Guest post originally published on LinkedIn by Maryam Tavakkoli, Senior Cloud Engineer at RELEX Solutions
Background: My journey with Kubernetes
I am originally from Iran. I moved to Finland in 2017 to pursue my master’s studies in a program called EIT Digital Master School and in the Cloud Computing study track. After finalizing my credits in different subjects and conducting various course projects, I was still confused about my main interest and potential focus for my future career path. But confusion could be a good challenge for learning! So, in early 2019, I started searching for thesis positions, which matched my area of interest. I was lucky enough to find a great research team at Nokia Bell Labs, where I was given a problem to solve, but I was free to choose my solution path. So, with that flexibility in hand, I looked around and at the end of the day, I came across containerization, docker, and ultimately Kubernetes as the hot topics of the day. These technologies were fascinating enough for my mind to keep me busy for the next ten months until when I graduated defending my thesis with the title “Analyzing the Applicability of Kubernetes for the Deployment of an IoT Publish/Subscribe System” (You will find the link to my thesis in the documentation repository of both universities that I graduated from, Aalto and TU Delft).
So, that was the start of my journey with Kubernetes! And that journey has continued until today. I found my first industry job as a Site Reliability Engineer in my current company, Relex Solutions. Currently, I am a Senior Cloud Engineer at Relex and in my daily job, I work with technologies such as Kubernetes, Helm, Terraform, Azure, and Git.
The story begins: I applied and received the Dan Kohn Diversity Scholarship
As a woman studying and working in tech, it didn’t take long for me to notice the imbalance of diversity and inclusion around me. The feeling of isolation in the classroom or the workplace has been always strong and unpleasant and it made the topic of diversity and inclusion very noticeable to me during my professional life.
I guess that was the main reason that I have always had an eye for and respected those businesses, workplaces, or institutions that support the growth of diversity and inclusion mindset in any possible way. However, I guess in the past, I was not brave enough to talk about the topic or act on it. Maybe I was even shy about it, and now that I think, I had those feelings mostly because I was afraid that mentioning diversity would be translated to receiving some benefits for granted.
As I came forward in my professional life and gain expertise in the field, I had more confidence in my capabilities. So, I found the courage to think outside of the box and to look into that old perspective of mine about diversity from different angles.
Having a society that is built upon differences brings many benefits and if we are going to change a non-inclusive, non-diverse culture to an inclusive and diverse one, it takes time and effort. The differences in people should be celebrated and there are many ways that companies, institutions, and workplaces can do that. As much as it is important that society acts in support of diversity, it is important for those who are in the minority groups, such as me as a woman of color in tech, to show up and become more present in the available opportunities.
With this new perspective, I was ready to welcome any support and celebration of differences! Hence, I noticed an opportunity provided by KubeCon + CloudNativeCon, and I grabbed it. I applied for the diversity scholarship.
In the motivation section and reasoning for participation, I explained my interest, experiences, and achievements as someone, who works with CloudNative open source tools, and my feeling that as a woman of color and working in tech, I feel isolated. I also mentioned that coming from a Middle East, developing country, and considering the limited resources that were available to me, I feel very proud of my achievements until this moment. However, I still like to learn and experience more, find like-minded people, and grow my professional network, and KubeCon is a great opportunity for this purpose.
As the last word in this section, I like to emphasize that KubeCon + CloudNativeCon usually has four types of scholarships: Diversity (which I talked about), Need-base (for active community members), Maintainer (for CNCF project maintainers) and for Students. Always check out their website and grab the scholarship opportunity if you need it!
Equality vs equity: Why the topic matters
Equality vs equity, according to the article “Equality versus Equity: What’s the difference as we #EmbraceEquity for IWD 2023 and beyond?”:
Equality means each individual or group of people is given the same resources or opportunities. Equity recognizes that each person has different circumstances, and allocates the exact resources and opportunities needed to reach an equal outcome.
