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InfoQ Homepage News Q&A with Canonical's Alex Chalkias about Kubernetes 1.19 Enterprise Support and KubeCon

Q&A with Canonical's Alex Chalkias about Kubernetes 1.19 Enterprise Support and KubeCon

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Canonical recently announced enterprise support for Kubernetes 1.19 as a precusor to the just concluded KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2020.

InfoQ caught up with Alex Chalkias, product manager at Canonical at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU 2020, regarding the announcement, the future of Kubernetes, and how Canonical is enabling its adoption in the enterprise.

Chalkias talked about the long association of Canonical with Linux, Kubernetes and the cloud, and how that has enabled enterprises to move from a traditional monolith in the Data Center to a more modern Cloud Native environment.

InfoQ: The Kubernetes release team has not formally launched Kubernetes 1.19 (note: not released at the time of the interview yet). Having said that, let’s start with the recent announcement of Canonical’s enterprise support for Kubernetes 1.19. Can you touch upon the momentum of Kubernetes in general and some important features of Kubernetes 1.19?

Alex Chalkias: The global unrest had an impact on the Kubernetes latest release that led to an unprecedented 20 weeks release cycle to allow people to take the necessary personal time to adjust. As Kubernetes matures, releases being scarcer will probably become the norm, as its long term support (LTS) was extended to 12-14 months. Kubernetes 1.19 brought some interesting evolutions, such as the tracking of the API level that prevents APIs from staying in beta for too long and gives warnings in case a deprecated API is being used.

We are also excited about the client TLS certificate rotation for Kubelet, an important security feature that graduated to stable with 1.19. Finally, the storage capacity tracking feature, that allows Kubernetes to monitor persistent storage drives when choosing where to deploy a pod, helps with resource allocation and paves the way for dynamic storage provisioning.

InfoQ: How does Canonical add value to the community distribution of Kubernetes?

Chalkias: Canonical has two distributions that are fully conformant with upstream Kubernetes. Charmed Kubernetes brings a multi-cloud Kubernetes for the enterprise, with declarative operations from day 0 to day 1500 to help businesses focus on their cloud-native applications rather than container orchestration and the underlying infrastructure. MicroK8s is zero-ops Kubernetes for workstations, edge and IoT appliances that includes the most popular Kubernetes add-ons and gives users a Kubernetes on-rails from development to production.

InfoQ: Let’s talk about the recently concluded KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU 2020. What did you think of the virtual experience and the primary takeaways for developers and architects?

Chalkias: To this day, the technologies that drive virtual events still face challenges in replicating the personal interactions of a live event. Nevertheless, both the Linux Foundation event team and the CNCF community organised a very successful and inclusive virtual event with interesting sessions and activities for technical as well as business audiences.

The main takeaways were:

  • The significant growth of the CNCF community - as businesses try to adapt to the Covid-era through cloud adoption, more projects continue to join its ranks and more users contribute to the projects and attending the events
  • The focus of the CNCF to end-users through case study sessions, an end-user panel and an end-user-driven Technology Radar
  • The rapid rise of service mesh technologies, with 18% of businesses using service mesh in production, with solutions such as Consul, Istio, Linkerd, Envoy, OpenService Mesh and others.

InfoQ: The Service Mesh was a much talked about subject at the conference. Are there any specific plans from Canonical to make the adoption of it and related technologies easier?

Chalkias: Both our distributions already support Istio and Linkerd service meshes. We are monitoring the work of the community on service mesh developments that we could integrate into our distributions and working with our customers in their adoption of this technology.

InfoQ: Switching gears, Canonical has been working with Microsoft and announced WSL 2 GA for windows. Can you talk about the motivation, architecture, momentum and the roadmap for WSL, and how this has enabled cloud adoption?

Chalkias: We have been partnering with Microsoft since the beginning of the Windows Subsystem for Linux. The goal was to provide more options and make Ubuntu more accessible to all developers. WSL 2 introduced a major shift because it’s based on a new architecture that provides full Linux binary application compatibility and improved performance. WSL 2 is powered by a real Linux kernel in a lightweight virtual machine that boots in under two seconds. Through our partnership with Microsoft, we have designed Ubuntu 20.04 LTS to pair perfectly and enhance the capabilities of WSL 2.

We’ve seen tremendous adoption from enterprises in leveraging Ubuntu on WSL 2. They’re saving on costs while enhancing their workstations for AI/ML, cloud devops, and a seamless, highly interoperable hybrid environment. Next for WSL, we will be delivering GPU and GUI application support. These new features will unlock workflows for users of Ubuntu on WSL like NVIDIA CUDA and DirectML support for GPU accelerated applications and development to enable Kubeflow on MicroK8s. Additionally, Linux GUI application support will enhance native and cross-platform development with tools such as GNOME Builder, KDevelop, and Emacs. With even more ideas in development, we will be doing a sneak preview of new features and roadmap items during our microWSLConf on September 9/10th.

InfoQ: There is significant momentum behind Kubernetes and Cloud Native communities. What are some of the major challenges in enterprise adoption of these technologies and how does Canonical plan to alleviate some of these concerns? Anything else you want to add?

Chalkias: Kubernetes is still a fairly new technology. That brings challenges to businesses, especially the ones that are not on the cutting edge of technology.

The most significant challenge in Kubernetes adoption has to do with datacenter economics, as businesses struggle to decide if it makes economic sense for them to move from monolithic, legacy applications to microservice architectures and containerised apps. That cost is often linked to the migration effort but another significant set of challenges has to do with the cost of operating a Kubernetes cloud and the relatively low number of Kubernetes experts in the market.

People think about the effort of upgrading the clusters without impacting the running workloads or applying security patches during traffic peak times. As the Kubernetes landscape is ever growing and changing, finding “full cloud-native stack” experts is still difficult. Our plan is to act as a trusted advisor to businesses looking to move to Kubernetes and cloud-native architectures or the ones that look at Kubernetes as a commodity and want to reduce their infrastructure costs to invest in innovation.

Our Kubernetes distributions allow us to address any possible use case in a multi-cloud environment, from cloud to edge, from development to production. We also propose a fully-managed Kubernetes for companies that lack the expertise.

More details on the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU 2020 conference can be found on the event website. All of the session recordings are now available via the CNCF's YouTube channel.

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