Kubernetes Grows Up – The View from KubeCon EU 2019

Our little Kubernetes is growing up.

By “growing up” I mean it is almost in a state that a mainstream company can consider it fit for production. While there are several factors that act as a drag against mainstream reception, a lack of completeness has been a major force against Kubernetes broader acceptance. Completeness, in this context, means that all the parts of an enterprise platform are available off the shelf and won’t require a major engineering effort on the part of conventional IT departments.

The good news from KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 in Barcelona, Spain (May 20 – 23 2019) is that the Kubernetes and related communities are zeroing in on that ever so important target. There are a number of markers pointing toward mainstream acceptance. Projects are filling out the infrastructure – gaining completeness – and the community is growing.

Project Updates

While Kubernetes may be at the core, there are many supporting projects that are striving to add capabilities to the ecosystem that will result in a more complete platform for microservices. Some of the projects featured in the project updates show the drive for completeness. For example, OpenEBS and Rook are two projects striving to make container storage more enterprise friendly. Updates to both projects were announced at the conference. Storage, like networking, is an area that must be tackled before mainstream IT can seriously consider container microservices platforms based on Kubernetes.

Managing microservices performance and failure is a big part of the ability to deploy containers at scale. For this reason, the announcement that two projects that provide application tracing capabilities, OpenTracing and OpenCensus, were merging into OpenTelemetry is especially important. Ultimately, developers need a unified approach to gathering data for managing container-based applications at scale. Removing duplication of effort and competing agendas will speed up the realization of that vision.

Also announced at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 were updates to Helm and Harbor, two projects that tackle thorny issues of packaging and distributing containers to Kubernetes. These are necessary parts of the process of deploying Kubernetes applications. Securely managing container lifecycles through packaging and repositories is a key component of DevOps support for new container architectures. Forward momentum in these projects is forward movement toward the mainstream.

There were other project updates, including updates to Kubernetes itself and Crio-io. Clearly, the community is filling in the blank spots in container architectures, making Kubernetes a more viable application platform for everyone.

The Community is Growing

Another gauge pointing toward mainstream acceptance is the growth in the community. The bigger the community, the more hands to do the work and the better the chances of achieving feature critical mass. This year in Barcelona, KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU saw 7700 attendees, nearly twice last year in Copenhagen. In the core Kubernetes project, there are 164K commits and 1.2M comments in Github. This speaks to broad involvement in making Kubernetes better. Completeness requires lots of work and that is more achievable when there are more people involved.

Unfortunately, as Cheryl Hung, Director of Ecosystems at CNCF says, only 3% of contributors are women. The alarming lack of diversity in the IT industry shows up even in Kubernetes despite the high-profile women involved in the conference such as Janet Kuo of Google. Diversity brings more and different ideas to a project and it would be great to see the participation of women grow.

Service Mesh Was the Talk of the Town

The number of conversations I had about service mesh was astounding. It’s true that I had released a pair of papers on it, one just before KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. That may have explained why people want to talk to me about it but not the general buzz. There was service mesh talk in the halls, at lunch, in sessions, and from the mainstage. It’s pretty much what everyone wanted to know about. That’s not surprising since a service mesh is going to be a vital part of large scale-out microservices applications. What was surprising was that even attendees who were new to Kubernetes were keen to know more. This was a very good omen.

It certainly helped that there was a big service mesh related announcement from the mainstage on Tuesday. Microsoft, in conjunction with a host of companies, announced the Service Mesh Interface. It’s a common API for different vendor and project service mesh components. Think of it as a lingua franca of service mesh. There were shout-outs to Linkerd and Solo.io. The latter especially had much to do with creating SMI. The fast maturation of the service mesh segment of the Kubernetes market is another stepping stone toward the completeness necessary for mainstream adoption.

Already Way Too Many Distros

There were a lot of Kubernetes distributions a KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. A lot. Really.  A lot. While this is a testimony the growth in Kubernetes as a platform, it’s confusing to IT professionals making choices. Some are managed cloud services; others are distributions for on-premises or when you want to install your own on a cloud instance. Here’s some of the Kubernetes distros I saw on the expo floor.  I’m sure I missed a few:

Microsoft Azure Google Digital Ocean Alibaba
Canonical (Ubuntu) Oracle IBM Red Hat
VMWare SUSE Rancher Pivotal
Mirantis Platform9

 

From what I hear this is a sample, not a comprehensive, list. The dark side of this enormous choice is confusion. Choosing is hard when you get beyond a handful of options. Still, only five years into the evolution of Kubernetes, it’s a good sign to see this much commercial support for it.