To continue and conclude my thoughts on the topic of diversity and inclusion, I would like to give a reference to the great keynote that Dawn Foster, Director of Open Source Community Strategy at VMware, presented with the title: Building a Sustainable CNCF Project Contributor Base. The section of the talk, where Dawn was explaining concepts of equality and equity captured my mind.
Dawn emphasized to support diversity and inclusion, it is important that we do not stay on the equality level in our workplaces (or projects), and instead provide equity, so that even the marginalized people feel safe and that they are part of the community. This would result in more engagement from different groups of people and ultimately would bring more innovation into society.
The hype: Hot topics in KubeCon 2023 EU
From day 0, which is allocated to the co-located events, it was obvious that Service Mesh is a big topic. There was a Linkerd Day (Talks on Youtube), Istio Day (Talks on Youtube), and CiliumCon (Talks on Youtube), all happening at the same time and being hosted by CNCF.
Apart from these one-day events, there were also plenty of other Service Mesh related talks at the main event. While Linkerd service mesh uses a sidecar model, Cilium uses eBPF, a technology that allows sidecarless service mesh. Istio also has introduced Istio Ambient mesh, a new model of Istio service mesh that is without sidecars. There was a panel discussion, Future of Service Mesh- Sidecar or Sidecarless or Proxyless? — Levine Kohavi, Mattix, Norman, Howard, challenging the ideas of sidecar vs sidecarless that you can watch if you are interested in the topic.
While there were many talks about the service meshes, I liked the below ones since they give a great summary and status of each of the mentioned service meshes:
- Overview and State of Linkerd — Matei David, Buoyant, Inc.
- Future of Istio — Sidecar, Sidecarless or Both? — Neeraj Poddar, Solo.io
- Cilium Updates, News, Roadmap, and in the Wild — Liz Rice, Andy Allred, Richard Hartmann
Same as before, security is still a hot topic in the scope of Cloud Native technologies and especially Kubernetes. In two of the security talks that attended at KubeCon, one of the slides was about OWASP Kubernetes Top Ten. So, I guess it is important for anyone working with Kubernetes to take a look at this list and become familiar with the top ten prioritized security risks of the Kubernetes ecosystem. Here are the talks that I attended and enjoyed:
- The Hacker’s Guide to Kubernetes — Patrycja Wegrzynowicz, Form3
- RBAC to the Future: Untangling Authorization in Kubernetes — Jimmy Mesta, KSOC
I think we are in an era, where sustainability is and should be important in every aspect of our lives and the Kubernetes ecosystem is no exception.
Among the many relevant talks, I really liked the Sponsored Keynote: Building a Sustainable, Carbon-Aware Cloud: Scale Workloads and Re… Jorge Palma and the Carbon Aware KEDA Operator project that was introduced in it. The project provides a Kubernetes operator that aims to reduce carbon emissions by helping KEDA scale Kubernetes workloads based on carbon intensity.
There were other talks about sustainability, however, I didn’t get the chance to attend those. Here are a few that I have on my list to watch later:
- Be the Change Our Planet Seeks: How YOU Can Contribute to Running Environment… — Kristina Devochko
- The State of Green Software + Cloud Native — Leonard Vincent Simon Pahlke, Liquid Reply & Cara Delia
- Scale Down Your Environmental Impact — Mary Karroqe & Zinnia Gibson, D2iQ
While phrases such as DevOps or SRE became hype a few years ago, Platform Engineering sounds to be a growing concept on top of those and becoming the new hot topic.
Considering the increasing list of technologies that are becoming the industry standards nowadays, such as Infrastructure as Code (IaC), Kubernetes, Docker, Cloud, and GitOps, the new naming sounds a lot of sense at least to me. Platform engineering is about building a so-called internal Platform for developers, which they can start using for their development tasks without thinking much about other operational aspects and required layers of the project.
