As part of our Venture Talk series, organized jointly with SAP Bay Area, we had the pleasure of welcoming Tim Hockin, Principal Software Engineer at Google and co-founder of the Kubernetes project. Here are a few insights and takeaways from Tim on container orchestration solutions, open source communities, and more.

By Gabriela Trujillo from SAP Bay Area


On March 13, Tim Hockin, Principal Software Engineer at Google and co-founder of the Kubernetes project, joined Yaad Oren, Global Vice President and Head of Technology & Innovation Strategy at SAP, on the stage at HanaHaus for a discussion on container orchestration solutions, open source communities, and more. Organized jointly by SAP Bay Area and HanaHaus, this was the fourth episode in the Venture Talk Series.

The History of Kubernetes

Tim first took us back to 2013 and spoke to how Kubernetes began. He mentioned that his team, Google Borg, despite first briefly acknowledging Docker to only shortly thereafter dismiss it, realized sometime later in 2013 that it had snowballed and was something headed in a direction in which it would continuously be needed by more people. It was in this moment that he and his team realized there was an opportunity to share what they knew and donate some of their learnings to the world.

The Status of the Kubernetes Project

Kubernetes now stands as the open source project with the highest adoption rate. 60% of companies that use it are testing each day while 77% of organizations use it in production. Its ability to scale well speaks volumes to its robustness, which is also evident by the many giants such as AWS and Azure who are aligning their strategies to it.

The Challenges of the Kubernetes Project

Kubernetes’ success at the beginning was due to its very narrow focus. If at the time, as Tim put it, “you [were] a web app and [had] very small scale, [Kubernetes] was for you.” What started as a 100 node release then increased massively over the next eight years. So much so that this became the greatest challenge for it (“tackling the bigger side of the world”). With new customers came new needs and with bigger customers, bigger requests and…more software governance. Tim mentioned that while true that Kubernetes tackles complexity, it also brings complexity and it is therefore important to “not fall into the pit of being everything to everybody.”

Open Source

Recently, to some, it seems that something has changed with open source. Namely, it seems that its impact has become more strategic than it used to be. Tim, however, rejects the idea that open source is more important now than it was before. He simply thinks it has moved up the stack. He mentioned that all that used to exist behind-the-scenes (i.e. infrastructure), is now at the forefront. In other words, systems themselves are now visible and apps are distributed and a good amount of them happen to be open source.

The Kubernetes Community

If the community surrounding Kubernetes had not taken off how it did, neither would have the project. Tim explained that the community was not open source in the sense of, “here’s the code, you can take a look if you want to but we won’t take your patches, that’s all” but was instead one with a mindset of, “we’re giving this to the world and actively working to reduce our importance in the project.” It is now a global project, one with contributors from all over the map. The last Tim checked, there were 25,000 contributors and 2,500 actively monthly, people from every time zone and possibly every continent (he’s still trying to figure out if every continent or every continent EXCEPT Antarctica. Anyone know?)

To conclude, Tim and Yaad addressed the audience’s questions and shared additional perspectives.

In case you missed this exciting discussion, watch some of the replay here.