The Kubernetes and Cloud Native architecture is like a teenager. It’s growing rapidly but not quite done. As the industry fills in the blanks and as communities better networking, storage, and deployment capabilities, it will go mainstream and become applicable to companies of all sizes and types. Soon. Not yet but very soon.

Scenario-Based Learning and Behavior Change: A Brain Science Analysis

Key Stakeholders: Chief Learning Officers, Chief Human Resource Officers, Learning and Development Directors and Managers, Corporate Trainers, Content and Learning Product Managers, Leadership Trainers, Cybersecurity Trainers, Compliance Officers, Environmental Health and Safety Trainers, Sales Managers.

Why It Matters: People skills, compliance skills, safety skills and other skills involve choosing the right behavior in real-time or near real-time. It is behavior change that is the gold standard for Learning and Development, and many L&D vendors utilize scenario-based approaches to elicit behavior change. In this report, we use brain science to evaluate the effectiveness of scenario-based learning approaches in eliciting behavior change, and determine whether this approach helps employees to choose appropriate behaviors and to be more effective managers and employees.

Top Takeaway: Real-time interactive scenario-based learning approaches optimally elicit behavior change by directly engaging the behavioral skills learning system in the brain. Non-interactive scenario-based approaches are effective for behavior change (although to a lesser degree) because they engage emotional learning centers in the brain that draw learners in, and make them feel like they are part of the training. Non-interactive scenario-based approaches are practical and cost-effective alternatives to real-time interactive scenario-based approaches.

Overview

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Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work

In May 2019, Amalgam Insights attended Knowledge 2019, ServiceNow’s annual end-user conference. Since ServiceNow’s founding in 2004, the company has evolved from its roots as an IT asset and service management company to a company that supports digital workflow across IT, HR, service, and finance with the goal of making work better for every employee. In attending this show, Amalgam Insights was especially interested in seeing how ServiceNow was evolving its message to reflect what Amalgam Insights refers to as “Market Evolvers,” companies that have gained market dominance in their original market and taken advantage of modern mobile, cloud, and AI technology to expand into other markets. (Examples of Market Evolvers include, but are not excluded to, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workday, Informatica, and Tangoe.) Continue reading “Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work”

Analyst Insight – Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation

Key Stakeholders:

Chief Human Resource Officers, Chief People Officers, Chief Talent Officer, Chief Technology Officers, Chief Digital Officers, Human Capital Directors and Managers, Human Resource Directors and Managers, Learning and Education Managers, Learning Project Directors and Managers, Organizational Change Directors and Managers, Talent Directors and Managers, Training and Development Directors and Managers, Training Officers.

Why It Matters:

Generational differences and continuous, rapid changes in the workplace, place a heavy burden on talent and human capital management platforms to effectively guide individuals through the full employee lifecycle from hire to retire. One-size-fits-all approaches to recruitment, onboarding, learning and development, succession planning and incentive compensation lead to weak employee engagement, poor job satisfaction and high turnover rates.

Top Takeaway:

Talent assessment blends psychology and data science, and when incorporated into talent and human capital management platforms, offers insights that are actionable and can increase engagement, satisfaction, and retention. Talent assessment is most commonly applied to recruitment and onboarding, and many vendors have developed impressive and effective offerings. However, talent assessment is less commonly applied in learning and development, succession planning and incentive compensation, which represents a missed opportunity.

Relevant Assessment Vendors: AllyO, Hirevue, IBM, Infor, Phenom People, PSI Services, TalentQuest

Relevant Talent and Human Capital Management Vendors: Bamboo HR, Cegid, Ceridian, Cornerstone on Demand, Kronos, Oracle NetSuite, PageUp People, PeopleFluent, Reflektive, Saba, SAP Successfactors, SumTotal, Talentsoft, Ultimate Software, Workday. Continue reading “Analyst Insight – Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation”

Blackberry Successfully Transitions into a Software Company: Mission Accomplished

In April 2019, Amalgam Insights attended BlackBerry’s Analyst Summit, a collection of high-profile industry analysts and financial analysts who were provided with the key highlights of BlackBerry’s accomplishments over the past year. This day included BlackBerry’s top executives including CEO John Chen, President and Chief Operating Officer Bryan Palma, Chief Financial Officer Steve Cappelli, Chief Marketing Officer Mark Wilson, Chief Technology Officer Charles Eagan, and a collection of subject matter experts across security, the Enterprise of Things, mass communications, and Blackberry’s key verticals including automotive, government, and healthcare.

Above all, the key takeaway from BlackBerry’s Analyst Summit is that BlackBerry’s transformation  into a software and services company is complete.

