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Trend Watch: The Evolution of Cloud-Native, Platform Engineering, & Gateways

Kay James
October 4, 2023 | 7 min read

Podcast Interview with Krishna Modi


"Cisco has always been one of the best company cultures and has always felt like a family; that's why I came back. I am one of many "boomerangs" who left and then inevitably returned to the company,"
Krishna Modi, Cloud Architect at Cisco.

As they say, the one thing in life you can count on is change. Our latest guest on Livin' On the Edge podcast, Krishna Modi, a Cloud Engineer at Cisco. The discussion covered a range of topics, including Krishna's professional journey, Cisco’s evolution, Identity and Access Management (IAM), trends in API gateways, and the rise of platform engineering.

What Krishna shared included insights about how companies must evolve in a cloud-native world, and that developer teams need to take platform engineering seriously. Here’s a rundown:

  1. Cloud-Native is Now a Necessity

Krishna gave us a sneak peek into the evolving landscape of cloud technology and Cisco's role in it, drawing parallels between Cisco's strategy and Nvidia's positioning as ‘the AI computing company,’ stating that Cisco is aiming to position itself as the cloud-native service provider.

"We’re definitely moving in that direction, as most technology companies are. Soon, I think we’ll start calling ourselves the cloud-native company or cloud observability company," shares Krishna.

Key acquisitions also play a role in evolving with today’s demands in the technology sector. Krishna highlighted how Cisco's acquisitions, such as Splunk for example, and its focus on observability are key steps in positioning the company in the cloud-native space.

"We’re hoping to get to the place where, whatever cloud computing platform you use, any platform that you use, we are the cloud-native service provider for you!" shares Krishna.

And Cisco’s not alone in that mission. As technology innovations often evolve quicker than more companies can keep pace with, many organizations are trying to find creative ways to keep up and remain relevant.

2. Platform Engineering is Coming in Hot

“Look, platform engineering is not just a trend but an evolution of infrastructure engineering. It’s here to stay and will continue to evolve,” shares Krishna.

Krishna emphasizes that companies need to mature and evolve to the stage where they need a platform engineering team, but oftentimes they’ll start with a DevOps head or single focused developer that conducts platform engineering activities without the title.

"You could have a platform engineer when you need one. You have a DevOps engineer when you need one; you don't just start with a DevOps engineer. So it’s the same thing…you don't start with the platform engineering team from day one. So it's more about an evolution," shares Krishna.

Most importantly, do not rush into platform engineering just because ‘everyone is doing it.’ Krishna emphasizes that you need to evolve at a pace that your company is comfortable with and cater to the needs of your own developer team first and foremost.

Move too quickly, and you’ll do it sloppily and incorrectly, causing greater developer toil. However, on the flip side, if you move too slowly your team may be left behind in the dust as other organizations adapt to the new trend.

3. Pay Attention to the API Gateway Evolution

"Honestly, I think the API gateway evolution has been one of the most interesting journeys that we've seen so far in terms of adapting," shares Krishna.

He utilizes the example of Netflix's architecture and how Netflix was one of the first companies to start with a monolith, then tried to change that into microservices, and then add an API Gateway from there.

Krishna notes that Netflix’s overall journey with APIs and Gateways is one that people often love and try to mimic. But overall, API Gateways are transforming and maturing in a way where cloud-native is now at the forefront with things like Gateway API, and it’s forcing a quicker evolution of the Ingress controller and NGINX.

"Now we’re getting to the point with API Gateways where we recognize things need to be easily pluggable, and we need to have a framework that supports rate limiting, authentication, etc., quickly and easily. There needs to be a pure focus on observability and the role API gateways will play in capturing observability metrics," shares Krishna.

Krishna notes that developers should pay close attention to the evolution of the API Gateway, as many other factions of the microservices world and API lifecycle will likely follow a similar evolution path.

"I think Kubernetes API Gateways do this best in my experience so far, but it will be cool to see how it all comes together in the next few years," shares Krishna.

Bonus: Don’t Forget Identity Access Management

Now this takeaway isn’t as evolution-focused as our other points, but it’s a friendly reminder that although IAM hasn’t gone anywhere, it still needs the spotlight. You know what they say, ‘The more things change the more they stay the same!’

"Hot take–identity and access management (IAM), I think everyone's problem. You start any company, you start any product… IAM has always been the first problem you have, right?” shares Krishna. “If you're starting anything, don’t start without I AM in place, and also, when you write it, do NOT write it the old-fashioned way (manually)," shares Krishna.

Krishna notes that there are many tools and resources available to help you get IAM right. Gone are the days of writing your own IAM, and it’s a lot more complex than it used to be. But getting IAM right will put you far ahead in terms of practicing proper security measures and getting authorization and authentication right.

"It’s not just you create a user, authorize a user, and just work anymore. Of course, some teams will wait to do this until a much later stage, but it really should be a first practice. Keycloak is a great tool if you need help with that, easy to integrate with too," shares Krishna.

We appreciate Krishna’s insights and sharing a bit of the trends and best practices he’s focused on at Cisco. For more insights on the Kubernetes world, APIs, and developer experience, visit our podcast page at https://www.getambassador.io/podcasts.