KubeCon NA 2019 - Recap
6 min read

KubeCon NA 2019 - Recap

Sunny San Diego was the perfect venue for KubeCon NA 2019. As the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's largest event, the San Diego Convention Center was very central, big enough, and - capacity wise - far from exhausted.
KubeCon NA 2019 - Recap

Sunny San Diego was the perfect venue for KubeCon NA 2019. As the Cloud Native Computing Foundation's largest event, the San Diego Convention Center was very central, big enough, and - capacity wise - far from exhausted.

As expected, the conference itself grew to more than 12,000 attendees this year, representing the widespread adoption of Cloud Native technologies. The rooms for the talks got a good distribution of attendees. And LogDNA sponsored a (to me) always stable conference wifi. Furthermore, it was a great idea to set up badge booths prior to the conference at the airport and in a lot of Hotels, which reduced the first rush.

A rare occasion: "Sunny Diego" received a few days of rain, which caused rain dripping from the roof. Probably also related were some power outages in some rooms, which lead to relocating some of the talks.

Kubernetes is just the building plate

This was the message by Dan Kohn, Executive Director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. And indeed: quite a few CNCF projects are currently gathering enough of momentum, making the conference more a "CloudNativeCon" than a "KubeCon". Compared to the conferences before, the focus was more on tooling running on and around Kubernetes, instead of Kubernetes itself. This shows a maturing ecosystem, even though Dan Kohn compared the community to be a "fourth-grader" - which indicates where the community is heading.

Every single day of KubeCon was covered with (more or less) inspiring keynotes by relevant figures of the community or industry. Especially noteworthy: Reflections by Kelsey Hightower, Walmart showcasing Kubernetes@Edge, E2E 5G Network.

The recordings of all the talks and keynotes were released not even two days after the conference closing. More than 320 videos have been released - watching this with 2x speed is still more than 80h of video content... Have fun!

CNCF Graduation is nothing easy. There are lots of criteria to get a project up for a graduation vote. As KubeCon nears, usually there are a few graduation announcements; this year there were two. Jaeger and Vitess have graduated just in time for KubeCon and with them, a few additional Sandbox announcements.

In the following I'm going to present my (of course subjective) view of trending topics at KubeCon NA 2019.

Edge Computing

The ongoing developments in 5G networking are drivers for edge computing in the areas of IoT and technologies with similar requirements. How can we move compute and device management closer to devices and away from the cloud? A talk about Building a Private 5G Network on Kubernetes was therefore obligatory.

KubeEdge, developed by major Chinese companies, gives an answer. The introduction, as well as the deep dive, is highly recommended!

This KubeCon showed use cases of running Kubernetes in the Car or even F16 jets. Both are potentially air-gapped devices that still require metric shipping and monitoring (spoiler: Thanos can help!).

We even start to think about new use cases for service meshes.

Monitoring & Observability

Prometheus Long-Term-Storage

Long Term Storage of Prometheus metrics is a hot topic for the last 3 years. In the meantime solutions like M3DB, Cortex or Thanos have emerged, solving this problem with different pros and cons. While Cortex is a CNCF sandbox for quite some time, Thanos just recently joined the CNCF crew. In my subjective recognition, this gave Thanos additional momentum: quite a few talks given at KubeCon covered solutions with or around Thanos.

Especially noteworthy is the exemplary cooperation of both projects: both being CNCF projects the maintainers support each other heavily and even recommend using each other. There are even rumors and speculations about a potential merge of Cortex and Thanos.

If you haven't heard about either: watch the Intro and Deep Dive about Thanos, as well the Cortex 101.

eBPF and Cilium

Cilium is currently probably one of the most popular solutions making use of eBPF. Facilitating routing using eBPF instead of IPTabels is less complex and more performant. Now the Cilium project announced Hubble, which leverages the introspection capabilities of eBPF allowing to better understand traffic flow. This will improve observability to pod/container traffic tremendously. Especially interesting is its Service Dependency Graph, which visualizes interfacing services, APIs or databases at L3/L4 and even L7. Boy, I'm looking forward to playing with it! To get a better understanding of the why and how's, go watch Martynas Pumputis talk[slides]!



Security is without any doubt one of the most approached topics at KubeCon this year. Basically, every single slot covered a security-related talk, which is great. Open Policy Agent is a thing I will dig deeper until next KubeCon - a lot of Projects are starting to build on it.

The keynote by Ian Coldwater (Lead Platform Security Engineer at Heroku) was particularly inspiring.


Recognized NATS as "just another" Messaging System. With the recent NATS JetStream announcement I realized: it is Messaging on steroids. NATS will, without any exaggeration, substitute Kafka for a lot of use cases, not only because it is simpler but also way faster.

This 90-minute talk[slides] about the state and the future of NATS showed quite impressively, what the future (JetStream tech preview incoming!) of messaging will look like.

Service Mesh

While Service Meshes were of course a topic, the stories shifted from less hype to actual technical, migration and scaling stories. No doubt: Service Meshes are not just a buzz, but we also start to get more realistic about what benefits to expect at what cost.

GitOps has real application

While we are using GitOps (specifically Weave Flux) since some time it kind of feels good to recognise: others do it as well. Having this reference gives the confidence to be on the right track. KubeCon had quite a few talks about companies adopting GitOps and sharing their stories.

Argo and Flux, two well known GitOps tools, used KubeCon to announce their collaboration. Argo is specifically worth mentioning: it allows introspection of rollouts. This enables the user to determine the health of a rollout based on Prometheus queries.

Helm 3

There was obviously some buzz about Helm3. One of the pillars of the Kubernetes ecosystem has been released prior to KubeCon. This significant release gathered some attention, not only for deprecating Tiller but a series of other improvements. The Helm 3 Deep Dive gave quite a good overview of what to expect and what to change in order to adapt.

Things to highlight about the event

Unfortunately it is impossible to attend all of the talks. There are at least 10 parallel tracks per slot. Also KubeCon is not only about talks. It is a forum to get in touch with the community, product maintainers as well as the industry. And as always: the Cloud Native Computing Foundation prepared some highlights for all attendees.

Gaslamp District

CNCF organised a "whole crew block party" in San Diegos famous Gaslamp Quarter. The evening was filled with music, lights, entertainment, food and dozens of restaurant and bars opening their doors for KubeCon attendees. The "slight" rain did not cloud the mood. Definitely a happening that you won't see every day.

Trash & Swag

Having so many companies on board KubeCon has - during the talks - a very trade show-like character. A lot of companies try to attract attention with SWAG like T-Shirts, Stickers and other (more or less useful) stuff. Quite a good role model was Google, going completely "swagless". Pretty cool move:

We’ve gone swagless!
At Kubecon + CloudNativeCon,  Google Cloud has gone  swagless. We are committing these funds to grow a diverse and talented community via the CNCF Diversity Scholarship  program.

More than 12.000 attendees produced a tremendous amount of trash. It was nice to get a hot coffee on the way to the next talk, but this lead to a lot of full bins. Also, I respect the organizational miracle to serve every single participant a delicious lunch - unfortunately this also caused additional trash, being served in single-use packaging. The service personnel did an exceptional job keeping everything clean.

I would love to see this problem being solved by the conference organizers - perhaps a reusable cup instead of yet another KubeCon T-Shirt would be the first step?


The conference again proved, that it is a must for everyone who is into distributed, cloud-based systems and exceeded my expectations. To me, KubeCon Amsterdam is a mandatory visit!

Photo by Alexander Fahlke