The cloud native computing community seems to coalesce around a single idea: that applications should be distributed across multiple nodes. View in browser »
The New Stack Update

ISSUE 240: Kubernetes without the Developer Experience

Talk Talk Talk

“We’ve sliced and diced and spread everything around that now there is a hundred points of failure instead of just one.”

___’s Charity Majors
Add It Up

Chief Information Officers are deluding themselves if they think digital transformation via cloud native technologies such as Kubernetes is going to be easy.

Most people surveyed by Vanson Bourne for the lastest D2iQ ebook believe Kubernetes is a central part of their organization’s digital transformation strategy. Perspective is important. IT decision-makers in the study believe digital transformation is about changing how IT operates. Meanwhile, developers, architects or DevOps engineers think of digital transformation as more of a vague management strategy as opposed to an IT initiative that can be completed.

Slightly more than half (54%) of IT decision-makers believe their organizations’ long-term success depends on getting past initial Kubernetes deployments to run successful cloud native applications without some hiccups. In contrast, half as many (27%) of respondents with the developer, architect or DevOps roles say so, choosing instead to believe that cloud native apps in production are either a “nice to have” or “not worth the headache or resources.”

The cloud native workforce’s core of developers, architects and DevOps engineers is not in a rush to transform, but 93% believe their organization’s adoption of Kubernetes increases their job security. They go along with management’s vision of digital transformation driven by cloud native technologies because building applications these systems is exciting and increases their long-term employability.

What's Happening

Welcome to The New Stack Makers: Scaling New Heights, a series of interviews, conducted by Scalyr CEO Christine Heckart, who interviews engineers about the problems they have faced and the resolutions they sought.

These are the stories about engineering management and how technology decisions are made for scaling architectures to support the demands of the business.

Pooja Brown is vice president of engineering at online personal style shoppers Stitch Fix and also one of the founding members of ENG, a peer network of vice presidents and chief technology officers from leading SaaS companies. Brown spends most of the discussion talking about the work in developing a modern infrastructure prior to her work at Stitch Fix.

The Hero in Four Acts: We’ve Got This, WTF, Oh Shift, We Did It

Kubernetes without the Developer Experience

The cloud native computing community seems to coalesce around a single idea: that applications should be distributed across multiple nodes. This approach is essential not only for scalability but also for resilience and continuity of operations. The industry has settled on Kubernetes as the de-facto platform for running these distributed applications, as well as the idea that the process of developing distributed applications should be as possible. As a result, developers should need to know little, if anything, about how Kubernetes — not known for its simplicity — actually works.

In a talk earlier this year, Microsoft Azure Chief Technology Officer Mark Russinovich discussed the challenges that raw Kubernetes bring to the developer, thanks to the inadequate separation of concerns: “When somebody's creating a deployment for Kubernetes, they're mixing application developer concerns in with operator concerns, in with infrastructure operator concerns. And so, as a developer authoring one of these manifests, you've got to know all of these different concepts related to the infrastructure, which distracts you from your core goal, which is to define the application.” In his talk, he was introducing the Rudr runtime application platform, and the Dapr distributed application runtime — two projects to take the worry of infrastructure from the developer’s plate

And those aren’t the only projects to try to abstract away Kubernetes. Last week, for instance, HashiCorp’s released open source remote access software Boundary that promises to provide an easy way for developers to hook into cloud native services, such as those run on Kubernetes. The old way relied on VPNs, or ssh access, which could compromise a private network with leaked credentials. This approach was also difficult to maintain given that the IP numbers of the needed services might always be changing. HashiCorp instead built access on policy, which restricts access and can be set through Infrastructure-as-code tools. 

Microsoft is also working to make Kubernetes easier through its new Akri project. Akri brings Kubernetes to the edge by exposing leaf devices, such as the sensors, cameras, controllers, and microcontroller unit (MCU) class devices that produce data and perform actions. Again, the goal is to take the complexity out of managing these edge devices through Kubernetes. The dev simply instructs Akri what type of device to detect and the discovery protocol needed to do so, then Akri deploys an agent on each node that can discover that specific type of leaf device and exposes those devices to Kubernetes clusters as extended resources. 

As the focus of development moves from Kubernetes itself to the cloud experience for the developer, The New Stack will continue to keep you apprised of the latest news. 

You Don’t Need a Blockchain, You Need a Time-Series Database

Although blockchains have been touted for several years now, does your enterprise really need one? In this contributed post, Nicolas Hourcard of database support company QuestDB argues that for many applications, a highly performant time-series database is what you may need instead. About blockchain’s chief feature, Hourcard writes that “Most enterprise applications do not need decentralization in the first place and are best served by a centralized database with a single point of truth. If time is your primary axis, time-series databases are your best bet.”

Kubernetes Portability: Must-Have or Shiny Object Syndrome?

What exactly does it mean when we talk about how Kubernetes is portable? As with other aspects of Kubernetes, there’s a mix of what end-users think they want, what they actually end up using and the buzzwords that are thrown around in the industry but don’t necessarily reflect the actual way most organizations use technology. A technically sophisticated, small, young startup might move between clouds and actually make use of Kubernetes’ promised portability. But it’s a very different story for most end users. 

Most Organizations are Overtesting Software — and Also Undertesting

When it comes to testing their software, organizations are guilty of having both too few AND too many tests. They are simultaneously overexposed to risk and unable to pivot fast. Wolfgang Platz of Tricentis explains how organizations both undertest their own custom applications while at the same time overtest the commercial software packages that they purchase. “Testing packaged app updates is often a lengthy, manual ordeal. Business process tests may be outdated — or worse, undocumented — making the exercise frustrating and error-prone,” Platz writes. 

Party On
Rachel Stephens, industry analyst at RedMonk, and Katie Gamanji, cloud platform engineer at
American Express & CNCF TOC (pictured left to right) . Thanks also to Joab Jackson, managing editor at The New Stack, and Steven Vaughan-Nichols, contributing editor at CBS/ZDNet, for also discussing the top trends and topics we are going to be following for the CNCF’s North America event.
We had an awesome Open Service Mesh demo from Michelle Noorali (left), senior software engineer at Microsoft; and Ryan McKinley (right) of Grafana Labs did a demo of Grafana’s observability features. Also presenting were Phil Prasek, principal product manager at Upbound who showed Crossplane; James Roper, cloud architect, at Lightbend who showed Cloudstate; and Torin Sandall, vice president of open source and co-creator of Open Policy Agent at Styra, who showed Open Policy Agent.

Lauren Bacon, a strategist for &yet, drew on her deep well of experience for her talk at Cloud Foundry Summit Europe: "The Diversity Conversation: Making the Invisible Visible: Seeing, Respecting and Valuing Care and Maintenance in our Code and Beyond."

On The Road
Open Source Summit Europe // OCT. 26-29 // VIRTUAL @ GREENWICH MEAN TIME (GMT)


Open Source Summit Europe

Want to be part of the hottest trends in open source? Then sit your tush down for the virtual version of the Open Source Summit. This show is going to be hot. Register now!

The New Stack Makers podcast is available on: — 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.
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