On 26th March Kubernetes London Meetup planned to host another event. It was supposed to be our 5th birthday so we had worked hard to make the event, to quote Kelsey Hightower, “Dope”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be as the coronavirus disrupted all levels of public life in a way our generation never experienced before.
This blog post is the long version of the short talk I wanted to give at the event to walk through some of the most memorable experiences I’ve had in the past 5 years as one of the Meetup organizers.
The story of Kubernetes London Meetup starts, of all places, at Ministry of Justice, UK (MoJ) where I first met my co-organizer Peter Idah. We worked at different departments on different projects, but as life and luck would have it we would bump into each other occasionally between the thick walls of the aging building and share an odd joke about all kinds of random issues we were facing at the time trying to containerize mostly Ruby on Rails applications.
This was the time when Docker was so bleeding edge that trying to do anything with it without wearing surgical gloves would end up in major Cloud bloodbath. We both noticed that trying to get the pesky Rails apps running in AWS required so much (bash) duct tape that even Bob the Builder would be proud of our efforts. One day, during one of the casual coffee break conversations I vaguely remembered attending some random event at Google Campus, London where an engineer from Google gave a talk about a “small project” they were working on which aimed to help running Docker containers “at scale”. Both of us being engineers, the sound of the word “scale” got us hooked up, for better or worse. We decided to investigate it further, and though initially, our first discussion led nowhere it planted a seed in our heads which would grow into something none of us could have imagined at the time.
This was the time when new container tech that was being developed with pace I could hardly remember in my professional career till then. It was almost like every second day we would have a new tool. But we were still missing something. We started talking about this “made by Google” thing whose name many still can’t properly pronounce even today. That is, besides my Greek friends <3. We decided to take it for a spin, so we cloned the repo and tried to build the binaries, but once again that turned out to be a mammoth task, which even some of the best enterprise build and release engineers would most likely fail at. We didn’t give up and kept on talking about it until one day at yet another coffee break Peter suggested suggested we should find a local Kubernetes Meetup and pick other people’s brains. It turned out there was no such Meetup in London, so we decided to start one ourselves! Who would have thought the appalling Costa coffee would be at the birth of the Meetup that would become a community of 4K people it is today.
From this moment on things started moving really fast. We needed a venue and the speakers. As for the venue, we were not too worried about it. We knew we could probably host it at MoJ as few other meetups did in the past. However, getting the speakers was a whole another challenge.
Most of the companies trying to get their hands dirty with running containers at scale at the time were looking up to Apache Mesos and there was hardly anyone who knew much about Kubernetes. That is, besides the folks at Weave.Works, who were the only major player working on a secure SDN for containers. Luckily they had agreed not only to sponsor the Meetup they also got us in touch with folks at Google. We knew we would need at least one great speaker, ideally someone knowledgeable on the topic and we found one in Craig Box from Google. Craig has been a very active member of Kubernetes community since the beginning who helped us massively when we were getting started. He is running a pretty cool podcast about all things Kubernetes.
But we didn’t stop there. The annual FOSDEM conference was coming up and I noticed on Twitter that Kelsey Hightower was going to attend and give a talk about Kubernetes at Config Management Camp in Ghent. So I messaged Kelsey over IRC (most of the tech communities back then were still on IRC!) and asked him if he would be up for coming to London and giving a talk at the inaugural Meetup which coincidentally was going to be hosted few days after the FOSDEM. As luck would have it, Kelsey said yes much to my and Peter’s delight!
FOSDEM in 2015 was a lot of fun. One of the most memorable moments for me, besides the overcrowded Go development room where the oxygen was to be had at a premium, was the appearance of Serge Hallyn from Canonical who was giving a talk about LXD, the descendant of LXC that gave the birth to Docker. Serge, to my astonishment, looked like Linus Torvalds doppelgänger:
I met Kelsey at FOSDEM for the first time in my life. Little did I know I would end up meeting him on so many other occasions from then on and shaping a great friendship with him. I remember taking a train from Brussels to Ghent with Kelsey and Mitchell Hashimoto who was also speaking at the Config Management Camp. We chatted about containers, SDN and the future of application delivery. Once again, little did I know Mitchell and I would meet at the Ghent train station two years in a row afterwards, both times trying to figure out how to buy the tickets for the bloody tram. Last time I met Mitchell in London a few years ago we joked about meeting in Ghent some day again at the tram station.