A Successful Transformation

When John Chen first joined Blackberry roughly 2000 days ago, BlackBerry was a 7 billion dollar mobility company focused on its once-iconic handsets, but losing money hand-over-fist in the era of the iPhone and Android. Although Apple and Google had taken over the handset market, BlackBerry’s leadership at the time was reluctant to take the hard steps necessary to transform into a digital company and to take full advantage of its intellectual property. In this 2011-2012 time period, I was among the analysts who were criticizing BlackBerry for its inability to separate devices, software, and services and hoped that BlackBerry would move to Android, QNX (a 2010 acquisition) or another operating system that would be more flexible and app-friendly than BlackBerry.
Continue reading “Blackberry Successfully Transitions into a Software Company: Mission Accomplished”

Todd Maddox Reveals How PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture Speeds Time to Productivity While Reducing Training Costs

The brain science of learning suggests that the most effective workforce training tools engage the worker in a way that directly and naturally maps onto the relevant learning and memory systems in the brain.

PTC’s Vuforia Expert Capture uses augmented reality technology to meet these needs by curating subject matter experts’ knowledge and presenting that information to workers in a way that minimizes cognitive load while simultaneously engaging experiential and behavioral skills learning systems in the brain.

This speeds time to productivity, trains subject matter and behavioral skills expertise, all while reducing training costs. To describe how this works, I’ve recently written a Market Milestone describing the brain science and use cases that Expert Capture is best suited for. To access this report, which has been licensed by PTC, at no cost, please visit https://www.ptc.com/en/resources/ar/report/brain-science-behind-augmented-reality

How Red Hat Runs

This past week at Red Hat Summit 2019 (May 7 – 9 2019) has been exhausting. It’s not an overstatement to say that they run analysts ragged at their events, but that’s not why the conference made me tired. It was the sheer energy of the show, the kind of energy that keeps you running with no sleep for three days straight. That energy came from two sources – excitement and fear.

Two announcements, in particular, generated joy amongst the devoted Red Hat fans. The first was the announcement of Red Hat Enterprise Linux version 8, better known as RHEL8. RHEL is the granddaddy of all major Linux distributions for the data center. RHEL8, however, doesn’t seem all that old. As well as all the typical enhancements to the kernel and other parts of the distro, Red Hat has added two killer features to RHEL.

The first, the web console, is a real winner. It provides a secure browser-based system to manage all the features of Linux that one typically needs a command line on the server to perform. Now, using Telnet or SSH to log in to a remote box and do a few adjustments is no big deal when you have a small number of machines, physical or virtual, in a data center. When there are thousands of machines to care for, this is too cumbersome. With web console plus Red Hat Satellite, the same type of system maintenance is much more efficient. It even has a terminal built in if the command line is the only option. I predict that the web console will be an especially useful asset to new sysadmins who have yet to learn the intricacies of the Linux command line (or just don’t want to).

The new image builder is also going to be a big help for DevOps teams. Image builder uses a point and click interface to build images of software stacks, based on RHEL of course, that can be instantiated over and over. Creating consistent environments for developers and testing is a major pain for DevOps teams. The ability to quickly and easily create and deploy images will take away a major impediment to smooth DevOps pipelines.

The second announcement that gained a lot of attention was the impending GA of OpenShift 4 represents a major change in the Red Hat container platform. It incorporates all the container automation goodness that Red Hat acquired from CoreOS, especially the operator framework. Operators are key to automating container clusters, something that is desperately needed for large scale production clusters. While Kubernetes has added a lot of features to help with some automation tasks, such as autoscaling, that’s not nearly enough for managing clusters at hyperscale or across hybrid clouds. Operators are a step in that direction, especially as Red Hat makes it easier to use Operators.

Speaking of OpenShift, Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft appeared on the mainstage to help announce Azure Red Hat OpenShift. This would have been considered a mortal sin at pre-Nadella Microsoft and highlights the acceptance of Linux and open source at the Windows farm. Azure Red Hat OpenShift is an implementation of OpenShift as a native Azure service. This matters a lot to those serious about multi-cloud deployments. Software that is not a native service for a cloud service provider do not have the integrations for billing, management, and especially set up that native services do. That makes them second class citizens in the cloud ecosystem. Azure Red Hat OpenShift elevates the platform to first-class status in the Azure environment.

Now for the fear. Although Red Hat went to considerable lengths to address the “blue elephant in the room”, to the point of bringing Ginny Rometty, IBM CEO on stage, the unease around the acquisition by IBM was palpable amongst Red Hat customers. Many that I spoke to were clearly afraid that IBM would ruin Red Hat. Rometty, of course, insisted that was not the case, going so far as to say that she “didn’t spend $34B on Red Hat to destroy them.”

