Kubecon, is it still for me?

Lee Beenen

May 6, 2023

Kubecon 2023 is a wrap! In fact, it's already a couple of weeks in the past. As only my second Kubecon ever (Kubecon Valencia 2022 was my first), it leaves me with a lot of mixed feelings. Yes, it was a well run event, it was filled with interesting talks and like last year, I learned about a lot of stuff happening outside the bubble of my current assignment, which is one of the main attractions of being a consultant at Skyworkz, and going to a tech conference to meet people.

However, KubeCon also left me thinking that I am no longer its target audience. Why? We'll get to that, let's first lead off with couple of stand-out talks that I feel are worth a (re)-watch:

1. Enabling Real-Time Media in Kubernetes, Giles Heron

Since Kubecon Valencia, every Kubecon keynote I watch seems to be capturing less and less of my interest. A lot of sales pitches, not a lot of substance.

Then on the last day of the conference, Giles took me on a journey to a world I knew surprisingly little about (Football, but also real-time, low latency live video distribution) and delivered a clear and concise story of a man that just wants to watch his football matches with less latency, so his mates won't text him about a goal that he hasn't seen happen yet on his web stream.

2. Back to the Future: Next-Generation Cloud Native Security, Andrew Martin & Matt Jarvis

Last year I quickly became a fan during Andrew Martin's excellent (and slightly chaotic) talk at Kubecon Valencia, and ever since then I've made sure to keep an eye on whatever talks are coming from Controlplane.

This year, both he and Matt Jarvis from Snyk gave us a quick history lesson and made some predictions about the near-to-short term future of Cloud Native security, touching on everything from RISC to AI, WASM to Quantum Computing and much, much more.

3. Malicious Compliance: Reflections on Trusting Container Scanners, Ian Coldwater, Duffie Cooley, Brad Geesaman, Rory McCune, Datadog

Out of all the Kubecon 2023 talks, this one gave me the most pause. At my current assignment, we're hard at work trying to get our development teams on standardized pipelines with built-in security scanning, making slow but steady progress.

Seeing how easy it is to fool our current set of container scanners with a couple of trivial additions to Dockerfiles makes me hope that none of those teams come across this talk.

There was a bunch of other great talks too, but unfortunately also a couple of talks that really fell flat with me. I'm not writing this to badmouth those people or the quality of the talks, instead I'm just guessing I'm no longer the target audience, as I alluded to earlier.

Kubecon mentioned this year that over half of their audience are first-time attendees. Last year when I was a first-timer, I recall a similar percentage being mentioned. With Kubecon's attendence breaking into the 10.000's, it is one of the largest open source conferences in Europe, so it definitely doing fine, but I'm very much in doubt if I'll be attending KubeCon Paris in 2024.

The keynotes this year were largely uninteresting to me, and some misfortune (broken collarbone the week before) and underestimating (I tried to both participate in the Thursday CTF as well as attend every talk in the morning/afternoon sessions, didn't work out great) made for a generally unremarkable conference experience. It didn't help that most of my (ex)-colleagues attending were local, so nobody felt the need to head out into town and explore Amsterdam, a city most of us are already way too familiar with.

So do I regret my time spent at KubeCon 2023? Definitely not. Will I be considering KubeCon Paris 2024? Probably. Will I be on the lookout for other conferences that align more with my interests?

Already looking. Suggestions welcome.