In order to get to London in time for the Meetup, we had to take an early Eurostar train which we would have to catch in Lille, which was about an hour train ride from Ghent. We met at the Ghent train station around 5 AM. We would then head to Lille where we would catch the connecting Eurostar train to London. The planned arrival time in London: 11 AM. When we arrived in Lille, we went go and grab breakfast at some random French cafe by the train station. We were so deep in some conversation that we completely lost the track of time and when we realized that we had to leave the place hastily to catch the train to London.
As it turned out there are 2 train stations in Lille: one for the local trains and another one for the international ones. And they’re about 10 minutes’ walk away from each other! Sprinting to the international station after having just eaten a few crepes with chocolate was no small feat! We missed the train by a minute. We literally watched it from the platform as it was leaving us behind for London. Luckily, the Eurostar staff gave us replacement tickets free of charge, but we would have to wait for 4 more hours to catch the next train. So we went to explore the city which despite the freezing temperatures (February in the north of France is unforgiving) turned out to be super nice!
Around 2PM we finally made it to London. Kelsey went to his hotel to take a nap whilst I ran to MoJ to get the event prepared. When we thought we were finally ready there was another surprise waiting for us. The meetup was supposed to be held at the “basement” auditorium, but as it turned out, the room also used to serve as a place for monthly yoga sessions for the public servants working at the building. So after we had prepared the seating and AV equipment and went back to our daily jobs upstairs, when we came back we found all the furniture moved to the side and two people in the middle of the room standing on their heads doing yoga. The accumulation of the events happening on the day made me burst into laughter. I don’t think I will ever forget this moment. To top things off, Dominos, the pizza company we ordered the refreshments from messed up the delivery address and attempted the delivery on the other side of London delaying the arrival of pizzas by almost an hour.
To our genuine surprise, given how immature Kubernetes at the time still was, despite getting more and more attention in the wider tech community around the world we had almost 100 people showing up at the Meetup
Of course, the attendance had nothing to do with our mad organizing or promotion skills. As I said Kubernetes was already getting a growing amount of attention mostly thanks to the man whom I managed to convince to come and give a talk at our first Meetup:
The first Meetups are always super exciting. Everyone who attends usually comes due to genuine curiosity and willingness to understand how this “new thing” works. We were lucky to host some really great teachers. This is Craig Box literally preaching Kubernetes during the post Meetup talks discussion with Kelsey listening in the background:
We don’t know if the first Meetup was a success or not. It’s hard to judge these things from the organiser’s perspective, but we do know that that day we both aged a few years. Well I certainly did. It was the first Meetup for Peter and me and, oh my, neither of us could have imagined organizing the Meetups would be such an undertaking! We both agreed in the post-Meetup exhaustion it was 100% worth it. The discussions we had at the first Meetup with so many people were some of the best tech discussions I had since I remember. The insatiable hunger to learn was felt so strongly that we knew we were on the cusp on something big. What we didn’t anticipate was that it would take us all the way to March 2020!
In the rest of this post, I will go through the timeline of the Kubernetes London Meetup and pick some of my personal highlights. Compiling the best memories was so hard due to so many amazing experiences and people I have been fortunate to meet, interact with and learn from over the past 5 years! Here we go!
