Cross-post from Chris Aniszczyk‘s personal blog
I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday break as the first couple weeks of January 2021 have been pretty wild, from insurrections to new COVID strains. In cloud native land, the CNCF recently released its annual report on all the work we accomplished last year. I recommend everyone take an opportunity to go through the report, we had a solid year given the wild pandemic circumstances.https://twitter.com/CloudNativeFdn/status/1343914259177222145
As part of my job, I have a unique and privileged vantage point of cloud native trends given to all the member companies and developers I work with, so I figured I’d share my thoughts of where things will be going in 2021 and beyond:
Cloud Native IDEs
As a person who has spent a decent portion of his career working on developer tools inside the Eclipse Foundation, I am nothing but thrilled with the recent progress of the state of the art. The future will hold that the development lifecycle (code, build, debug) will happen mostly in the cloud versus your local Emacs or VSCode setup. You will end up getting a full dev environment setup for every pull request, pre-configured and connected to their own deployment to aid your development and debugging needs. A concrete example of this technology today is enabled via GitHub Codespaces and GitPod. While GitHub Codespaces is still in beta, you can try this experience live today with GitPod, using Prometheus as an example. In a minute or so, you have a completely live development environment with an editor and preview environment. The wild thing is that this development environment (workspace) is described in code and shareable with other developers on your team like any other code artifact.
In the end, I expect to see incredible innovation in the cloud native IDE space over the next year, especially as GitHub Codespaces enters out of beta and becomes more widely available so developers can experience this new concept and fall in love.
Kubernetes on the Edge
Kubernetes was born through usage across massive data centers but Kubernetes will evolve just like Linux did for new environments. What happened with Linux was that end users eventually stretched the kernel to support a variety of new deployment scenarios from mobile, embedded and more. I strongly believe Kubernetes will go through a similar evolution and we are already witnessing Telcos (and startups) explore Kubernetes as an edge platform through transforming VNFs into Cloud Native Network Functions (CNFs) along with open source projects like k3s, KubeEdge, k0s, LFEdge, Eclipse ioFog and more. The forces driving hyperscaler clouds to support telcos and the edge, combined with the ability to reuse cloud native software and build upon already a large ecosystem will cement Kubernetes as a dominant platform in edge computing over the next few years.
Cloud Native + Wasm
Web Assembly (Wasm) is a technology that is nascent but I expect it to become a growing utility and workload in the cloud native ecosystem especially as WASI matures and as Kubernetes is used more as an edge orchestrator as described previously. One use case is powering an extension mechanism, like what Envoy does with filters and LuaJIT. Instead of dealing with Lua directly, you can work with a smaller optimized runtime that supports a variety of programming languages. The Envoy project is currently in its journey in adopting Wasm and I expect a similar pattern to follow for any environment that scripting languages are a popular extension mechanism to be wholesale replaced by Wasm in the future.
On the Kubernetes front, there are projects like Krustlet from Microsoft that are exploring how a WASI-based runtime could be supported in Kubernetes. This shouldn’t be too surprising as Kubernetes is already being extended via CRDs and other mechanisms to run different types of workloads like VMs (KubeVirt) and more.
Also, if you’re new to Wasm, I recommend this new intro course from the Linux Foundation that goes over the space, along with the excellection documentation
Rise of FinOps (CFM)
The coronavirus outbreak has accelerated the shift to cloud native. At least half of companies are accelerating their cloud plans amid the crisis… nearly 60% of respondents said cloud usage would exceed prior plans owing to the COVID-19 pandemic (State of the Cloud Report 2020). On top of that, Cloud Financial Management (or FinOps) is a growing issue and concern for many companies and honestly comes up in about half of my discussions the last six months with companies navigating their cloud native journey. You can also argue that cloud providers aren’t incentivized to make cloud financial management easier as that would make it easier for customers to spend less, however, the true pain is lack of open source innovation and standardization around cloud financial management in my opinion (all the clouds do cost management differently). In the CNCF context, there aren’t many open source projects trying to make FinOps easier, there is the KubeCost project but it’s fairly early days.
