Kasten by Veeam sponsored this article for The New Stack.
As Kubernetes becomes a linchpin of the modern enterprise, it’s fueling enormous demand for tech pros who understand the nuts and bolts of the platform. There simply aren’t enough of them — not even close.
In fact, a survey published in June by Canonical revealed that a lack of in-house skills is the top challenge that companies encounter when adopting containers and Kubernetes.
The dearth of available Kubernetes talent isn’t actually surprising. Kubernetes’ reputation for power and scale is frequently followed by mention of its learning curve, which can be steep.
Education and training resources are catching up to the feverish interest in the orchestration tool. This is a move in the right direction, but demand is still substantially ahead of supply — which is motivating the broader industry to invest in Kubernetes education not just for experienced technologists, but beginners and career-changers, too.
One of the newest such pathways is Learning.kasten.io, a Kubernetes learning platform from Kasten by Veeam. The company wants to help shorten the learning curve for the next cohorts of tech pros who will need to learn at least the basics of Kubernetes to be successful in their jobs.
That’s more difficult to do today than it should be.
“One of the biggest areas of need I think from a community standpoint is accessibility to a platform to learn on,” Michael Cade, senior global technologist at Kasten by Veeam, told The New Stack. “There’s a daunting hill you have to get over.”
Bridging the Kubernetes Skills Gap
As the cloud native universe exploded and Kubernetes adoption skyrocketed, especially during the past several years, the skills gap became a significant problem.
“Kubernetes has seen faster adoption than probably any open source project in history,” said Clyde Seepersad, senior vice president and general manager of training and certification, The Linux Foundation. “While this has been exciting for us and the cloud industry, it has also created significant challenges, including talent shortages.”
More than half (nearly 55%) of the roughly 1,200 respondents in the Canonical survey listed “lack of in-house skills/limited manpower” as the strongest headwind on their path to cloud native transformation, outpacing multiple issues commonly blamed on Kubernetes adoption, from security concerns, to integration with legacy components of an IT stack, to cost overruns.
“One of the biggest areas of need I think from a community standpoint is accessibility to a platform to learn on. There’s a daunting hill you have to get over.”
Michael Cade, senior global technologist, Kasten by Veeam
As if to underline the point, a separate but related issue — “difficulty training users” — ranked fourth on the list, with nearly 30% of respondents saying it was a problem.
“Kubernetes has become the default for multicontainer and eventually multicloud orchestration,” said Yugal Joshi, partner at Everest Group, where he leads the firm’s digital, cloud and application services research practices.
“Our research suggests cloud native capabilities such as Kubernetes are witnessing significant demand-supply mismatch of over 30%, indicating that skilled people can get a significant premium for their capabilities.”
This gap has been compounded by a relatively thin menu of opportunities to learn Kubernetes in the past, especially if you’re starting from square zero and want a helping hand — and even more so if you’re on a tight budget.
Where Do You Practice Kubernetes Skills?
Cade noted a key challenge of the DIY approach to learning Kubernetes: Where do you run it?
“I either have to put a credit card in a public cloud and start spending money, and I don’t understand it — that’s a little bit daunting,” he said. “Or I can look at these local development systems when I don’t have a clue what’s going on and potentially break my laptop.”
Neither of those options sounds very appealing, especially if you’re in the beginning stages of building Kubernetes knowledge and skills. That’s the core reason Kasten developed Learning.kasten.io: It gives anyone the chance to learn some of the architecture of Kubernetes as well as build an actual cluster. And it’s free — no credit card or laptop crash required.
The site, which officially launched in October at KubeCon + CloudNativeCon North America 2021 after a beta phase, currently features three labs:
1. Build your first Kubernetes cluster.
This includes the basics of launching a new cluster.
2. Build a Kubernetes application.
This covers the basics of building container images and running applications.
3. Back up your Kubernetes application.
The final (as of now) lab focuses on backing up applications and data management.
There’s also a “special edition” lab that Kasten created for KubeCon: this 20-minute crash course includes a self-assessment of your initial skill level and a primer in the fundamental building blocks of Kubernetes, including the control plane, pods and other concepts.
