Virtualization of Kubernetes clusters to boost productivity

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In this episode of View With Vizard, hot off the heels of securing $4.6 million in funding, Loft CEO Lukas Gentele talks to Mike Vizard about how virtualizing Kubernetes clusters increases IT productivity. The video is below followed by a full transcript of the conversation.

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Michael Vizard: Hey guys, thanks for throwing it here with Lukas Gentele who is the CEO of Loft. They just raised $4.6 million in additional funding to pilot virtualization on Kubernetes clusters and I’ll let him explain how it all works right now. Lukas, explain all this to us a bit.

Lucas Gentile: Hi Mike. Thank you very much for inviting me to talk to you about this topic. Yeah, what we’re basically doing with Loft Labs is virtualizing Kubernetes and enabling enterprises to manage these self-service virtual Kubernetes clusters so that their engineers can essentially access Kubernetes when they need it, to validate new features , to run integration tests themselves, to integrate Kubernetes into their CICD workflows.

We really want to take Kubernetes adoption to the next level. When companies tell you today that they’ve adopted Kubernetes, they’re talking about, you know, maybe 20, maybe 30 people having access to Kubernetes. We believe that every engineer in your engineering organization will be able to self-service create a Kubernetes cluster, a virtual Kubernetes cluster whenever they need it for their work.

Michael Vizard: And is it going to look like one big giant cluster that I’m cutting into different segments because a lot of people seem to have a path where they also deploy a lot of smaller clusters and then what’s going to be the mix or when should i use it in what scenario?

Lucas Gentile: Yes, I mean we definitely allow you to do multitenancy within Kubernetes, virtual clusters are a key element for many companies to solve many multitenancy challenges, because virtual cluster basically sits in the middle between the second clusters and the main spaces because the slices will then share a cluster. Law? Virtual clusters combine the advantages of both worlds.

On the one hand you get the great isolation that you would have with separate clusters, but on the other hand they are also very, very cheap, like splitting your clusters. And of course, it’s really unrealistic to assume that there would only be one underlying _____ control cluster. You will still need multiple Kubernetes clusters. But you need far fewer Kubernetes clusters, so instead of creating a Kubernetes cluster per team, you can create a Kubernetes cluster for a business unit or for a geographic region, for example.

It actually makes a lot of sense because you want to reduce latency, you know, someone in India might not want to work with Kubernetes clusters in North America just because the round trip over the internet and all over the world. Yes, there will be a lot less Kubernetes clusters, then in addition to those clusters you can spin up obviously isolated namespaces, but also virtual clusters if you need more than just one _____ name.

Michael Vizard: Will I be able to basically provision them in advance or how long does it take to set up a virtual cluster and do I somehow have to figure it out in advance or can I do more of it unrequested?

Lucas Gentile: You know, it really depends on the organization, but we designed Loft and virtual clusters to be launched very, very quickly in a self-service session. We are strongly betting on K3S as a very lightweight Kubernetes distribution. Our default is K3S rather than the actual Kubernetes API server. And we use SK Light as the default storage backend to keep the spin-up time of these virtual clusters to a minimum.

So typically it takes about 20 seconds to spin up a virtual cluster, which is much, much faster than, you know, most call providers, which take about 20 to 30 minutes or so to spin up a real Kubernetes cluster. But of course you can also if you want your virtual clusters, you know, for example, you’re testing things in your staging environment or you’re even planning to put virtual clusters in your production system later, so of course, you can also use a full-fledged SCD even to back up a virtual cluster rather than a lightweight SK Light database. But again, it depends on the use case.

Michael Vizard: Do you think people are a bit intimidated by Kubernetes clusters? It seems like we’re not seeing as many of them in production environments as I might have thought, but what do you think or where are we on that maturity curve?

Lucas Gentile: Yeah. I think confidence definitely increases. I think there’s been a lot of experimentation with Kubernetes. You know, just because – just looking at the _____ landscape, okay, there’s like thousands of projects, so obviously you know that companies have to evaluate a lot of different technologies and figure out what the right kind of mix is ​​which they need.

