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VMblog Expert Interview: Lukas Gentele Discusses Loft, Open Source Projects, and Kubernetes

interview-loft-gentele 

VMblog recently had the opportunity to speak with Lukas Gentele, the CEO of Loft Labs, Inc. to find out more about the company, the projects they are building in the open source community, and what they are doing in the Kubernetes space.

VMblog:  Before we dig into the details, tell us about Loft - the company's mission and what you do?

Lukas Gentele:  Loft allows companies to add multi-tenancy and efficiency to their Kubernetes platforms. With Loft's virtual Kubernetes clusters, engineers can securely share a single Kubernetes cluster by spinning up virtual clusters inside of it. That way, everyone gets their own Kubernetes cluster and everybody is securely isolated just like in a virtual machine (= multi-tenancy) but at the same time all of these virtual clusters run on the same shared Kubernetes infrastructure which, in most cases, saves over 70% of cloud computing cost compared spinning up "real" clusters for everyone (= efficiency).

VMblog:  For a startup, you are involved and supporting four open source projects which requires substantial resources. Why is open source so important to you?

Gentele:  Open source is part of our DNA. Everyone we hire has experience in building and growing open source projects and companies built around open source technology. It's key for us to open source part of our secret sauce because open source communities are an incredible source of innovation. We know that most open source projects, including ours, are maintained by a handful of dedicated developers but the value of an open source community is not the code that folks in the community occasionally contribute. It's the ideas and the feedback that everyone contributes at a much higher rate as compared to closed source software. Because ideas are shared openly, other community members can weigh in, improve suggestions, dive into their specific use cases, and ultimately shape a better product faster than any closed source software could ever evolve with classical product research methodologies. Additionally, we think that a loyal community enables sustainable organic growth because community members will proactively talk about their experiences and share their stories much more openly than they would be allowed by their companies if the software was closed source. That's why we try to open source as much as possible without compromising the success of our business that ultimately also needs to generate revenues through our commercial offering.

VMblog:  How does the open source that you sponsor relate to Loft products so the company has a monetization model?

Gentele:  Loft incorporates our open source vcluster technology and provides a management platform for virtual clusters. If you are very tech savvy or just interested in spinning up a handful virtual clusters, you'll be fine with vcluster as an open source project but if you want to spin up virtual clusters at a larger scale and need security features such as single sign-on, audit logging, or strict access control policies, then Loft is the tool that provides this out-of-the-box. Additionally, Loft has cost savings features such as our automatic sleep mode for virtual clusters, provides a nice UI and CLI, a Terraform provider, and many other features that make Loft a great solution for the enterprise to get even more value out of operating virtual clusters.

VMblog:  How is what you are doing related to Kubernetes?

Gentele:  Our product is as Kubernetes-native as it gets. We don't have a database or any external data store. We store everything inside Kubernetes and that's amazing for our customer because they can operate Loft entirely via kubectl, Helm, ArgoCD, or any other cloud-native tool without having to learn a new proprietary API or any other tooling. We provide a UI and CLI but even they are just running kubectl commands under the hood. And this makes Loft GitOps-friendly and very easy to integrate into our customers' existing tool chain.

VMblog:  Once someone gets into Kubernetes, can you help with ‘day 2' issues that crop up once deployment is in motion?

Gentele:  Yes, absolutely. Without virtual clusters, many enterprises have to create hundreds or even thousands of heavyweight Kubernetes clusters with tons of inefficiencies and redundancies. It's a mess to maintain and very costly. With virtual clusters, you can create 1 (or maybe a handful in the case of a very large deployment) cluster and then have hundreds or thousands of virtual clusters on top. That seems like a small difference but it makes a huge difference in terms of maintenance and cost efficiency. The huge benefit of virtual clusters is that they run on top of a shared underlying host cluster. That means these virtual clusters can share certain resources and tools from this underlying cluster. For example, instead of having to spin up a platform stack (lots of tools for logging, monitoring, backup, storage, networking, etc.) in 100 Kubernetes clusters individually that are barely utilized, you can now have 1 single platform stack running in 1 single Kubernetes cluster and 100 virtual clusters can share this platform stack. This reduces redundancies, keeps the management effort very low, and improves the efficiency and utilization of your platform tools.

VMblog:  Deployment of Kubernetes has been a grind. How does Loft help?

Gentele:  Unlike "real" clusters, virtual clusters are very lightweight, so they can be started in seconds. This makes Kubernetes clusters ephemeral. Organizations can literally spin up Kubernetes clusters on-the-fly in their CI pipelines to run integration tests and dispose of them in seconds once the tests are completed. And because clusters can share an underlying platform stack, setting up new clusters is much less of a hassle because 1 platform team can manage the underlying cluster and platform infrastructure, while application teams can focus on their virtual clusters which are clearly separated and securely isolated from each other. Most of our customers even allow their engineering teams to completely autonomously spin up virtual clusters on their own whenever they need them. And this level of autonomy is amazing for engineers and really increases engineering productivity and velocity.

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Published Monday, October 03, 2022 10:49 AM by David Marshall
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