Jeroen Overmaat, Spectro Cloud: How Kubernetes is driving change

Jeroen Overmaat, Spectro Cloud: How Kubernetes is driving change
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For anyone who doesn’t know about your company, what type of products and services do you offer?

At Spectro Cloud we’re right at the heart of the vibrant cloud-native landscape. We make Palette, a Kubernetes management platform that enables organizations to manage thousands of clusters at scale, whether they’re in public clouds, data centres, on bare metal or edge environments. Containers and Kubernetes are powerful but they can be complex, and our mission is to take that pain away. We are a startup, but we’re mighty, and already some big businesses like T-Mobile and GE Healthcare are using our platform with their Kubernetes workloads.

What have been the latest developments at the company?

It’s been an incredibly busy few months, and the pace isn’t letting up. The team has grown significantly from less than 50 people a year ago, to more than 120 globally. Since February, we have been building the team and partner channel in EMEA, executing on an aggressive expansion GTM plan. 

A lot of our focus has been on Kubernetes at the edge, where there are really compelling use cases for our customers, but deploying and managing Kubernetes at the edge is especially challenging and costly, due to the sheer number of clusters, technology complexity, hardware limitations, poor connectivity and security issues. We have unique solutions to those problems, as our customer GE Healthcare has explained, and the industry is really paying attention — we were recently named Cool Vendor in Edge Computing by Gartner, and we’ve just found out we’re a finalist in Topio’s Edge Computing Rising Star awards too.

This recognition is the perfect warmup to a huge edge announcement we’ve got coming up later in September, plus version 3.0 of our Palette platform hitting in October. Innovation is at the heart of what we do — staying on the cutting edge of Kubernetes.

How is edge computing transforming every industry? Could you give us any specific examples?

Where to start?! Edge computing is really the next phase of multicloud and it is entering the mainstream as organizations look to extend beyond the cloud and conventional on- premises locations, taking advantage of IoT and transformational applications. We’re seeing it across the board.

We’ve talked to retailers about using edge devices in thousands of stores and restaurants to gather and analyze customer purchasing habits to optimize stock, as well as to run point of sale systems, CCTV analytics, digital signage, environment monitoring, equipment health and more.

We’ve talked to healthcare device companies about bringing powerful analytical tools closer to the edge, to the clinicians as they diagnose and treat patients — even enabling an app store-like experience for health providers to access new clinical features, opening up a new application innovation ecosystem and business model for the device maker.

And we’ve even worked with a startup that’s putting lightweight Kubernetes worker nodes directly on drones to autonomously pick fruit, with the control plane at a nearby ground station. They have plans to scale to over a thousand clusters soon. Kubernetes doesn’t get any more edge than that.

What these use cases have in common is that they directly impact business processes, whether it’s enabling a better customer experience or improving operational efficiency. That’s true industry transformation.

To what extent do you think containers and Kubernetes are driving this change?

Containerization at the moment is transforming the way application development teams are developing and deploying apps across different locations. In a recent global survey that we conducted with Dimensional Data across 308 organizations, 60% of them said that Kubernetes is their ‘preferred’ or ‘only’ way they deploy new applications to production, with the Kubernetes-based apps representing on average 43% percent of all their production applications today. Impressively, 35% of them say they are already using Kubernetes at the edge.

There is an interesting connection there between containers and edge. If you think about it, at the core of containers is the promise of app portability and abstraction from the infrastructure so edge is a no-brainer. In addition, Kubernetes provides a great opportunity for organizations to start moving away from costly hypervisor licenses (“V-tax”).

However while there is a natural fit for containerized apps and edge computing, edge is not easy. Beyond the more “industrial” requirements depending on the use case — for example sensors if we are talking about an IoT scenario — you have a diverse range of hardware coming into the mix, the lack of skilled engineers to supervise and maintain the stack, unpredictable networking, security concerns etc. Furthermore, containers, Kubernetes and the cloud native ecosystem are by design complex enough! 

