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Jack Sparrow and Kubernetes

October 5, 2018 - 0 Comments

The most difficult thing in any high-tech job is to predict the “tipping point.” Imagine the possibilities if we had the benefit of hindsight. We could all be “IT Historians” with the ability to explain why and how a given technology went through the hype cycle and then eventually took off.

But, looking forward is another story and I learned some hard lessons in my career. I vividly remember a few cases when I was sure to be right about a certain trend but I ended up being wrong because I called it too soon.  In 2004 I was actively pitching to Cisco executives about “hosted unified comms.” At the time I was absolutely certain that it would be a game changer for the company. It eventually would go as I imagined, but it would take many more years for that to truly happen; in the meantime, we were happily selling millions of on-premises CallManagers and IPPhones. The idea was there but the timing was off.

So, what does Jack Sparrow have to do with this? I’m a fan of the Pirates of the Caribbean tales. I’ve always been fascinated by Jack’s compass, as it pointed to what the owner wanted most, rather than mere magnetic north. I really wanted to understand tipping points because I wanted to be right; not just about the opportunity, but the timing. So, I decided to build my own personal “tipping point compass” and I did it based on two big things that I’ve learned:

1.  Look at the whole market, beyond the technology itself. Focus on the bigger demand and supply picture and identify major events or catalysts for that technology to reach the tipping point.

2. Understand the business value that any given technology delivers. Even more importantly, I learned to have much better conversations with our customers, the problems the technology solves as well as the challenges it generates to adopt it and use it.

Almost immediately when the technology emerged, most of us in the industry knew that containers would be a game-changer because they enable faster application development and portability across different environments. Sure enough, rationalizing all the input sometimes is daunting, such as demystifying the container vs. serverless issue.

That’s the relatively easy part, the real problem is understanding WHEN container adoption will cross the chasm, creating major demand inflection. And I mean for the larger market, not just for the cloud native players that have pioneered the technology over the last few years.

Containers are great but without an equally portable way of managing containerized applications, widely available across all the environments, they only add more complexity in a multicloud environment. Kubernetes does exactly that and is a clear winner of the container management market.

My compass is now clearly signaling the tipping point of containers market! Here’s why:

PUBLIC CLOUD – The leading Public Cloud Providers have all launched Kubernetes-as-a-service, AWS, Azure, IBM Cloud and Google Cloud have all entered the market making Kubernetes available simply and quickly to the developers.

SOFTWARE VENDORS – Tier 1 ISVs have started delivering in native Kubernetes. This week SAP announced the new version of their Data Hub, which is available in the Cloud, on-premises and hybrid environments. Cisco was key component of the launch because the Data Hub on-premises runs on Cisco Container Platform and Cisco Hyperflex.

MULTICLOUD – Both on-premises and Hybrid production-grade environments are now available for Kubernetes. Over the course of last year Cisco has partnered with both Cloud Providers like Google Cloud as well as ISVs like SAP to build consistent Kubernetes environments across the Public and Private Clouds. This requires to have common Networking, Security, Analytics and Management across the Hybrid domain.


Understanding how a technology innovation ultimately generates business value is hard. That’s when the compass spins in every direction generating lot of confusion. Organizations of every size in any vertical market have been severely tested by the rapid evolution of the cloud market. Sufficient to say that until 24 months ago, only 3% of organizations had an optimized cloud strategy. However, in the last 6-9 months that number jumped to 14% (source: IDC CloudView 2018). That inflection is now well reflected in the customer conversations I’m having these days.

What drives organizations to cloud technologies is accelerating innovation and that’s why nearly every company is embracing the multicloud world.

For years we’ve been trapped into the argument of the Public Cloud vs. on-premises infrastructure. A growing percentage of the companies I’m speaking with are over that argument – what matters is building new digital services, ie. applications, using the innovation that comes from many different players – they do understand how every domain (Cloud, Data Center, Campus/Branch, Edge/IoT) offers a peculiar platform for new applications. Ultimately it boils down to connecting users and things to apps, in the best and most efficient way, in a fast evolving multicloud world. As every organization is different, so different cloud strategies emerge and evolve fast.

Because of that there is ONE BIG THING that these companies are looking for – the freedom to develop and deploy anywhere, removing the constraints of the past and that’s what Kubernetes enables.

The compass now points to a clear direction.

But there is still a Kraken out there

To avoid it, this time we can look backward and learn from the past. Kubernetes and containers are an extraordinary open source innovation. Interestingly, they come from the Linux world. How and when Linux reached the tipping point, ie. getting adopted in the Enterprise world? My very personal answer – it was when companies like HP, IBM and others started offering Linux with enterprise-class solutions and support.

When open source innovation meets enterprise-class, magic happens. Otherwise you get swallowed by the complexity monster. Kubernetes is an extraordinary innovation but the challenge this time is even bigger than during the Linux days. The container revolution does not just happen inside servers and data centers. It happens everywhere; everywhere the containers will get deployed. That means solving Networking, Security, Analytics and Management problems across every domain.

You have a choice

You can try stitching together many pieces (some say 20+) of open-source to do that,  or you can work with Cisco. We are using open-source as an innovation engine, building partnership with cloud providers and ISVs, engineering software and infrastructure for the multicloud world.

We give you what you need to chase the Treasure of Cortés, the Dead Man’s Chest, the Fountain of Youth, and the Trident of Poseidon!

Good Luck.



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