Hands-on Kubernetes Education
“There’s no doubt that Kubernetes is transforming the cloud native industry and the resulting demand for education has never been higher,” said William Morgan, co-creator of the open source service mesh Linkerd and currently CEO of Buoyant. “Unfortunately, the learning curve is not shallow, especially since Kubernetes doesn’t work in a vacuum.”
There’s a wealth of written content and tutorials about Kubernetes. There are also multiple hands-on courses and certification exams (many created and overseen by the Linux Foundation), and a cottage industry of consultants who offer Kubernetes training.
To this point, however, those have largely focused on intermediate or advanced-level practitioners. They can also be expensive, especially in the case of consultants whose pricing is aimed at employers rather than individuals.
“For those who already have worked in IT previously but do not possess cloud-specific skills, the beginner concepts are typically very easy to grasp so they can move directly into more advanced training followed on quickly by certification,” said Seepersad.
“Those completely new to the technology industry need to learn the basics first before they can attempt intermediate or advanced training successfully.”
Hands-on labs and similar resources are crucial for newbies, and they need to be accessible — both in terms of how they teach the fundamentals, but also in terms of financial cost. “Free” fits any learner’s budget.
Kasten’s labs are “time-bombed,” in that there’s a limit on how long you can run a cluster. As Cade half-joked, this is not the cluster for running your cryptocurrency mining operation. But you can go back and re-run the lab(s) as many times as you’d like, at no cost.
According to Clyde Seepersad, who oversees training and certification for The Linux Foundation, there has been a 455% increase in Kubernetes-certified professionals during the past three years, but that’s still not enough to meet demand.
The site already has more than 5,000 registrations and counting, according to Thomas Keenan, senior product manager for Kasten by Veeam. It’s another data point that speaks to the insatiable appetite for meaningful Kubernetes education.
“Even in today’s video-call-saturated world, the hunger for hands-on Kubernetes knowledge is strong and growing,” Morgan said. His own firm recently launched a “Service Mesh Academy” series, reflecting the wider need for cloud native learning opportunities. “We expect to see that demand continue across the entire ecosystem.”
What’s the Future of Kubernetes Training?
Keenan and Cade both envision lots more to come for the Kasten platform, including additional labs, community-contributed content, new instructors and other options. The possibilities for that are already evident, such as the current option to work through a lab as an instructor video plays. (For example: Cade created companion videos for the first and third labs.)
Participants earn badges for completing labs on Kasten’s learning platform, gamification-style, something that Keenan sees as a possible precursor to creating more formal pathways to cloud native industry certifications, which are themselves becoming a growth area.
Case in point: The Linux Foundation announced at October’s KubeCon the Kubernetes and Cloud Native Associate (KCNA) credential, aimed at entry-level cloud native professionals, which joins the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) and other certifications already available for their more experienced peers.
According to Seepersad, there has been a 455% increase in Kubernetes-certified professionals during the past three years, but that’s still not enough to meet demand.
The Linux Foundation launched KCNA “to help a new generation of cloud and Kubernetes professionals get their foot in the door,” Seeperad said. “At this point the resources are there for anyone who wants to work in this field to make a start of it, but we need even more folks to become interested in pursuing this kind of career in the first place.”
Keenan envisions adding training to the Kasten platform geared for more advanced users at some point. But he emphasized that it will never pull up the welcome mat for novice users, who are crucial to the future of the Kubernetes community.
“Always supporting the rookies and onboarding and getting them on the moving sidewalk is incredibly important,” he said.
Among other reasons why this is critical: not everyone who learns Kubernetes will necessarily need to master the tool.
There will likely be many tech pros who need “good enough” capabilities, especially if they’re asked to support a cluster as a secondary part of their job. Veteran engineers know well the “here, you manage this now” method of “professional development.”
In any scenario, Kubernetes continues its exponential growth. That skills gap isn’t going to bridge itself.
“We know that more people are being tasked to implement it and so helping them get there and making them part of that broader community is very important,” Keenan said, adding that Learning.kasten.io will welcome contributions from others in the community. “There’s a lot of angles in the future we can take from a community perspective.”
Kasten by Veeam and The Linux Foundation are sponsors of The New Stack.