And this is where we come in.

What advice would you give to companies that are looking to deploy cloud native apps at the edge?

Gartner predicts that through 2025, 50% of edge computing solutions deployed without an enterprise computing strategy in place will fail to meet goals in deployment time, functionality, and/or costs. Do not only think about today’s use case, but build a strategy and architecture that allows you to be flexible and is able to scale out or down, if needed. 

Beyond the edge, we really encourage those investigating containers and the cloud native ecosystem to think holistically about their application landscape and requirements — now and in the future. Consistency and reducing risk from multiple management points or using separate tools here is key. In addition, evaluating “open” approaches and solutions is a prerequisite for cloud native application innovation. For the majority of organizations, placing all bets in a specific “opinionated” technology set, for example a specific Kubernetes distribution or Operating System, can result in technology debt at some point.

In addition, edge by definition means being able to deploy and manage 100s or even 1000s of locations! That kind of scale makes conventional Kubernetes architectures and solutions prohibitive for IT and platform teams that have to look after those clusters: How do you manage the underlying OS on bare-metal edge deployments? How do you run updates on single-device nodes without a truck roll? How do you enforce your desired configuration remotely, across thousands of clusters, without reliable connectivity? Design to address those challenges, because if you don’t, you’ll struggle.

What other findings were the most eye-catching from the Spectro Cloud 2022 research?

Related to Kubernetes at the edge specifically, the data shows some pretty dramatic tensions. Almost everyone we surveyed saw compelling use cases for their industry, and while only 1 in 3 are using Kubernetes at the edge today, the majority plan to start. Those that use edge already are seeing some powerful business benefits — it’s proof that those edge K8s use cases are having a strategic impact beyond the four walls of IT. 

But people are daunted by doing Kubernetes at the edge. Everyone agrees it’s hard. And those that have actually tried it said it’s REALLY hard. The top challenge experienced by those using Kubernetes at the edge was having too many clusters to manage at scale — it was more of a pain point than security and compliance, even!

What plans does Spectro Cloud have for the year ahead?

For us, our mission is clear: to make containers and Kubernetes more accessible and more manageable for every organization out there. This means pushing major monthly releases that help our customers manage Kubernetes at scale, and keep showing up to amazing events like TechEx to help steer the industry in the right direction. But there are a few things we’re focusing on as we look ahead to 2023. 

One important one is engaging developers more, not just IT operations or platform teams. We believe our platform is the perfect place for developers to experiment, learn and build, without going rogue or being a burden on their ops colleagues, and we have some amazing new features coming to help us meet the needs of developers better. Stay tuned.

Another is helping push for more openness in our market space. The Kubernetes landscape is fast-changing, even chaotic, and as vendors lay off staff or get acquired, there’s a real risk to customers who are locked in to particular products or platforms. We’re working hard to build off-ramps and migration paths for these organizations, breaking down siloes, partnering for interoperability, and driving towards open standards like CNCF-compliant K8s distributions. This is immensely satisfying work for us and we believe it’s vitally important for the health of the community in the year ahead.

​​Jeroen Overmaat bio:

In the world of Kubernetes, Jeroen Overmaat joined Spectro Cloud in February 2022 as Managing Director EMEA.

Jeroen earned his ‘Kubernetes mileage’ when he joined Rancher in April 2019 as Regional Director Benelux & Nordics. Previously, Jeroen gained his DevOps experience via Puppet which had a unique way to turn the world of infrastructure upside down by introducing declarative language into this world and introducing infrastructure as code to the European market. Prior to Puppet, Jeroen was a senior Strategic Account Executive serving strategic customers for VMware in Finance, Insurance, Telco and Service Provider markets. Jeroen is passionate about driving change in the way companies should use and re-think their current and future IT strategy to drive ‘software defined’.

Want to learn more about edge computing from industry leaders? Check out Edge Computing Expo taking place in Amsterdam, California and London. 

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