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InfoQ Homepage News KubeCon EU, CNCF Community, and the Role of the Cloud during the Pandemic: Q&A with Priyanka Sharma

KubeCon EU, CNCF Community, and the Role of the Cloud during the Pandemic: Q&A with Priyanka Sharma

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InfoQ recently caught up with Priyanka Sharma, general manager of CNCF, to discuss the upcoming virtual KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU event. Topics also discussed included the role of the cloud, open source, and the current and future work of the foundation in these unprecedented times in which we are all living.

Sharma was recently announced as the GM of CNCF, and as such this will be her first KubeCon event in this new role. She will not be alone, though, as this will be a new experience for many due to the conference being run as a virtual event on August 17-20, resulting from the global pandemic limiting the organization of in-person events.

The pandemic has fundamentally changed business models -- sometimes for better, and sometimes for the worse -- and the adoption of cloud has played a significant role here in regards to both driving innovation and providing capabilties to elastically meet increased customer demand. CNCF aims to empower all organizations to be capable of harnessing cloud technologies and the related architectures and processes.

Sharma is an advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), both personally and professionally. In the discussion she outlined steps that CNCF are taking to further increase DE&I initiatives within the community.

InfoQ: Due to the global pandemic, it’s been a very strange year for everyone so far. What different approaches are you taking to keep the cloud native community robust and growing?

Priyanka Sharma: It has been a strange year, but the challenges are really ones that open source -- and thus, CNCF -- was built for. Our lives have gone remote. Our challenges have gone global. Everybody has had to pivot and do everything online in a world where online solutions are having to catch up to the needed scale. With some businesses growing exponentially because of the pandemic, others are facing different challenges. No one knows what business conditions will be next month, much less next year. In such a rapidly changing environment, we need innovation from anywhere and everywhere more than ever.

And that is exactly what open source provides, and our goal at CNCF remains to enable the cloud native ecosystem to reach its full potential by supporting this foundation of doers. That ecosystem includes project creators, maintainers, contributors, the builders who provide the technology, the end users who consume the technology, and the many unsung heroes who work in the background to ensure projects progress.

InfoQ: Let’s specifically talk about Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DE&I). Are you happy with the state of DE&I with CNCF community in general, and if, not what specific steps are you taking?

Sharma: Open source often reflects what is best in our society --people joining together from across the world to provide solutions to issues relevant to anyone touched by technology, and often for the betterment of societies.

The challenges faced by underrepresented communities, however, are meaningful even in this supportive environment. Systemic issues with the education system have prevented many talented individuals from discovering and thriving in our industry.

Bottomline: CNCF stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and equality for all. That said, recent events have taught us that we need to understand, empathize, and do more, as a foundation and as an open source ecosystem. I am personally involved in a project to eradicate racially problematic terminology from code.

As far as specific steps, CNCF is actively working to improve the gender and racial balance inside the cloud native ecosystem. Since 2016, CNCF has offered more than 1,000 diversity scholarships to traditionally underrepresented and/or marginalized groups in the technology and/or open source communities—including, but not limited to persons identifying as LGBTQ, women, persons of color, and/or persons with disabilities—to attend KubeCon + CloudNativeCon events.

We’re helping to make their voices heard, as well. At the 2019 show, 42% of keynotes were led by women or non-binary/other genders. At the Diversity Lunch + Hack, which drew 250 attendees, round table discussions were held about diversity and inclusion and opportunities to get hands-on with Kubernetes.

The Cloud Native Community is wonderfully diverse, and we want everyone to feel safe being part of it. That’s why we’re also taking steps, along with many others, to eradicate racially-charged language from software code.

InfoQ: Can you talk about Cloud Computing and CNCF in this new world and how it’s making an impact today and going forward?

Sharma: CNCF, the cloud native community and open source was built exactly for the unprecedented challenges our world is facing.

We need innovation from anywhere, and everywhere, not only to deal with the pandemic, but to enable our companies, governments, and entire economies to come out stronger than ever, more nimble, more agile, more innovative.

Open source -- whose full power and potential have been unleashed by the cloud and collaboration among people like all of us -- will be the key. The ecosystem needs support now more than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has driven a huge uptick in cloud adoption. Workflows are moving online faster than ever. More people are using online banking; more people utilize e-commerce. We’re amid a huge shift. As a result, more companies are becoming cloud native in order to support the scale of traffic as online consumption increases.

As the demand for cloud native increases, so does the need for CNCF to support the ecosystem. We, as the foundation, need to support end users with education and enablement, certifications, [and] training programs — just to get them across that chasm into a new, even more online-focused reality. We need to support people looking for new development opportunities, and companies that need new technology to help them grow during the pandemic. My guiding principle is to say “yes” to everything -- and only stop short on things that I may not be able to offer to everybody.

CNCF’s core mission is to make cloud native computing ubiquitous. That was true before the pandemic and it is still true today.

InfoQ: Obviously the Kubernetes community has been very successful. What other technologies and trends coming out of CNCF should developers and architects pay attention to?

Sharma: Trends we think will shape our community for the next few years:

  • Greater demand for “pandemic” compute resources
  • The rise of DevSecOps
  • Edge and IoT driving the next chapter of devices
  • More diversity, and more diverse development. Diversity creates excellence, so this is critical and we must help nurture this
  • Large wave of open source innovation being driven by end user communities
Another trend that we’ll see is greater end-user participation. Until now, the Googles, Netflixs, Amazons, those who knew distributed systems before others, led the charge. They did it super well. But since 2016 things have evolved. Now, end users are increasingly sophisticated so they’ll guide each other, the vendors, and how things evolve. I’m predicting more collaboration and bi-directional innovation.

Serverless and service mesh are definitely key topics of discussion in our ecosystem. There is a lot of interest to welcome more projects to round out the cloud native experience. There are core infrastructure projects, which we’re doing a good job of attracting, and affiliate-type projects that are related, which can improve the developer experience. Projects adjacent to cloud native infrastructure improve how productive web and application developers can be when working with cloud native tech.

InfoQ: Let’s talk about the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon next week. What will be the focus and how is it going to be different from previous Kubecons and other webinars?

Sharma: As its the first virtual KubeCon + CloudNativeCon event, the team has been working hard to make sure it is educational, engaging, and most importantly, fun.

We have:

The interactivity, games, live chats with leading cloud native technologists are all what make KubeCon stand out from the other bite-sized content. This is the place we all come together as one. The energy at KubeCon EU Virtual will be like one never seen before.

InfoQ: Anything else you want to add and would like to share or mention to the readers?

Sharma: I know times are challenging for many of us right now. Know that we stand together. #TeamCloudNative will come out of 2020 stronger than ever. Come to KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU Virtual next week and experience the power of cloud native.

Sign up here -

The myriad of projects that CNCF is involved in are listed in CNCF Cloud Native Interactive Landscape.

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