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Bob Wise

A cloud technology unit within Samsung has been quietly growing its presence in Seattle, in another sign of the region’s status as a global center for cloud infrastructure.

Samsung SDS America‘s cloud-native group is a consultancy that advises both its parent — the South Korean electronics giant — and other companies on how to go “cloud native.”

Just two years old in December, the company’s cloud-native team in Seattle now has 17 employees. The Seattle team, part of New Jersey-based Samsung SDS America, is based in Smith Tower, sharing a half-floor with Pixar, and is looking to hire more. Clients include Zonar Systems, which was recently bought by German automotive giant Continental.

“I always tell people, if you want to build apps, go to San Francisco,” Wise said. “If you want to build infrastructure, come to Seattle.”

The phrase “cloud native” doesn’t mean reverting to a more primitive state. Quite the contrary.

“It means moving from old approaches to adopting modern tools and operations using site-reliability engineering, an evolution of the DevOps philosophy,” said Bob Wise, Samsung SDS America’s chief cloud technologist, in a recent interview. “It’s a very hard move to make. The result is developing and deploying software 30 times or 100 times faster, getting into continuous deployment and continuous integration, and taking as many humans out of the (software-development and IT) loop as possible.”

Kubernetes, the Google-originated and now open-sourced technology for wrangling containers, is another big part of the cloud-native movement, and of Samsung SDS America’s business. Containers let developers bundle an application’s components to simplify and improve the experience of developing and deploying software on different operating systems and devices.

Richard Kaufmann

Wise and colleague Richard Kaufmann, a VP with Samsung SDS America, were early advocates of Kubernetes. Six years ago, Wise was the CTO of Melodeo, a mobile music startup bought by Hewlett Packard in 2010. Kaufmann, then HP’s cloud CTO, moved to Samsung SDS America and sought to bring Wise along.

“The original idea was making OpenStack great,” Wise said, referring to the leading open-source private-cloud software. “But at that point, the industry was getting excited about Docker and containers. It became more and more obvious that our strategy should be container-centric. So the deal was we’d work on containerized software, not OpenStack, which I viewed as a weapon from the last war.”

Wise and Kaufmann “got involved very early on with Kubernetes. We needed to make a bet on the future of container orchestration, and we decided that Kubernetes would be it. This was even before version 1.0.” Wise and Joe Beda — a pioneer in the Kubernetes project at Google who recently co-founded Seattle startup Heptio — created the first Kubernetes special-interest group, Wise said. Now Kubernetes is at version 1.4.

“We are consultants, but we come in with a set of open-source software, and one of our fundamental tenets is Kubernetes,” he said. “One problem with OpenStack is that it became so complex that you couldn’t just use it ‘off-trunk’ — right from the open-source project — but needed to have a support company that had packaged it up and done additional work to it. We want Kubernetes to be as usable and great as possible off-trunk. We are deep believers that open source is at the center of invisible, boring infrastructure. Stuff that isn’t noticed but just works.”

To help improve Kubernetes, Samsung SDS just became a platinum member of Kubernetes open-source host the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, and Wise took a seat on that organization’s governing board.

Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure have both embraced Kubernetes as a service, leaving Amazon Web Services as the last major holdout, Wise said. It’s possible to run Kubernetes on AWS now, but it’s not as simple as it could be.

“AWS has done a great job of taking typical things users want to do and wrapping them in automation and putting a dashboard in front of it and taking care of a lot of the operations overhead,” he said. “If it offered Kubernetes as a service with a pricing model that made it cheaper than managing it myself, then great. They’ve done that over and over again, so it’s not a hard guess they’d do it for Kubernetes.” AWS could do the same for Kubernetes rivals such as Mezos, he added.

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