4 min read

The IT Revolution of Containers – Reflections from KubeCon

Attending KubeCon this week reminded me of the early days of VMs and cloud where there was a palpable buzz in the air of a once-a-generation transformation that is truly changing the world of IT.

While VMs transformed the world of servers (solving the underutilized server problem) and cloud transformed/ing the world of datacenters (solving the agility problem), containers are transforming the world of applications (solving the portability problem).

In a week filled with amazing stats of the explosion of containers, the most interesting facts I heard were expressed in the numbers 100, 600 and 50 – and what I mean by that is that there were 100 people who attended the pre-day Container Native Storage session, with 600 (not a typo!) registered on the waiting list with 50 of them actually showing up and sitting in the hallways all day awaiting an opening. With the announced attendance of 8,000, that means almost 10% elected to give up a Sunday to learn about the latest in container native storage, which by the way was only one of 26 pre summits/workshops offered. Containers are that hot, and container-native storage is even hotter.

With containers and KubeCon, though, there were distinct differences compared to similarly adjusted maturities of early VMworld or AWS re:Invent conferences which I have attended regularly.

  • This is an all open source, all the time ecosystem. There are so many projects with so many contributors, that even a cheat sheet is confusing. But make no mistake, if you aren’t into open source, you aren’t a player. I would anticipate this complexity getting worse before it gets better as it is a complex set of building blocks that is needed. And for sure, many of these initiatives will not see the light of day and some that do will not succeed. It is the price you pay as an industry to fill out the ecosystem. See below and you will instantly understand.


  • Best of breed wins the day. Given the complexity of the ecosystem and the proliferation of APIs, the best solution will prevail. Gone are the days with the ‘single neck to choke’ or ‘vertical stack’ or ‘no one got fired for buying IBM’ philosophy of CIOs. I had a CIO from a Fortune 2000 company tell me recently, ‘it used to be if you wanted to buy a start up’s product you had to provide justification. Now, if you want to buy the big OEMs products, you need to provide justification’.
  • There is no 800 pound Gorilla in containers like VMware was to virtualization or Amazon is to cloud (or Intel if you want to go back to the industry standard server days). Yes, Google was the pioneer and has hundreds (thousands?) of dedicated personnel but this is truly a shared, industry effort with literally every single player in attendance participating and most contributing.
  • Containers represents both a threat and an opportunity to all the players. It was the first show of its type where I saw both existing and new companies play important roles in creating the future. Think of a show, any show, and it will be clearly anchored either in the past (think HPE Discover, Oracle World) or the future (think re:Invent, AI Summit, Dreamscape) where it is obvious who are leading and who are desperately trying to avoid the Innovators Dilemma death pile.
  • The diversity was not just with companies but noticeable with the presenters. At one point, more than half of the presenters at the keynote were women, led by an outstanding MC performance from Liz Rice of Aqua. This was a welcomed and necessary change from any of the hundred plus conferences I have attended over my career. No matter what anyone says, the abysmal representation of women in engineering and management positions in tech today will only change when young female could-be-engineers see older versions of themselves in similar roles. Props to all the presenters this week from all walks of life.

For those of you that didn’t experience the early days of virtualization or cloud, enjoy this IT revolution called containers. We are in the golden age of IT transformation with containers leading the way.

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