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Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google, addresses attendees at KubeCon 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

AUSTIN – Backers of the open-source Kubernetes container-orchestration project could be forgiven for taking a victory lap this week at Kubecon 2017, given the growth in adoption and capitulation of competitive projects. But the path to ongoing success for this project now lies in making Kubernetes boring again, according to several keynote speakers.

A certain percentage of readers might wonder when Kubernetes stopped being boring. A very complex system for managing clusters of containers at scale, Kubernetes is a difficult project to understand and appreciate unless you know a thing or two about building distributed systems for internet applications.

But Kubernetes might be the most prominent open-source enterprise tech project to emerge in the last few years, as evidenced by the surge in attendees at the yearly Kubecon gathering. After Docker and Mesosphere signaled earlier this year that they would support Kubernetes in their own container-orchestration products, the time for evangelism has passed, and the time for ensuring stability and usability has begun.

“This was the goal the whole time, to get Kubernetes to a place where you can build it and grow the ecosystem from there and keep the core boring,” said Kelsey Hightower, staff developer advocate at Google and easily one of the most prominent Kubernetes evangelists on the planet.

When in Austin, you keep things weird. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

That seems a little at odds with the official slogan of the week, posted nearly everywhere in the Austin Convention Center: “Keep Cloud Native Weird.” But the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s take on the long-time Austin tourism slogan is more “weird” as in “fun and quirky,” not weird as in “mysteriously broken.”

Developing an application should be exciting, but “running an app needs to be boring,” said Clayton Coleman, architect for Kubernetes and Open Shift at Red Hat. When running an app causes excitement, it usually means that someone is scrambling to fix an operations problem gone wrong or yelling at subordinates to figure it out now, and that’s the kind of excitement systems engineers can do without, he said.

Craig McLuckie, CEO of Heptio, discusses Kubernetes at KubeCon 2017. (GeekWire Photo / Tom Krazit)

To that end, the Kubernetes community is now focusing on improving links between the project and public cloud providers, such as Heptio’s announcement that it is working with Microsoft to use its Heptio Ark tool as a way to back up Kubernetes clusters on Microsoft Azure. Microsoft also announced a partnership with Tigera to bring the open-source Project Calico, which helps secure Kubernetes clusters, to Windows Server.

Two engineers from HBO walked attendees through a case study showing how the company implemented Kubernetes to solve scaling issues when the world logged on to HBO Sunday nights to watch episodes of Game of Thrones, allowing them to focus on the excitement of the song of fire and ice rather than the excitement of getting paged to deal with server issues.

And now that all the major cloud vendors offer a managed version of Kubernetes on their services, that makes it even more important for the Kubernetes community to ensure that the core is stable, said Craig McLuckie, CEO of Seattle-based Heptio.

“We’re getting into a situation where it doesn’t matter who is delivering Kubernetes, what matters is how it runs,” he said.

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