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Reviewing last year’s new technologies and looking forward to the year head, we found one trend that will no doubt continue to be big in 2021. View in browser »
The New Stack Update

ISSUE 248: 2020 Technology of the Year: Kubernetes Control Planes 

Talk Talk Talk

“I think because ... [the climate crisis] is such a huge issue, it’s so easy to say 'It’s so big so nothing I can do will make a difference so let’s all do nothing.’ Our industry is one that consumes a lot of energy so small actions that we take can actually have a big impact.”

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Holly Cummins, IBM, on ways the IT industry can work to fight climate change
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How to Help Software Engineering Teams Modernize Their Application Architecture Skills

Organizations are twice as likely to have a successful digital platform if event-driven architecture (EDA) is used to build that platform. Based on a survey of 200 IT leaders conducted half a year ago, the “Gartner 2020 Building Digital Platforms Study” identified the digital platforms’ goals (e.g., efficiency, business growth) and respondents rated success based on these criteria. Overall, 67% of IT leaders with a highly successful digital platform utilize EDA. Among the remaining three-quarters of the study, only 28% utilize EDA in their platforms.

Does event-driven architecture by itself make a platform more successful? Probably not, but it is a better indicator that modern software design approaches are being used than, say, cloud native and agile/DevOps, both of which have become prerequisites. Although streaming data usually utilizes EDA, it just describes a narrow type of technology implementation rather than an approach that can produce business value. Terms like microservices and serverless were not included in the survey question, but they have been tainted by marketing hype. For now, “event-driven architecture” appears to be a good indicator that modern software engineering practices are being utilized.

What's Happening

Welcome to The New Stack Makers: Scaling New Heights, a series of interviews, conducted by Scalyr CEO Christine Heckart, that cover the challenges engineering managers have faced when scaling architectures to support the demands of the business.

Uber. Recall the company in 2017: the management, the scale, and the post by then Uber engineer Susan Fowler, which detailed her terrible run-in with the workplace sexism that plagued the company at the time. Uber had scalability issues to confront, but also, less known at the time, it was crippled by serious HR issues as well, ones that left Fowler, an invaluable microservices expert, totally alienated from the company.

Site reliability engineering was new to Uber, as the company’s engineers were still developing microservices that broke off from what she describes as its “monolithic” API. It was an exciting time to be at Uber. She chose a team to work with that would play to her expertise. And then the troubles started. Her manager said he was looking for women to have sex with. From that point, it just got worse. Fowler captured her experience in her subsequent book “Whistleblower.”

In this interview with Heckart, Donald Sumbry, who was at Uber then and now heads reliability engineering at Airbnb, was not aware of the issues internally at Uber, due, he says, to the work and all the technical problems that needed resolving.

Scaling New Heights EP #8 - Making a Difference at Airbnb, the Story of a Reliability Engineer

2020 Technology of the Year: Kubernetes Control Planes

Reviewing last year’s new technologies and looking forward to the year head, we found one trend that will no doubt continue to be big in 2021: Kubernetes-based control planes. The time has come, as we have long observed, to do something about the complexity that Kubernetes, and cloud services in general, pose to developers. A universal control plane is a way to solve this issue.

A universal control plane would set the stage for enterprises to build their own Kubernetes-based self-service style Platform as a Service for their developers. "In many organizations, it is an anti-pattern to give developers direct access to the cloud. It's a very large surface area of things that they can get wrong," Upbound CEO Bassam Tabbara explained in a one-day virtual event dedicated to control planes last month, hosted by his company.

Crossplane is Upbound’s own open source control plane, and it has garnered a lot of early buzz in this field: IBM is testing Crossplane now to help users unify operations on its IBM Cloud. Kubernetes powers the control plane, though the developers need not worry about it. The crucial early work was a standardized template called the Open Application Model (OAM), which is quickly becoming the de facto standard in the Kubernetes community. Another OAM-based project gaining traction is KubeVela, an extensible “platform engine,” as the developers of the project explained.

This year, we went the extra distance in looking over the growing portfolio of technologies we cover at TNS, to pinpoint which ones made the biggest impact in the cloud native world, and which ones you should watch more closely in the year to come. 

TNS Senior Editor Richard MacManus took a look at the world of web development and found six notable trends worth keeping an eye on, including the continued growth of serverless, React and JavaScript development, the emergence of Jamstack as a “serverless” alternative to web applications, as well as the use of “progressive” web apps. AI reporter Kimberly Mok offered a terrific summary of the latest in machine learning, including big gains in natural language processing and AI’s growing use in both scientific research and mass surveillance

Cloud reporter Mary Branscombe offered a wide-ranging overview of the cloud services space. The year ahead, she predicts, will see organizations taking a serious look at their cloud expenditures, looking for ways to optimize their IT spend. And TNS culture reporter David Cassel takes a look at all the other geeky news we may have missed during the past tumultuous year, such as former Microsoft CTO Nathan Myhrvold revealing the fascinating results of his 18-month project to take high-resolution photographs of snowflakes.

And finally, for the podcast listeners out there, TNS European correspondent B. Cameron Gain compiled a list of our top podcast episodes from the past year, discussing everything from the evolution of the service mesh to climate change.

Want to Save the World? Start by Cutting Your Cloud Costs

Wrapping our heads around the immensity and urgency of the climate crisis has become a challenge unto itself. But there are things that the IT industry do to cut back on excessive energy use, and ease global climate change. In this special report, TNS Correspondent Jennifer Riggins talks to industry leaders to learn what can be done, and how you can start in your own data center.

MIT Machine Learning Uses ‘Graph Grammar’ to Automate and Optimize Robot Design

At the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, researchers are proposing a kind of “robot grammar” system to create robots that can be automatically optimized to the needs of the moment, and for different kinds of terrain. The secret sauce is “graph grammar,” a technique borrowed from computer science where a series of related objects — or “graph” — generates new abstractions that adhere to a set of transformational rules, much like how grammar rules affect the way human languages are structured.

USENIX: Jupyter Notebooks Could Help SREs Better Sleuth Incidents

Jupyter notebooks, an open source tool originally designed for the scientific research community, could be a valuable aid in helping site reliability engineers (SREs) and other operational folk investigate, document and even recreate fixes for site incidents. Both jobs, after all, require sleuthing and scrupulous notetaking to get at the truth. Read about the latest in this thinking from the USENIX SREcon 2020 virtual event last month.

On The Road
Pancake Breakfast & Podcast // JAN.12, 2021 // VIRTUAL @ 9:00AM PT

JAN.12, 2021 // VIRTUAL @ 9:00AM PT

Pancake Breakfast & Podcast

It’s not the World Wide Waffle, it’s pancakes and data management time at the helm with the Kubernetes and Apache Cassandra crew! Join us for a short stack with The New Stack as we get to the bottom of the batter and discuss who manages data in Kubernetes, anyways? Who are these people, what are their biggest challenges, what tools are available, and what does the next five years look like? Pass the syrup, Cassandra! Register now.

The New Stack Makers podcast is available on:
SoundCloudFireside.fm — Pocket CastsStitcher — Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotifyTuneIn

Technologists building and managing new stack architectures join us for short conversations at conferences out on the tech conference circuit. These are the people defining how applications are developed and managed at scale.
Copyright © 2021 The New Stack, All rights reserved.


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