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A Cloud Without Handcuffs


4 min read

Brandon Philips, Co-Founder & CTO, CoreOS, and Joe Beda, CTO, Heptio, & Co-Founder, Kubernetes

Moderator: Alex Dyner, Head of Special Projects, Cloudflare

We’re exploring increasing risk of few companies locking in customers gaining more power over time.

AD: I want to hear your stories about how you got into what you do.

JB: Kubernetes faced problem of either having googlers use rbs or bring X to rest of world. We wanted to have Googlers and outside people using something similar. We chose to do it as open source because you play a different game when you’re the underdog. Through open source we could garner interest. We wanted to provide applicational mobility.

AD: Brandon, talk about your mission and why you started company.

BP: We started CoreOS four years ago; We spent a lot of time thinking about this problem and containers were natural choice. They are necessary for achieving our mission. We wanted to allow people to have mobility around their applications. We wanted to enable new security model through containers. So we started building a product portfolio

AD: There are tradeoffs between using a container or an open source tech; how do you think about those tradeoffs?

BP: First Kubernetes is providing application-centric view. The abstraction is: how do we create a platform? Also, how to build useful integrations?

The project tries to build useful integrations. It’s really about that initial abstraction.

JB: One useful comparison is Kubernetes for is a kernel for system. There is a feeling that we want to keep Kubernetes as flexible kernel, while recognizing that you have to build integrations & user mode on top of it.

AD: How do you talk about different levels (developer, operational)?

JB: The advice i give is that lock-in is unavoidable. The question is: What is the risk of that lock-in? You have to weigh that risk against the benefits. If you’re a startup, you’re not worried about the risk of moving away from a public cloud network. Vs. very large company. There are certain types of lock-in that present problem for operations vs. development teams. Kubernetes makes it an operational problem versus a developmental problem.

BP: Operational: by using Kubernetes, people can bring up dev environments and test on internal infrastructure in our office. This is already providing value.

On the app side, risk comes in when cloud providers build databases where data is tied to the data center. Abstraction allows developers to be free from data center.

AD: How does that work over time?

BP: For many organizations it comes down to cost benefit analysis. They look at their application code, figure out how long they’re locked-in. Leverage only comes when you can call a bluff.
Basically a business decision.

JB: It’s a new type of technical debt.
There is no one answer.

AD: As less people can do this, salaries of mainframe programmers are going up now; what do you think about that?

JP: There is an analogy between the big public clouds and the legacy mainframe

Legacy mainframe vs. public cloud. Even if no longer preferred choice, it will have a long future. It’s here to stay, even if world moves on.

BP: The larger companies will be competing against the major tech companies that run clouds. We don’t have a term. Is it “cloud debt”? Cloud technical debt? It’s a nascent topic but becoming important.
A new challenge .

JB: Data gravity.

AD: A lot of this is about Amazon---are other large vendors approaching this because of their market position?

JB: Amazon is the big elephant for sure. But this goes beyond Amazon. When you look at Kubernetes in containers, it provides a model that did not exist before Amazon. Amazon has been struggling to find balance between infrastructure and ease of use.

So what is making this layer of infrastructure so interesting is not just multi-cloud strategy, but a different way of thinking about programming and automating applications.

The interesting stuff is how we utilize this new tool set.

BP: It’s about making and ensuring the tech works across the board. When Kubernetes started the tech wasn’t there yet for it to run on Amazon. One of our first challenges was to make it possible to get Kubernetes on Amazon. It’s an ongoing technological battle to figure out abstractions and making cloud providers innovators themselves in data and network storage, etc.

AD: What’s the counter to, yes, CoreOS will help me not get locked into Amazon?

BP: Customers are getting APIs. We’re giving customers an API that we don’t modify and they get upstream Kubernetes. We take open source software and integrate it; they can put that integration into their own apps.
It’s about taking pieces and providing an adhesive experience.

Not just infrastructure but application monitoring
A lot of value of the cloud is that it automates operations.

We provide you with open source software that is automated.

Software venders have to start providing value proposition of resecuring infrastructure when a vulnerability appears in the cloud. “Zero-toil automation”


Q: Customers with critical applications usually use multiple networks; is this one value proposition of the cloud lock-in argument?

BP: we have seen both; it Depends on their internal risk assessment. You can have beautiful architecture about how your business will survive but if you don’t have applications around it, it’s all pointless.

JB: Geography is important. Having a substrate to write app against is important.

BP: It will be interesting as we see global distribution of compute network and storage, the different cost-benefit analyses that will be available. A lot of competition will arise outside of the US in terms of building data centers.

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Ryan Knight|@yank

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