That was cold comfort to Red Hat partners and customers who have seen tech mergers start with the best intentions and end in disaster. Many attendees I spoke drew parallels with the Oracle acquisition of Sun. Sun was, in fact, the Red Hat of its time – innovative, nimble, and with fierce loyalists amongst the technical staff. While products created by Sun still exist today, especially Java and MySQL, the essence of Sun was ruined in the acquisition. That is a giant cloud hanging over the IBM-Red Hat deal. For all the advantages that this deal brings to both companies and the open source community, the potential for a train wreck exists and that is a source of angst in the Red Hat and open source world.

In 2019, Red Hat is looking good and may have a great future. Or it is on the brink of disaster. The path they will take now depends on IBM. If IBM leaves them alone, it may turn out to be an amazing deal and the capstone of Rometty and Jim Whitehurst’s careers. If IBM allows internal bureaucracy and politics to change the current plan for Red Hat, it will be Sun version 2. Otherwise, it is expected that Red Hat will continue to make open source enterprise-friendly and drive open source communities. That would be very nice indeed.

Perspectives 2019: The 20th Anniversary of Skillsoft and Todd’s Top Takeaways!

On April 15 – 17, 2019, I attended Skillsoft’s Perspectives 2019 in Orlando, Florida. Last year was spectacular, and I was not sure if Skillsoft could outdo last year, but they did!

The conference opened with a keynote from the Executive Chairman, Ron Hovsepian, who reminded the audience that this was Skillsoft’s 20th Anniversary as a company. He also discussed the significant progress made in the last year including expansion of Skillsoft’s Aspire Learning Journeys in the Technology, Developer and Certification Solutions, mobile experiences for Skillsoft Compliance, expanded localization,  Business Skills development, and much more. Ron also defined an aggressive roadmap for the coming year. This was followed by two interesting panel discussions with customers and was topped off by a fascinating presentation by Daniel Pink on the influence of time and mood on judgment, decision-making and performance. I am writing this in the morning, while my “analytic” mind is at its best!

I attended a number of presentations, client panels and had several one-off conversations with customers. One-off conversations with customers are always my favorite. Customers don’t pull any punches! I had a number of one-on-one meetings with Skillsoft executives. I really enjoy the one-on-one meetings because I enjoy seeing the genuine passion and excitement that Skillsoft’s executives display. To me this is one of the major strengths of Skillsoft. Their leadership is “down to earth”, they are passionate about their mission, and they are eager to meet, and exceed, their goals. Thanks to Heide Abelli, Mike Hendrickson, Tara O’Sullivan, Norm Ford, and Mark Onisk for taking time out of their busy schedules to meet with me, and thanks to the ever diligent, Tom Francoeur for keeping the trains running on time.

There were many announcements at Perspectives, and I could provide a list in the blog, but instead, I would like to highlight the topics that I found most interesting. Acknowledging up front that these topics reflect my personal biases, here goes.

The Importance of People (aka Soft) Skills Continues to Grow and is Reflected in Skillsoft’s Offering

People (aka soft) skills are behavioral skills. They are about what we do, how we do it and our intent. It is one thing to know “what” to do, but something completely different (and mediated by distinct learning systems in the brain) to know “how” to do it. People skills include showing empathy, effective communication, listening, collaboration, embracing diversity, and being inclusive.

Simply put, Skillsoft “gets it”. Skillsoft has been following the workplace research showing the importance of people skills and are listening to their clients about the importance of people skills in their workplace. Skillsoft emphasizes people skills training in all of their content areas. Sure, people skills are critical in leadership development, and Skillsoft’s Leadership Development Program emphasizes people skills, but people skills are also central in Skillsoft’s Technology and Development offerings, in Compliance, and in Digital Skills to name a few. [As an aside, if you have not met Ken who is featured in Skillsoft’s harassment awareness training content, get a demo! The subtleties of harassment and the relevant people skills that you will learn from Ken and the rest are memorable.]

The modern workplace needs to develop the “T-shaped” employee. This employee has depth of knowledge (the vertical segment of the T), but also has breadth of knowledge (the horizontal piece). It is one thing to receive effective training and depth of knowledge in data science or DevOps. It is another to simultaneously receive people skills training on effective communication, collaboration or team building. This is a critically important combination that can make the difference between an organization with a positive workplace environment and an efficient software development lifecycle, and an organization that is dysfunctional. Skillsoft is committed to emphasizing people skills in all of their offerings.