There were a few talks about the topic (I listed two below), but apart from that, the idea was also visible in many of the presenting companies and projects at the booths.
- Keynote: Is Kubernetes Delivering on its Promise? A Platform Engineering Persp… Aparna Subramanian
- Let’s Go Backstage: IDP Security for Platform Engineers — Rotem Refael & Suzanne Daniels
Community in Blooming: Start your contribution journey or share your user experience
Now, let’s talk about the other aspect of KubeCon!
Yes, KubeCon is about attending the technical talks and learning the new CloudNative topics, but it is also about community! It is fantastic to see that these many tools are coming from open-source projects, but it is also important to acknowledge that it hasn’t happened overnight or with one person’s effort.
It is also a great chance to hear from users — what is the experience of other people working with a specific tool and the challenges that they encountered and how they overcame those challenges or why they ultimately decided it is not the suitable match for their project.
So, the essence of the project is the community behind it. This was the biggest opportunity for me to observe closely how people are connected and help each other in the journey! I got so much information just by talking with a few people, while I am sure it would have taken me a lot of time (or maybe have been impossible) to find that info myself searching through the Internet! — The coolest part is that sometimes I wasn’t even asking, people were really kind and willing to share their knowledge.
So, KubeCon is a really good place for knowledge sharing, whether is technical or you like to learn more about how to collaborate on a project. Just ask and be sure that the community is there for you!
Here are a few of the relevant talks about community and collaboration:
- Lightning Talk: FAQs for CFPs: A Beginners Guide to Conference Speaking — Paula Kennedy, Syntasso
- How SIG Release Makes Kubernetes Releases, Even More, Stable & Secure- Veronica Lopez & Marko Mudrinić
KubeCon Tips: How to maximize your experience
There were a few tips that if I knew before attending the event might have helped me to maximize my experience. Also, there are a few tips from my own experience, which might help others in a similar situation.
The keynote sessions were becoming very busy quickly and the event organizers needed to not allow those who were arriving later, due to the limited capacity. So, if you are willing to attend those, be sure to be there a bit ahead of time or at least on time.
The same thing happened for many of the talk sessions. There were about 10+ thousand attendees this year and some of the interesting talks were getting full quite soon (you needed to be there even half an hour earlier in some cases). This wasn’t ideal and I hope it is not the case in the future, but just in case, make sure to be present in rooms ahead of time.
KubeCon is a three-day event plus one extra in the beginning for the co-hosted events. It might sound a lot, but believe me, time passes quickly! All the talks would be available later on Youtube, but the opportunity to talk to people is only available on the spot! So, in my experience, it is better that you don’t spend your whole time just attending the talks. Take some time at the solution showcase, where different projects and companies are present, and have a booth. Networking with people who are building different tools around CloudNative and Kubernetes could be really interesting and informative.
In this year’s KubeCon, there were two diversity gatherings, one was for breakfast and the other was for lunch. I missed the first, but I was lucky to attend the lunch event. The space for such programs is limited, so be on time. The diversity ( + equity + inclusion) lunch event provided a great chance for me to sit at a table with a few other people and we had a lovely, safe space to talk about different topics. Being with smaller groups of people places you in an easy spot to go out of your comfort zone and make connections with people, especially if you are an introvert like me. So, I highly recommend it!
As the last tip, I would say don’t miss the fun! There are plenty of parties happening during the week that you can attend, or if you were super tired in the evenings (like me!) and couldn’t attend any party, then at least spend some time discovering the city that you traveled to for KubeCon! I had half a day to explore Amsterdam and it ended up being a super great experience and a nice ending for the week.
Last words: Some resources to enjoy in your free time
Here are some resources relevant to the discussed topics that you can follow in your free time.
- DevOps Sauna: Key takeaways from KubeCon 2023
- DevOps and Docker Talk: Contribute to Kubernetes
- Screaming in the Cloud: Learning eBPF with Liz Rice