A Recap of KubeCon + CloudnativeCon 2023

By Observe Team ,November 20, 2023

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation is a relatively young organization, having been founded only 8 years ago, but the importance of Kubernetes has made the CNCF a vital part of the industry. KubeCon + CloudnativeCon started in 2016, and quickly expanded to include international versions of the event. This gained it a prominent place in the tech conference circuit for its ability to attract practitioners of all levels from all over the world. Observe recently returned to KubeCon North America for the 2023 event in Chicago. So how was it?

The Content

Observability has definitely taken more of the spotlight at KubeCon. Due in part to the fact that there’s no shortages of related projects in the CNCF, with OpenTelemetry, Prometheus, Jaeger, and Fluentd among the most prominent. This has resulted in observability being a major area of interest for attendees and that was shown in how the related content has grown since previous years.

There was a whole 16 session observability track for this year’s event. This included talks on getting started with OpenTelemetry, the potential of eBPF, and was capped off by logging best practices with Fluent Bit creator Eduardo Silva. There was also the Observability Day Co-located Event (you can check out the sessions here and the full OpenTelemetry updated below). Notably data forwarder Fluentbit entered version 2.2 and passed a new milestone of 10 billion downloads. Meanwhile OpenTelemetry logging entered GA, completing the anticipated logs, metrics, and traces trifecta. The update also noted that OTel was the second highest velocity CNCF project, following Kubernetes.

The Audience

KubeCon San Diego in 2019 was seen as a banner moment for cloud-native technology as the event was swamped by 12,000 attendees. Many attendees wondered aloud if it was “peak Kubernetes”. Unfortunately this was followed by COVID-19 lockdowns and KubeCon temporarily went virtual. Since then its been a hybrid event. This meant it is accessible to a wider audience, but in-person attendance dipped significantly for the return in LA (which had nearly 20,000 online attendees but under 4,000 in person). We were pleased to see that numbers have been climbing back up with 9,000 attending in Chicago and another 5,000 reported virtually.

KubeCon attracts a unique mix of several different growing audiences, the burgeoning number of people working with cloud-native technologies such as Kubernetes and containerization, as well as those dedicated to maintaining the vital Open-source projects. The Observe team noted that practitioners of all levels of experience were present. OpenTelemetry was a key driver for a lot of conversations on the show floor. This included many teams early on in their adoption of OTel, and looking to learn more about best practices. The pain caused by the cost of observability and monitoring tooling was another common topic among attendees.

The Venue

Evidently this was Chicago’s year for tech conferences, and our year for deep dish. The venue, McCormick Place, is known for being a truly massive convention space minutes away from Lake Michigan. The Observe team gave it points for being in close proximity to the hotel making travel convenient. Despite the lack of great outside food options in the immediate vicinity of the venue, the team found the event food to be pretty good. After DevOps Day Chicago, the city is 2 for 2 on event spaces.

Observe's Kubecon booth


KubeCon is on track to a return to form for in-person attendance compared to its pre-COVID heyday. The event continues to draw in practitioners hungry to stay on the cutting edge of cloud-native and keep up to date with the CNCF projects. The popularity of OpenTelemetry has made observability a key topic at KubeCon, which is no surprise given that Kubernetes itself is a main driver for many organizations to pursue observability.

We’ll see you next year for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon 2024 in Salt Lake City. In the meantime, if you’re a cloud-native practitioner looking for observability that can scale, check out the free trial of Observe here.