A Partnership with IBM Watson and the Promise of Personalized Learning

Ron Hovsepian announced a partnership between Skillsoft and IBM Watson Talent. This is an exciting development and one that will be groundbreaking for a number of reasons. First, talent assessment, which has generally been restricted to employee recruitment, can add significant value in Learning and Development. In fact, I make this case in a recent report entitled “Assessment in Talent and Human Capital Management: A Psychological Science Evaluation” (available upon request). Talent assessment can facilitate the identification of strengths and weaknesses in a candidate and can be used to curate personalize learning paths.

Second, by leveraging the power of IBM Watson Talent, career paths can be recommended to employees in an objective manner. As those of you who have read Sheryl Sandberg’s “Lean In”, or know Brene Brown, and others work, you know that (on average) women are much less likely to pursue careers or apply for jobs if they believe that they fulfill 60% of the qualifications, whereas men are likely to pursue the career or job with the same qualifications. IBM Watson Talent can neutralize these biases by applying a fixed recommendation criterion regardless of gender. Women and men with equivalent skill sets will be “tapped on the shoulder” to pursue promotions or to pursue new career paths. This will level the playing field and democratize learning.

Finally, the “big data” that will be generated from the partnership between Skillsoft and IBM Watson Talent can be analyzed and explored in a number of ways. More than likely these data will suggest new and emerging career and learning paths that have not been considered. It will uncover overlap and relationships between career aspirations that were previously thought of as non-overlapping, but that may in actuality overlap in interesting ways. The Talent, Career and Learning landscapes that will emerge from analysis of these large data sets will be exciting to explore.

Skillsoft’s Aspire: Meeting Employee’s Desire for Continuous Learning and Employer’s Desire to Retain Talent

Skillsoft has been developing Aspire Learning Journeys at a rapid pace. Organizations desperately need to retain talent. Too often talented employees leave a job because they see no avenue for enhancing their capabilities. When talent leaves, employers must find new high-quality talent and start from scratch. Skillsoft’s Aspire Learning Paths address these needs by offering a sequenced path of instruction, training and credentials that allow employees to aspire to new heights and allow employers to keep talent.

If you are a data analyst with expertise in spreadsheets and typically work with siloed data sources, but want to aspire to become a data scientist, then Skillsoft’s Aspire is for you. If you are an employer with a talented data analyst in your organization and you want to make sure to keep them by suggesting that they “aspire” toward being a data scientist, then Skillsoft’s Aspire is for you. Aspire offers a combination of course, multimodal content, hands-on practice labs, and certification preparation and assessment that can take a learner along the journey from data analyst to data wrangler, to data ops and finally to data science. Aspire learning journeys in cybersecurity, cloud computing, software development, and many other areas have been developed, with many more in the works. With the cost of a University education skyrocketing, and employers finding value in upskilling their current employees, I fully expect Aspire to continue its grow in its reach.

Closing Remarks

Skillsoft is a leader in developing and delivering engaging learning content that drives business impact for businesses and organizations across the globe and in nearly every industry. Check it out yourself by requesting a demo of the Leadership Development program or the Harassment Training content. It is high-quality, well-designed, engaging and compelling. Content delivery is solid. Percipio’s multi-modal “watch”, “read”, “listen” delivery offers learners choice, and the 24/7 access on any platform approach is a must. The new “practice” offering in Percipio is an exciting addition as well. As with any offering more work could be done and optimized delivery that effectively engages the task appropriate learning systems in the brain is a work in progress. The ultimate goal of any L&D platform is to speed initial learning, enhance long-term retention, and prime the learner for behavior change. Although no platform meets all of these goals, Skillsoft is working hard and has their eye on the prize.

Skillsoft’s progress in the last year is impressive, and the roadmap for the coming year is ambitious. I look forward to following Skillsoft on its journey toward excellence, and to talking with the Skillsoft team over the coming months. Most importantly, I look forward to Perspective 2020. Perspectives 2019 will be hard to beat–then again, that is what I said last year.

Amalgam Insights Publishes Highly Anticipated SmartList on Service Mesh and Microservices Management

Amalgam Insights has just published my highly anticipated SmartList Market Guide on Service Mesh. It is currently available this week at no cost as we prepare for KubeCon and CloudNativeCon Europe 2019 where I’ll be attending.

Before you go to the event, get prepared by catching up on the key strategies, trends, and vendors associated with microservices and service mesh. For instance, consider how the Service Mesh market is currently constructed.

To get a deep dive on this figure regarding the three key sectors of the Service Mesh market, gain insights describing the current State of the Market for service mesh, and learn where key vendors and products including Istio, Linkerd, A10, Amazon, Aspen Mesh, Buoyant, Google, Hashicorp, IBM, NGINX, Red Hat, Solo.io, Vamp, and more fit into today’s microservices management environment, download my report today.