Meetup nr. 2
We hosted the second Meetup at Open Credo office in Southwark. It turned out the size of the office was not as big as we had expected but it would have to do for the night. The number of people signed up for this event was a bit smaller so considering the usual drop off we figured we would not need a large venue. Oh my, were we wrong. It turned out, most of the people on the list showed up. So here we were, crammed in this small-ish steamingly hot room trying to learn about scaling of Kubernetes clusters:
This was also the Meetup where Patrick Reilly, Kismatic, gave a talk about what later turned into Kubernetes dashboard
But the real reason I enjoyed this particular event and why I so fondly remember it was the discussion we had after the talks. Imagine a small room which no AC rammed with a bunch of people and hot pizza boxes. And yet, here we all were, talking late night about what Kubernetes is and what was it to become. Why does it seem so important, what will it mean and how does it compare to things like OpenStack. I swear that night we left the venue around 11PM! To my surprise when I brought this up at the last Meetup we hosted in February, only one member in the attendance remembers this. It was Tony Scully, who now works for VMware, who has been attending our meetups quite regularly.
This was also the Meetup where James Strachan said the now-famous words:
Kubernetes is the POSIX of the Cloud!
This certainly grabbed the attention of all of us in the room and led to another long discussion. I feel the jury is still out on this one, but it was not far from the truth, alas caveats apply.
Around July 2015, the Kubernetes project announced v1 release, which basically meant the core API was stable and the project was ready for production deployments. We hosted an event to celebrate the v1 launch at our favorite venue, Skills Maatter, London who ended up hosting our Meetup so many times afterwards. We feel huge gratitude to Wendy Devolder whose dedication to the London tech community has been absolutely tremendous.
In the run-up to the event, I was sitting at Starbucks trying to get my intro slides ready. This was at the time when I was still doing the Meetup intros, a duty I eventually shifted to someone else later on. Kelsey happened to message me on Skype and as usual, we got to talking. He mentioned what he was working on and I suggested he should give a talk about it at our meetup, remotely. To my surprise he said yes! Who better to give a talk at the v1 party than the man who helped us launch the meetup?
The event turned out to be another great success with lots of people attending despite the strike of London public transport drivers which left the city of London in the state of disarray. Inspired by the hype of celebrity selfie-taking I decided to take a selfie of me and Kelsey with the crowd behind us:
In March 2016 Kubecon was to be hosted in London for the first time. I found myself helping out Joe Jacks organizing the conference including reviewing the CfPs for the first time in my life. We decided to split the event into multiple tracks, something that has carried over to the future Kubecon conferences.
Around the same time, Peter and I asked Ivan Pedrazas if he would be interested in helping us with organizing the meetup which was keeping us busy as it was. Luckily he said yes and he is still a member of the organizing team.
Ivan and I also started a now-defunct podcast called Kubecast where we had a chance to talk about Kubernetes with some of the earliest adopters and active members of the community. Unfortunately, our full-time jobs and our actual personal lives didn’t allow us to continue doing the podcast but the first few episodes are still out there for you to check out if you fancy going down the memory lane.
In August 2016 Kubernetes reached its first post-v1 birthday and we decided to celebrate it accordingly by throwing a small birthday party Meetup. We even had birthday cakes made in the shape of Kubernetes octagon!
This was one of our most memorable events to date for me personally. There was still so much enthusiasm and excitement felt all around. This was the meetup where Christian Simon of Jetstack introduced kube-lego for the first time.
kube-lego was the predecessor of the cert-manager project which has become de-facto the standard for issuing SSL certificates in Kubernetes clusters. I still remember the live demo where the newly issued Lets Encrypt cert keys were happily dumped into standard output, something I still tease Christian with occasionally, whom since then I have made some of the best friends with.
We finished the night with a quiz made using Kahoot which was met with a lot of excitement with people asking for it at several other meetups afterwards. I feel like we never recreated the same sense of fun doing the quiz again, though we tried!
Container Camp Zero Day
Along with Docker London under the supervision of Angie Maguire we held a joint container.camp pre-event with about 10 short-ish talks on a wide range of topics. This was our first joint event, an occasion we would go on to repeate few times afterwards, but this event will stay in my memory becase it was the first time as far as I remember we decided not to order pizzas but instead we ordered burritos! Now, don’t get me wrong, the talks and the speakers were amazing Now, don’t get me wrong, the talks and the speakers were amazing. I remember learning from Ben Hall from Katacoda about some super interesting Docker security features I had no idea about until then! But oh my, them burritos, though. Well played, Angie!