But I think we’re headed in the direction of companies gaining the confidence to come up with those specs for themselves and then basically, you know, putting Kubernetes in more and more areas. They can just use it to start, you know, launch preview environments or run parts of the integration tests, but at least the customers we have are already starting to use Kubernetes in production and you know, there’s a clear trend to shift development to Kubernetes as well, which obviously represents a large portion of the engineering organizations I deal with.

Michael Vizard: Now, is your platform open source and if so, where does it fit in the landscape of Kubernetes projects you were talking about? Do you see CNCF as something you could work with or where do we go from there?

Lucas Gentile: Yeah. We are on CNCF. And are a member of the Linux Foundation. At _____ I’m actually giving a talk on virtual clusters in _____ North America in Los Angeles, I think two weeks from now is when it starts. So we are very, very active in the CNCF ecosystem. Loft itself is a commercial product, so it is not open source, but it is built in open source technologies. We have four open source projects. We obviously have _____ cluster, which is our certified Kubernetes distribution to run our _____ Kubernetes clusters.

We have Kiosk, which is a shared extension of Kubernetes. We have Dev Space, which is our oldest project. This is a development tool for Kubernetes that runs only on the client and really helps you streamline your development workflows across the organization. And then we have JS Policy, which is one of our newer projects which is basically a policy engine that lets you set mission control policies in Kubernetes using JavaScript or type scripting.

And our commercial product, Loft, you know, brings all of these open source projects together in one complete platform, but of course you can decide which features to enable. Suppose you want to use Open Policy Agent rather than JS Policy. You can simply disable the JS policy and continue to use the commercial product, but using _____ Cluster or Kiosk in that space. For this component, JS Policy, would be disabled in this case. We really built the platform to be mix and match and as customizable as possible.

Michael Vizard: Where do we go now, I mean, now that we’ve virtualized the cluster, which in itself is something of its own allure, what’s left to do?

Lucas Gentile: It’s a good question. I think there are a lot of challenges around developer experience and managing apps that run on Kubernetes and allow developers to do more themselves because right now I think actually it’s very interesting if you look at the evolution of Docker from Kubernetes. Docker was very quickly on every engineer’s machine. Law? I’m pretty sure most engineers today have the Docker desktop installed or you know, some sort of Docker _____, they’re running containers and working with containers. But Kubernetes was more operator-focused than developer-focused. And I think more and more developers are going to make that transition to Kubernetes because right now it feels like we’re talking a lot about DevOps as a paradigm for bringing development and operations closer together and I feel like Kubernetes, with its heavy focus on operations and with its high complexity, has scared the dev part a bit and focused too much on the ops part and there are a lot of challenges regarding the developer experience and bringing again this operations developer.

Michael Vizard: How automated do you think all of this can be? I mean, we have self-service, so will I as a developer just pop up one day and say, “Here’s what I need”, and then everything will know what to configure and configure? I mean, are we that close already or will there be different profiles and different optimizations depending on what type of developer I might be? Make a guess.

Lucas Gentile: Yeah I mean a lot of people are talking about, you know, Kubernetes becoming more and more in the background and almost talking about we’re going back to the classic platform as a service I guess and Kubernetes just has the building blocks for building these platform-as-a-service systems.

But I think there is an essential difference. I think a lot of things will be out of the box and, you know, less visible to the engineer at first, but I think the big difference is, when you look at all the tools, Google, Microsoft and, you know, companies like us or Rancho are building, everyone is building transparent abstractions and not the old platform as a service where you can’t pass if you really need to dig deeper.

And I think that’s the beauty of it. If I need to manually configure my readiness and lightness probes for my pods, or need to look into this container and stream the logs, people would still hopefully have this CTLX _____ and this ability to turn around _____ correctly. But I guess most of this will be automated to just make the workflow much more efficient, but it should be automated in a transparent rather than non-transparent way.

Michael Vizard: Good. Hey Lukas, thank you for being on the show and sharing your knowledge and ideas. It looks like my abstractions will soon have abstractions and we’ll go from there. I want you to stay safe and we’ll see you next time.

Lucas Gentile: Thanks, Mike. Thank you for.

Michael Vizard: Alright guys, back to you in the studio.

[End of Audio]

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