experience might be with WebSphere or something of that nature, that approaching this (cloud-native) and saying, “Oh yeah, I’m gonna setup Kubernetes or manage Kubernetes.” Then, “Oh, now I need Prometheus and now I need Linkerd or now I need Istio.” That’s a big project at that point.
Kaitlyn: What cloud native trend are you most excited about?
Chris: Well, first off, this whole thing has been amazing. I have pictures from KubeCon two years ago in London and it was in a co-working space. There there was maybe 500 people coming-and-going, but 150 probably there all the time, eating pizza. So you could feed them on however many boxes of pizza. To see the trajectory of over 4,000 people in a room, it’s just mind boggling from 150 in a basement.
All these tools that are coming out, especially Istio, are amazing. The fact that they’re all open source, people can kick the tires without spending a huge amount of money, and get the knowledge of how to do cloud native infrastructure and cloud native applications without diving in head-first is amazing
Kaitlyn: You’ve actually been part of the CNCF Ambassador Program since the beginning. Can you talk about the early days and why you wanted to be part of the program?
Chris: As background, I’ve been a part of the Kubernetes community for three years, almost since the beginning. I was investigating it very early on before GA. CNCF was created, and then Kubernetes came under its banner.
I thought there should be a safe space where we just talk about Kubernetes and how cool it is, instead of talking about our own vendor politics or selling stuff all the time. I was talking to Chris, the CTO of CNCF at the time, and he said, “I think I’m gonna have this CNCF Ambassador Program. Would you like to be a member?”. Then when the program kicked off, I got an email to be a CNCF Ambassador.
We’re here to promote the CNCF tools, the open source tools, that are under the CNCF banner like Kubernetes and Prometheus without any of the vendor politics. Just talking about how cool the technology is.
Kaitlyn: We’ve talked a lot about work. What do you do when you’re not working?
Chris: Well, now I have a five-week-old, so not a lot right now. Before that – I’m actually from New York, but I recently moved to Mississippi. My wife’s a doctor and she’s in a fellowship. So we spend a lot of time outdoors. Mississippi is a beautiful state. We go on a lot of hikes, we have a nice river nearby called the Mississippi River, and a lake. We try to get out as much as possible. I have a dog named Panda who goes out with us and we go for hikes.
Kaitlyn: That’s awesome. For the record Panda’s one of my favorite dog names up to this point. Thank you so much for taking the time to talk to me today.
Capital One has applications that handle millions of transactions a day. Big-data decisioning—for fraud detection, credit approvals and beyond—is core to the business. To support the teams that build applications with those functions for the bank, the cloud team embraced Kubernetes for its provisioning platform.
In this case study, Capital One describes how their use of Kubernetes and other CNCF open source projects has been a “significant productivity multiplier”.
Read how their Kubernetes implementation reduced their attack vulnerability for applications in the cloud and increased response time to threats in the marketplace by being able to push new rules, detect new patterns of behavior, and detect anomalies in account and transaction flows.
With Kubernetes, Capital One has been able to provide the tools in the same ecosystem, in a consistent way.