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KubeCon 2021 NA in review

Duffie Cooley
Duffie Cooley
Published: Updated: Isovalent
KubeCon 2021 NA in review

A couple of weeks ago around 3500 people gathered at the LA convention center and made a go of the first in-person KubeCon in a long time.

As part of Isovalent – and the broader Cilium community – I was right in the middle of it, and let me tell you, it was exciting! It was not as large as previous years – but then again it was not too crowded and it was actually possible to connect with people. Together with the need to reconnect, folks had way more time to spend with one another.

The conference started for me on Monday with the Cloud Native eBPF Day. eBPF is arguably the biggest revolution in the Linux Kernel in recent years: it can run sandboxed programs inside the Kernel space without the need to recompile anything. It is such a fundamental change that more and more companies start eBPF related projects every day.

eBPF day was such a huge success, both in terms of virtual attendance and in-person talks. The video sessions and schedule are up!

We had a number of great sessions including a panel moderated by my co-host Dan Papandrea. This panel included Liz Rice, Thomas Graf, Loris Degioanni, Andrew Randall and Sarah Notovny! This was a great start to the day. From there we had a number of great sessions including a talk on porting to use eBPF! There was a presentation on microservices by Jaana Dogan and so many more! Definitely check out the recordings.

In the next hall the first Supply Chain Security Conference was being held and it was great to see the amount of interest in what is happening in that space. This coincided with the announcement of which is a new company formed of a bunch of the leaders in this space to help folks solve supply chain problems! I think these folks have what it takes to make something great and it will be fun watching that take further shape in the months to come!

Tuesday I was asked to be a part of the Cloud Native Security Day CTF live session! The recording is available on Youtube. This was a great event and the sessions hosted really help share new perspectives on the challenges of securing our Cloud Native landscape. From hosting a capture the flag that anyone can participate in, to the many great sessions, this was one of my favorite events. You can see the recordings of the sessions and schedule.

For the next three days we were in the Main Event! For many this was the first conference that folks had attended in person since 2019! The majority of attendees were attending their first KubeCon. Here is a snapshot of the demographic data from the transparency report!


KubeCon once again delivered an incredible event. Continuing to ensure that folks that attended, whether virtually or in-person, felt safe and included! This community is amazing and we should all be proud of the work we do and have done to maintain it!

This year the schedule was again filled with presentations ranging from 101 level talks for folks just getting started to more advanced topics on a range of technologies in the cloud native ecosystem! Definitely take a look at the schedule and find the talks you are interested in and watch them on the CNCF KubeCon 2021 youtube channel! They are available now. To get you started, here are the talks from our folks here at Isovalent:

As you see we covered a wide range of topics, from eBPF basics to advanced security, from networking to observability. And these are just a few selected tasks – there is so much more available.

The first highlight of the conference was a major announcement: Cilium joins the CNCF as an incubating project! With eBPF as its core and backed by the CNCF, Cilium is becoming the natural default CNI in the Cloud-Native space! And it has a great, ever growing community – if you want to participate, join us on Slack.

Apart from that, I spent most of my time during the conference at our booth, speaking to vendors, customers, and other technology leaders.

There was a lot of great interaction, and possibilities to make connections with other leaders in our space. One thing that surprised me during many of the discussions was that occasionally people asked me how we make money now that we gave the stuff we built – Cilium – to the CNCF. The answer was, of course, our Enterprise offering, Isovalent Cilium Enterprise. It includes obviously excellent support, you can reach out to me personally! It also extends the great Cilium platform with features and integrations often needed by Enterprise businesses: think of role based access control, of integration with enterprise security products, of advanced flow data and analytics and above all think of supporting teams in working frictionless together on troubleshooting and policy workflows all with epbf as the key technology!

I noticed something of a Zeitgeist moment: Usually when I begin work at a company like Isovalent, I spend a bunch of my time sharing with folks why this technology stack is different or more suited to its purpose than what’s come before. Not this time: with eBPF, folks already had a concept of why eBPF is such an important technology, and they would share with me some of the things that had captured their interest so far! They would ask what Cilium and the team at Isovalent are doing with eBPF, what features we are working on. They were frequently very interested in hearing about what we are doing to satisfy many of the requirements of a service mesh without the need for a sidecar per pod.

These interactions were some of my favorite moments at KubeCon this year!

Looking back at the first big tech conference since the pandemic hit, it really did me good to meet and greet people again. I need personal interactions with others to properly function, and with such an outstanding community it was great to recharge my batteries. I am interested to see if other conferences will follow the lead, or if KubeConwill be special for the time being. Either way, make sure to check out the upcoming KubeConEurope 2022 in Spain!

About Isovalent

Isovalent is the company founded by the creators of Cilium and eBPF. Isovalent builds open-source software and enterprise solutions solving networking, security, and observability needs for modern cloud native infrastructure. The flagship technology Cilium is the choice of leading global organizations including Adobe, AWS, Capital One, Datadog, GitLab, Google, and many more. Isovalent is headquartered in Mountain View, CA and is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Google and Cisco Investments. To learn more, visit or follow @isovalent.

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Duffie Cooley
AuthorDuffie CooleyField CTO Isovalent & CNCF Ambassador
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