Last week the cloud native, containers and Kubernetes communities converged on Berlin, Germany for OpenShift Commons Gathering, CloudNativeCon and KubeCon. Berlin was the perfect location for this intersection of events because it is historically defined by its transition from the past to the present, and culturally by its diversity of activities and fields of knowledge. Berlin sits at the economic center of a Europe in transition, just like open source software communities sit at the center of a tech industry in transition. Over the past few years, our industry has seen significant transitions as the world around us demands more agility (less walls) and greater interaction between communities (DevOps, cloud-native and legacy).
OpenShift Commons Gathering
A few years ago the OpenShift team decided to make a significant technology change to the platform, replacing the homegrown container packaging and scheduling with docker and Kubernetes. In essence this changed the platform from a structured PaaS architecture to a more flexible and composable container platform, allowing it to enable a much broader set of customer applications than in the past. Around that same time, we decided to create the concept of a "commons" to allow broad sets of companies and communities to collaborate around this new OpenShift model. As a result of those shifts in development and collaboration, it made sense to host a gathering of the intersection of those communities. The first OpenShift Commons Gather was held in Seattle (session videos) prior to KubeCon, to a SOLD OUT room with talks from the creators, developers and operators of Kubernetes.
Fast forward 4 months and the OpenShift Commons Gathering has grown proportionally with the KubeCon community, another SOLD OUT event with over 260 people in attendance from over 25 countries. In 2017, over 250 companies are actively involved in the OpenShift Commons community. And at 4:59pm, when we looked over the audience, the seats all the way in the back were still full. This is a compliment to our speakers and the huge desire to learn from the attendees.
The next OpenShift Commons Gathering event is scheduled to be co-located with Red Hat Summit in Boston on May 1st.
While the growth of the OpenShift Commons Gathering events is exciting, the more interesting aspect is the depth of conversations that it has creating around OpenShift.
Stability vs. Innovation
The yin and yang of OpenShift is the balance between the immense amount of development in the open source projects that make up OpenShift, and the precision needed to architect a secure, scalable platform for Enterprise customers on a consistent basis.
This balance highlights one of the core differences between many of the DIY Kubernetes projects that were highlighted later in the week at KubeCon and the Enterprise OpenShift customer stories that are highlighted at OpenShift Commons Gathering.
The precision that I mentioned about OpenShift is not about packaging components, but rather it begins months (or years) ahead of time through leadership in upstream communities and SIG activities. As highlighted by Aparna Sinha (Sr. Product Manager, Kubernetes, Google), Red Hat engineers lead or co-lead 10 of the 24 SIG activities within the Kubernetes community - API Machinery, Auth, Autoscaling, CLI, Network, Node, OpenStack, Service Catalog, Scheduling, and Storage.
By actively working with the SIG groups, Red Hat is able to bring both a deep level of technical expertise as well as a balanced sense of real customer use-cases to these projects. With insight from these groups shared across the Red Hat engineering teams, it allows us to bring together the broad set of elements needed to move from the Kubernetes projects to the OpenShift platform.
For customers attending the Commons Gathering, this translates into less time that they have to focus on technology integration and stability, and more time for them to focus on leveraging the platform to build and manage software that is going to reshape their businesses going forward.
A Platform for Emerging Business
One of the great things about the OpenShift Commons events is that customers are both observers and participants. As observers, they are able to get direct insight and roadmaps from the product managers and engineering leads from the open source projects.In addition to an update on Kubernetes 1.6, attendees were presented with roadmaps for OpenShift 3.6 (and beyond), as well as sight about emerging container projects within OCI and CNCF (e.g. containerd, CRI-O, etc.). As participants, they are sharing their experiences about using OpenShift to solve business problems, as well as insight into how they drove those internal projects from concept to execution.
A great example of this was the talk given by Robert Forsstrom, Middleware Platform Architect at Volvo Cars (pictured on right). One of the first applications that they deployed on their OpenShift environment was the online car buying application. The previous instantiation of this ran on older versions of Websphere middleware, with a complex set of integrations into their inventory and supply-chain systems. Not only did they want to modernize their underlying technology stack, but they also wanted to modernize the car buying experience.
Yes, they containerized Websphere (Liberty).
These days, car buyers are more educated and sophisticated about the buying process. As more people are using car-pricing applications like Kelly Blue Book, Edmunds or TrueCar, the negotiation process at the dealership has changed. So Volvo needed to make sure that the car-selection process is equally as advanced, allowing potential buyers to experience the vehicle before visiting a dealer. To accomplish this, Volvo migrated their car buying system to containers and onto the OpenShift platform, which runs both in their own data centers and on the public cloud. The result is much faster deployment times of new updates, and much faster user-experiences by moving the applications closer to the buyers. According to Forsstrom, Volvo expects to move many more of it's applications to the OpenShift platform over the next year
The Wisdom of Crowds
While a large portion of the event was an intersection of Kubernetes and OpenShift, this was by no means the only focus of the day. There were panel discussions featuring leaders from multiple groups within both Kubernetes and the CNCF talking about how to engage with open source projects, as well as the technical direction behind the efforts they were leading. One of the more interesting aspects of this panel was how the CNCF was working with the Cloud Foundry Foundation to create the Open Service Broker API project, which will more easily allow Kubernetes deployments to integrate with 3rd-party service (across multiple clouds) via common APIs and management.
In contrast to the technical architects was another panel which allowed customers, systems-integrators and service-providers to give their experiences working on digital transformation projects. This panel highlighted the power of a "commons" format, as we had several impromptu discussions that involved both the panel and audience about the complexities of security and compliance auditing in banking environments - and nuanced differences between various countries around the European Union. The conversations no doubt spilled out into the after-hours networking event, as both groups realized that this would take a collective effort to work through the re-education of auditors in this rapidly emerging world.
See you in Boston...
Looking back on the OpenShift Commons event in Berlin, it was a great precursor to the next few days at CloudNativeCon and KubeCon. It allowed attendees to get educated on the technical roadmaps and interact with colleagues trying to solve similar business challenges. It allowed them to see the business outcomes of using Enterprise platforms, and then be energized by what's coming next.
At OpenShift Commons Gathering in Boston, adjacent to Red Hat Summit 2017, we'll have an even larger attendance of companies using OpenShift in unique ways. And we'll also have the full spectrum of technology partners who are augmenting OpenShift deployments. It'll be a great event to learn, engage with new people, ask technical questions, and work closely with the people that will be shaping the future. We hope to see you there.