Around the end of 2017 we managed to agree on a sponsorship partnership with Microsoft. And it was one of the best things we managed to do. Up until then the sponsorship money to cover the venue and the Meetup was something that occupied us most of the time. Chasing the sponsors to the point when they finally paid their invoice felt like what a founder of a startup must feel like – relentless hassle, pain, and suffering. I remember one time, one of the sponsors who agreed to all the conditions could not make it to the event which by then was already announced hence canceling the sponsorship so Peter and I ended up covering some of the cost of the food and drink for the night using our own money.
Huge thanks for this goes to Marcus Robinson who helped to get this over the finish line.
Later on, when Microsoft acquired Deis, we also hosted Gabe Monroy when he randomly showed up in London. It’s always awesome to have Gabe speaking. I always tease him as his being the best-dressed nerd in the business :D
The partnership with Microsoft worked out so well that we decided to look for a similar partner once this one expired. Luckily, Michael Hausenblas got us in touch with Red Hat, the company he worked for at the time and after a few months of email ping-pong, we finally agreed to another year long partnership.
Red Hat were simply awesome. They gave us absolute freedom when it comes to spending the sponsorship money: the trust they had put into us still astonishes me, mostly because Kubernetes London is not, unlike 99% of the large Meetups in London, run under any commercial umbrella of any organization, but rather by a commercially independent group of people doing this in their free time whilst having their day-to-day jobs and their own personal lives. So I guess what I’m trying to say is much heartzz Red Hat, we and our community appreciates your help tremendously <3
Over the years we have also realized that the tech communities, at least in most of the Western world, are getting so spoilt by getting so much for free: access to knowledge, network, and events all free of charge that we decided to do something about it.
Sometime around 2017, in collaboration with Deis, we organised a Kubernetes training for about 50 people, returns on which we then donated to charity. You can do good with tech
At Christmas 2018 we decided to raise money for Theodora Children’s Charity who train clowns who cheer up ill children. The first year wasn’t as successful as we had hoped but in the second year, we managed to raise over £1k, something our community can be proud of!
I could go on and on about all the memories for the events we have organised to date, like the one at Deliveroo, providing one of the coolest venues we were lucky to be hosted at, where I heard for the first time about brigade.sh the event driven scripting for Kubernetes:
The past five years organising this ever so growing Meetup has been a tremendous challenge of resilience, self-doubt and finding the new levels of energy where many would probably give up. Neither of us organisers do any of this as part of our jobs. None of our employers supports any of these efforts. We are engineers with our own day-to-day jobs that keep us pretty busy. This is why having run the Meetup for 5 years makes me proud especially in light of many other Meetups of similar size in London who have become mostly marketing channels either for the organizers or the speakers.
Kubernetes London will strive to be the place where everyone comes, learns and shares with their co-nerds. Of course, sometimes we will fuck up at doing this. That’s inevitable. But we’ll always strive to run the meetup to the benefit of our community. We hope many of you will find your way to one of our events and bring along newcomers. Everyone’s welcome! At the end of the day, it’s the people who make all of this worthwhile. I have been fortunate to have met some amazing people in this community over the past 5 years. I’m sure some of the friendships I have made along the way will last forever!
On that note, I’d like to thank all of our wonderful speakers who volunteered to give a talk at one of our Meetups and give them a round of virtual applause. You rock! Without you, we would never have been the meetup we are now!
