Kubecon is a tradeshow

I attended my first Kubecon/CloudNativeCon and it was pretty cool. I hadn’t been to an in-person conference since before the COVID pandemic, so I really enjoyed getting out there and socializing with all kinds of folks. But I was kind of bothered by how much focus was spent on vendors and sponsors.

The vendor showcase (booths for all the sponsors) was enormous, on the first floor, and in the main building. It says a lot that the main place for attendees to hang out is around sponsors.

There was a little corner of the vendor showcase that was dedicated to actual CNCF projects. Opentelemetry, Prometheus, Argo, etc. were all there, and the booths were staffed by contributors and maintainers. That’s awesome! Everyone attending depended on these projects in some shape or form, so what better opportunity than go and talk to people who build them?

The problem is, nobody really came to this area. I volunteered to help staff up one booth but ended up not even going on the last day because there was so little foot traffic (the last day was pretty mellow at my company’s booth too).

Is the reason why barely anyone showed up because people just weren’t interested? I don’t know, but when I talked to a few attendees they expressed interest in the OpenTelemetry booth but didn’t know that it existed. Small sample size, but I believe that this held true for a lot of people attending.

Why not put the actual CNCF projects right at the center of the showcase? And then ask Microsoft or some other big company that didn’t build any of the tech themselves to pay a million bucks to be next to the Kubernetes booth or something? I know, details, conference organizing is hard (I’ve done it before), but…c’mon. It feels possible. Companies like Microsoft are driven off of FOMO and have incredible money to throw at stuff like this, so it probably isn’t about the money.

Kubecon wouldn’t exist if it weren’t for the maintainers and contributors to Kubernetes and all the other CNCF projects. I think that the projects should be center stage at all times. Otherwise it’s just a tradeshow.