Making cloud-native computing universal and sustainable

What is the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and why does it matter?
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I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to build an open source foundation from scratch the last couple of years by serving as the founding executive director of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). Since late 2015, the foundation has grown to comprise more than 200 members worldwide and 18 innovative cloud-native projects. Also, for the first time, we recently published an annual report representing what our community accomplished in 2017.

What has been interesting about this experience is that more people know about our projects, such as Kubernetes, Envoy, and Prometheus, than know about the open source foundation behind them. The goal of this article is to explain exactly what the purpose of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is and how we support our community of cloud-native open infrastructure projects.

Home of Kubernetes and Cloud Native

The original seed project for CNCF was Kubernetes, as orchestration is a critical piece of moving toward a cloud-native infrastructure. As many people know, Kubernetes is one of the highest-velocity open source projects of all time and is sometimes affectionately referred to as “Linux of the Cloud.” Kubernetes has become the de facto orchestration system, with more than 50 certified Kubernetes solutions and supported by the top cloud providers in the world. Furthermore, CNCF is the first open source foundation to count the top 10 cloud providers in the world as members.

However, CNCF is intended to be more than just a home for Kubernetes, as the cloud-native and open infrastructure movement encompasses more than just orchestration.

A community of open infrastructure projects

CNCF has a community of independently governed projects; as of today, there are 18 covering all parts of cloud native. For example, Prometheus integrates beautifully with Kubernetes but also brings modern monitoring practices to environments outside of cloud-native land. Envoy is a cloud-native edge and proxy that integrates with Kubernetes through projects like Contour or Istio, although Envoy can also be used in any environment that employs a reverse proxy. gRPC is a universal RPC framework that can help you build services that run on Kubernetes—or any environment, for that matter. Many other CNCF projects also have use cases outside of a purely cloud-native environment, and we will see increased use over time as companies transition to a cloud-native world.

Cloud native landscapes and trail maps

The journey to becoming cloud-native is different for everyone, so to help the world understand cloud-native concepts, we’ve built two tools in the CNCF:

  • The Cloud Native Landscape is intended as a map through the previously uncharted terrain of cloud-native technologies and attempts to categorize most of the solutions in the cloud-native space.

  • The Cloud Native Trail Map provides an overview for organizations starting their cloud-native journey. There are many routes to deploying a cloud-native application, with CNCF projects representing a particularly well-traveled path.

These tools are open source and available for anyone to use. We also lovingly accept contributions to these projects.

Independent technical board (TOC)

The CNCF Technical Operating Committee (TOC) is the technical governing body of the CNCF, and it admits and oversees all projects in the CNCF. The TOC's mandate is to help drive neutral consensus for the technical vision of the foundation while creating a conceptual architecture for the projects, aligning projects, and removing or archiving projects.

The TOC is comprised of nine technical leaders in the cloud-native space, ranging from authors of Kubernetes to Docker to Mesos and more. The TOC is independently elected by the community to ensure that members are paying only to sustain the efforts of our projects.

Giving end users a voice

CNCF is uniquely structured as an open source foundation in which an official end-user community, consisting of companies from all over the world, is given a voice to share practices and offer input on which projects become part of the foundation. The CNCF End User Community is able to elect one person to serve on the Technical Operating Committee (TOC) to represent end users when it comes to technical vision and projects.

From Bloomberg, GitHub, and Indeed to Pinterest and Zendesk, these end users meet actively to share lessons learned from deploying CNCF projects such as Kubernetes and Envoy.

Cultivating diversity and inclusion

One of my favorite takeaways from our last major conference was the focus on diversity and inclusion within our community, which has been there since day one:

To reiterate the impact of diversity scholarships, I’d like to share an example from one of our first diversity scholarship recipients, Kris Nova:

I was one of five diversity scholarship winners for the conference. The CNCF funded the trip, and the event dramatically changed my life. Almost two years later, I am now an ambassador of the CNCF and one of the members of the diversity committee. I contribute to Kubernetes and am a published author, all thanks to the CNCF taking a chance on me and giving me an opportunity to participate.”

At our last event, our amazing diversity committee raised $250,000 and helped more than 100 diversity scholarship recipients attend KubeCon/CloudNativeCon in Austin. This was one of the largest diversity scholarship programs ever done for an open source conference, and I only hope that other events try to outperform us going forward.

Joining the CNCF community

The CNCF community spans the world through our contributors, members, meetups, and ambassadors. We boast more than 200 members worldwide and more than 20,000 contributors to our CNCF projects. Through our official meetup program, we have more than 60,000 members spanning 30 countries hosting meetups on a weekly basis. We have more than 50 ambassadors worldwide educating the world on cloud native technology and best practices. We even partnered with to offer a free Kubernetes course that has been taken by more than 25,000 people.

We host a variety of CNCF events during the year, with CloudNativeCon and KubeCon Europe happening May 2nd - 4th in beautiful Copenhagen. We are also hosting our first event in China later this year, along with our flagship North American event in Seattle. We also do boutique events for projects like Prometheus: PromCon, for example, will be held in Berlin later this year. Note that all of our events offer diversity scholarships, and we strongly recommend that people apply.

We look forward to welcoming you to our community. Join us, and help make cloud-native computing ubiquitous while building the future of open infrastructure.

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Chris Aniszczyk (@cra) is an open source executive and engineer by trade with a passion for building a better world through open collaboration. He's currently a VP at the Linux Foundation focused on developer relations and running the Open Container Initiative (OCI) / Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF).

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