Our awesome speakers
Craig Box, Kubernetes
Kelsey Hightower, Managing Containers at Scale with CoreOS and Kubernetes
Jerzy Szczepkowski, Kubernetes Autoscaling
James Strachan, Developing services on Kubernetes using OpenShift and Fabric8
Alex Gonzalez, Flocker plugin in Kubernetes
Ivan Pedrazas, CI/CD with Kubernetes
Gareth Rushgrove, Managing Kubernetes configuration with Puppet
Ilya Dmitrichenko, How to run Kubernetes ANYWHERE
Gabe Monroy, Deis, PaaS built on Kubernetes
Martin Devlin, Consul and Vault Integration with Kubernetes
Justin Santa Barbara, Kubernetes: Prologue, Present and Predictions
Matt Bates, Kubernetes 1.3 Alpha Features at Glance: PetSet & Init Containers
Christian Simon, kube-lego automated SSL certificate management
Bart Spaans, KubeFuse - interact with Kubernetes via filesystem
Oliver Beattie, Kubernetes at Monzo
Peter Idah, Kubernetes and Stackstorm
Ben Hall, Tips on solving E_TOO_MANY_THINGS_TO_LEARN
Marcus Maxwell, Prometheus and Kubernetes: Match made in heaven
Anna Czerwiec and Alex Hayton, 5 times when kubernetes made me cry… and why I still love it!
Adnan Abdulhussein, Continuous delivery to Kubernetes using Helm
Charlotte Godley, Deployment pipelines with Kubernetes
Tim Hockin, Deep-dive on Kubernetes networking
Laurent Demailly, Deep dive to Istio
Kasia Hoffman, Kubernetes, still an early adpoter game?
Rimas Mocevicius, Convergence of Kubernetes in production
Cheryl Hung, Persistent storage with Kubernetes in production – Which solution and why?
Colin Humphreys, Kubernetes clusters at scale
Syed Humza Shah, How Deliveroo used containers on Kubernetes to redesign training of statistical models
Paris Apostolopoulos, Kubernetes + Developers = Love @ Ticketmaster
James Strachan, James Rawlings and Rob Davies, CI/CD with Jenkins X on Kubernetes
Andrea Wong, Extending Kubernetes API
James Lawrence, Migrating cloud providers and orchestrators
Apurva “Apu” Chitnis, kEdge: Kubernetes Edge Proxy
Ann Curie, Cloud vs Ethics
Justin Davies, Brigade: Event-driven scripting for Kubernetes
Lucas Kaldstrom, Production ready Kubernetes cluster
Joel Speed, Single Sign-On for Kubernetes
David McKay, Extending Kubernetes with MetaController
Ben Hall, Running Kubernetes without Docker using CRI
Lewis Denham-Parry, CNCF Wales and what we do
Mark Chmarny & Oren Teich, Knative
Gabe Monroy, Debugging distributed applications with Azure Dev Spaces and AKS
Petros Rizos, Kubernetes at scale at Confluent
Luke Marsden, Software delivery: DevOps, AI and K8s
Daniel Bryant, Exploring the Kubernetes-native Ambassador API Gateway
Liz Rice, The most pointless thing I’ve done with Kubernetes
Miles Bryant, Building a bank on Kubernetes vol. 2
Charlotte Godley, Kubernetes Dev(and)Ops
Carmen Andoh, Kubernetes at Travis CI
Kir Shatrov, Autoscaling Kubernetes clusters the hard way
Paris Apostolopoulos, Kubernetes at TicketMaster, a year on
Sam Irvine, Secure CI/CD pipelines with Kubernetes
Thomas Rampelberg, Software Engineer, Buoyant
Daryl Porter, Ops Solution Architect, Kainos
Byron Berrisford, Engineer, Spotinst
David Jeche, Boxes within boxes: Beam2Kube
Ramiro Berrelleza, Cloud Native Development
Viktor Petersson, IoT on Edge
Gareth Rushgrove, Cloud Native Development
Lewis Marshal, Best Practice Application Delivery in a Cloud Native World
Jason Teh, Kafka on Kubernetes
Al Bates, Ephemeral clusters with Sugarkube
Naadir Jeewa and Dan Finneran, Cluster management and Cluster API
Joel Speed, Oh Sh*t! The Config Changed
Justin Cormack, Security at Docker
Diego Comas, Securing Kubernetes
Liz Rice, Hacking kubernetes networking
Andrew Martin, Kubernetes security is a myth
James Laverack, etcd operator
Joseph Irving, Ukube: U get better abstractions. Kubernetes at uSwitch
Stuart Leeks, Databricks and CronJobs operators\