May 20, 2019 - Chrissie Buchanan    

Kubernetes and the open source community: We chat with Joe Beda

Our CEO sits down with Kubernetes co-creator Joe Beda to talk about the future of open source.

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Joe Beda is the Principal Engineer at VMWare and co-creator of Kubernetes. Beda and Craig McLuckie’s Google project to build a container orchestration tool has exploded and Kubernetes is now a large, open source community with thousands actively contributing to the project thanks to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. In the world of open source they don’t get much better than Joe Beda, which is why we were thrilled to speak with him as part of our TechExplorers series where we sit down with the industry’s tech leaders.

Joe and GitLab CEO Sid Sijbrandij went over a variety of topics like cloud native, Kubernetes, the business of open source, and many others. What was most interesting, but not surprising, was the integral role the open source community had in the success of these projects.

“I think open source is evolving… It’s never been something that’s sat still. One of the lessons from Kubernetes more than anything else is that open source today is about community, if not more than code,” Beda says. He admits that right now is a tumultuous time for open source, with the line between product and project getting blurred. The “business” of open source can sometimes alienate the community that supported these initiatives in the first place, something many leaders will have to navigate in the years ahead.

“It’s like there’s the code and the license for the code, and then there’s the community that builds around it. And even if it’s not a legal contract, I think there’s a social contract between the leaders of an open source project and the people who are members of that community. And I think you have to be very respectful of that social contract.”

One of the most important things an open source project can do to maintain the trust of the community, according to Beda, is to be very explicit about its motivations from the beginning. At GitLab, we’ve taken this message to heart and have our promises to the open source community public on our website.

Kubernetes has already made a major impact on the way we deploy applications, and users continue to contribute and add to the project. “I think I’m still blown away with just the diversity of the projects that are building on top of Kubernetes,” he says. Even with recent challenges, Beda’s encouraged at the innovation he continues to see in open source. It all boils down to buy-in from the community and giving them the tools to keep innovating. “I think this is part of the excitement… There is a really vibrant set of projects that are experimenting, trying things out. And it’s going to be the users who decide what’s successful here.”

Video directed and produced by Aricka Flowers

Takeaways

On the future of open source:

“I think open source is evolving… It’s never been something that’s sat still. One of the lessons from Kubernetes more than anything else is that open source today is about community, if not more than code.”

On building an open source company:

“My advice to anybody who is building a company around open source is to understand sort of where are your levers, where is the value that you’re adding, and try and be creative about finding ways to add value where something like this can’t happen.”

On the early days of Kubernetes:

“The real story is that there was a set of us that just wanted to be able to hack on some stuff and not have to go through all the process of shipping stuff to Google… But also we very much had the idea from the start that we wanted to build a community. We wanted to enable other people to own it, to be part of it, to really feel like they were instrumental in making it happen. And that’s what happened.”

On enterprise cloud adoption:

“I think that as we start to see these enterprises start to adopt cloud, understanding the power dynamics and the relationship with cloud, I think that there is a lot of concern about how do I get some independent advice, independent thought, independent support that’s going to actually stay with me as I figure out where my position lands as I move from on-prem to cloud and beyond.”

We’ll be at KubeCon Barcelona May 20 – 23, booth #S21. Learn how you can get started with GitLab and Kubernetes, and be sure to check out Joe Beda’s keynote on May 21.

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