Also, the Linux Foundation recently launched the “FinOps Foundation” to help innovation in this space, they have some great introductory materials in this space. I expect to see a lot more open source projects and specifications in the FinOps space in the coming years.
More Rust in Cloud Native
Rust is still a young and niche programming language, especially if you look at programming language rankings from Redmonk as an example. However, my feeling is that you will see Rust in more cloud native projects over the coming year given that there are already a handful of CNCF projects taking advantage of Rust to it popping up in interesting infrastructure projects like the microvm Firecracker. While CNCF currently has a super majority of projects written in Golang, I expect Rust-based projects to be on par with Go-based ones in a couple of years as the Rust community matures.
GitOps + CD/PD Grows Significantly
GitOps is an operating model for cloud native technologies, providing a set of best practices that unify deployment, management and monitoring for applications (originally coined by Alexis Richardson from Weaveworks fame). The most important aspect of GitOps is describing the desired system state versioned in Git via a declaration fashion, that essentially enables a complex set of system changes to be applied correctly and then verified (via a nice audit log enabled via Git and other tools). From a pragmatic standpoint, GitOps improves developer experience and with the growth of projects like Argo, GitLab, Flux and so on, I expect GitOps tools to hit the enterprise more this year. If you look at the data from say GitLab, GitOps is still a nascent practice where the majority of companies haven’t explored it yet but as more companies move to adopt cloud native software at scale, GitOps will naturally follow in my opinion. If you’re interested in learning more about this space, I recommend checking out the newly formed GitOps Working Group in CNCF.
Service Catalogs 2.0: Cloud Native Developer Dashboards
The concept of a service catalog isn’t a new thing, for some of us older folks that grew up in the ITIL era you may remember things such as CMDBs (the horror). However, with the rise of microservices and cloud native development, the ability to catalog services and index a variety of real time service metadata is paramount to drive developer automation. This can include using a service catalog to understand ownership to handle incident management, manage SLOs and more.
In the future, you will see a trend towards developer dashboards that are not only a service catalog, but provide an ability to extend the dashboard through a variety of automation features all in one place. The canonical open source examples of this are Backstage and Clutch from Lyft, however, any company with a fairly modern cloud native deployment tends to have a platform infrastructure team that has tried to build something similar. As the open source developer dashboards mature with a large plug-in ecosystem, you’ll see accelerated adoption by platform engineering teams everywhere.
Cross Cloud Becomes More Real
Kubernetes and the cloud native movement have demonstrated that cloud native and multi cloud approaches are possible in production environments, the data is clear that “93% of enterprises have a strategy to use multiple providers like Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services, and Google Cloud” (State of the Cloud Report 2020). The fact that Kubernetes has matured over the years along with the cloud market, will hopefully unlock programmatic cross-cloud managed services. A concrete example of this approach is embodied in the Crossplane project that provides an open source cross cloud control plane taking advantage of the Kubernetes API extensibility to enable cross cloud workload management (see “GitLab Deploys the Crossplane Control Plane to Offer Multicloud Deployments”).
eBPF allows you to run programs in the Linux Kernel without changing the kernel code or loading a module, you can think of it as a sandboxed extension mechanism. eBPF has allowed a new generation of software to extend the behavior of the Linux kernel to support a variety of different things from improved networking, monitoring and security. The downside of eBPF historically is that it requires a modern kernel version to take advantage of it and for a long time, that just wasn’t a realistic option for many companies. However, things are changing and even newer versions of RHEL finally support eBPF so you will see more projects take advantage. If you look at the latest container report from Sysdig, you can see the adoption of Falco rising recently which although the report may be a bit biased from Sysdig, it is reflected in production usage. So stay tuned and look for more eBPF based projects in the future!
Finally, Happy 2021!
I have a few more predictions and trends to share especially around end user driven open source, service mesh cannibalization/standardization, Prometheus+OTel, KYC for securing the software supply chain and more but I’ll save that for more detailed posts, nine predictions are enough to kick off the new year! Anyways, thanks for reading and I hope to see everyone at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU in May 2021, registration is open!