A year ago, Tangelo published an introduction to blockchain, along with some use cases in disruption. The response to those blogs has been tremendous. At the kickoff of 2019, I’d like to expand on those topics to answer some recurring questions and explore the significance of a technology driving massive investment and innovations across the planet.
Three out of four executives at digital companies in the EU, North American and China agreed that in 2019 there is a “compelling business case” for blockchain applications right now, according a survey by Deloitte. That report also noted that a third of these execs have already begun deploying blockchain projects inside their own organizations. 40% of them have earmarked $5 million or more for blockchain in the year ahead. The business value of blockchain has been conservatively projected to reach $2 trillion in the next decade. IHS Blockchain analyst Don Tait advised that development of this tech has reached the point that it “is poised to ripple through virtually every industry, affecting almost all organizations in the coming years.”
Many observers in the tech space have recognized that the adoption of blockchain is closely mirroring the trajectory of the World Wide Web and the comparison is instructive. In some ways, blockchain is still a great unknown to many business leaders who express that they know it could be valuable generally, but don’t understand how it relates to their business specifically.
With that comparison in mind, you could think of Kubernetes as filling the same role as drag-and-drop HTML editors did for the web. Kubernetes is a platform that is making blockchain manageable commercially.
Before you can understand what Kubernetes is and how vital it is for simplifying blockchain application development, there are a few fundamentals to review about how applications run in the cloud.
In the beginning was the container. Containers were born at the dawn of the 21st century, as a result of the dot.com bubble collapse. Web development quickly evolved from a novelty to a must-have business essential as consumer markets sorted out what made sense for online shopping and self-serve browser-based applications.
Distributed computing in the cloud was built on the back of the web, and distributed computing necessitated containers. By 2015, the mobile revolution had generated an endless app-etite (sorry, couldn’t resist) for tiny applications that ran on mobile devices, yet required the speed and compute power of the cloud. Containers were designed to be a logical packaging structure so these apps could be deployed and perform reliably in any environment, from a data center, to the cloud, to a smartphone. Docker was the largest contributor to the open source Open Container Initiative which set the standards for interoperability.
As Splunk’s Andi Mann suggested, “Taking advantage of cloud services means using agile and scalable components like containers to deliver discrete and reusable features that integrate in well-described ways, even across technology boundaries like multicloud, which allows delivery teams to rapidly iterate using repeatable automation and orchestration.”
Kubernetes, pronounced koob-er-net-eez and often shortened to “k8s,” was assembled by Google developers around 2014-2015 as a way of grouping containers into coordinated units for easier management. It allows you to automate the deployment, scaling, and operation of application containers across clusters of hosts. The name comes from Greek, meaning “captain,” “helmsman,” or “orchestrator,” which also gives you an interesting insight into Ancient Greek culture.
Without going too deep into the mechanics of it all, you can think of Kubernetes as the generator and orchestrator of building blocks known as “primitives.” These primitives do the heavy work of deploying, maintaining and scaling up applications based on the CPU, memory and other resources of the destination device. Kubernetes controls compute and storage on the device for optimal runtime in a modular way. It does this by creating “pods,” which consist of one or more containers guaranteed to be co-located on the same host machine so they can share the available resources.
While cloud providers have their own orchestration tools, for example Amazon’s EC2 has CloudFormation, Kubernetes works everywhere. You can use this one tool to deploy pods on local networks, on physical machines and on any cloud, public or private.
There are many reasons why Kubernetes has been particularly useful for blockchain applications, particularly because it:
VMWare has produced a startup guide with use cases that can jumpstart your next application development. This guide advised:
“Despite the attention to blockchain, the installation and management of a blockchain service is very complicated and requires sophisticated domain knowledge. Blockchain on Kubernetes (BoK) is a tool for users to deploy Hyperledger Fabric v1.0.5 in Kubernetes. With only a few commands, a cluster of Fabric node is up and running on Kubernetes. The blockchain developers can focus on the implementation of the business logic.”
Where this points the way to is a truly serverless architecture, where developers can devote their attention to pure application development. In a serverless workflow, Kubernetes can handle everything in the environment from the server on down, including networking info, message queues and more. To see how this works, you can already access the open source Virtual Kubelet in Github, which is dedicated to simplifying serverless implementations of Kubernetes.
That’s just a one aspect of the road to innovating with blockchain. In the weeks ahead, this blog series will delve deeper into:
In the end, only one question matters: How is your business going to deploy this tech stack to introduce disruptive innovations and stake out an intelligent position in this $2 trillion opportunity? The answer is at the intersection of blockchain and Kubernetes.
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