Cloud native ecosystem in danger of melting, Kubecon audience warned

Cloud native ecosystem in danger of melting, Kubecon audience warned

The cloud native world is in danger of “glacial melt” if it doesn’t do a better job of attracting new contributors and maintainers to key open source projects, the chair of the CNCF’s technical oversight committee chair told Kubecon Europe today.

Emily Fox, whose day job is as a security engineer at Apple Cloud Services, said “Experience and innovation is what allows us to make better and more informed decisions to sustain some of these amazing projects and communities. That information is actually what I call knowledge glaciers.”

But just as real world glaciers are prone to destruction by glacial melt, due to climate and other factors, the “foundational knowledge” underpinning the CNCF’s vast landscape of projects is also at danger of melting.

Eight years after the CNCF’s foundation, “We’re seeing less and less individuals step into leadership roles. Because the time to onboard into these positions is non-existent, that places us in a reactive mode, having that gap in knowledge with no one ready to transition into those roles. And this is where glacial melt actually begins to accelerate for our projects.”

Additional pressure comes from having to deal with other “Environmental and social factors, like the early proliferation of AI, and its impact on our projects and our groups.”

At the same time, she said, “We also see acquisitions and shifts in the companies and individuals behind several of these projects.” A number of big open source names were caught up in Google’s recent layoffs, for example.

Combined with the stress and potential burnout project maintainers often labor under, this “Impacts this information from being transferred from one generation of cloud native contributors to the next.”

Often maintainers have been sustaining projects longer than intended, leading to burnout and even “guilt” because “They want to try something new, they want something that’s exciting, but there are no contributors in place within their project to step in behind them.”

She called for more project contributors to come forward – a plea made in multiple other sessions at Kubecon – and for the community to focus on succession planning. “Because our institutional knowledge is beginning to slip away as we experience turnover in cloud native.”

Fox was speaking after another keynote session from VMware engineer, and technical lead for k8s SIG Contributor Experience, Nikhita Raghunath and CERN computing engineer, and technical oversight committee member, Ricardo Rocha, which acknowledged that one of the challenges facing the CNCF was simply the rapid growth in the number of projects it oversaw.

“We’re trying to adapt our processes to deal with this,” said Rocha.

Raghunath said one of the CNCF’s responses was “cloud native guideposts.”

As the name suggests, these are guiding points that have assisted past cloud native projects to mature and grow in the cloud native ecosystem.

“We are also reworking some of the criteria for projects to move from incubation to graduation,” she added.

Needless to say, this is a huge effort, said Fox. “So we are first looking to collect feedback from maintainers and community members.”