Tag: politics

Kubernetes – a psycho-political view


It is said before in this blog, that people create stuff “in Image and Likeness, which is a bible reference for how god created the mankind. While god (as a figure and idea) is not really my cup o’ tea, I do find this part of bible a bit intriguing. It is intriguing how we (the mankind) created god’s idea in our own Image and Likeness (and other gods and goddesses and in-betweens). For example, christian god gets angry, or pleased, or creative, while it presumably is (or is not) the Super-Duper extra-terrestrial being that created everything and exists everywhere. It is the same need to make stuff out of a known template, that makes god of Pokemon, an equally Super Duper being, still catchable in a regular Pokeball (like all other Pokemon).

This same urge to follow our own template is around us in many things humans create. When one crosses the Rubicon to the world of computers, this resemblance that makes everything look like something else, has its root to humans really. And the reason this happens is the amazing fact that when a computer has to be programmed to solve a problem, we tend to get into the computer’s shoes, try to solve it and keep a record of our steps. Then code these steps in a programming language and that’s it: Let there be software (or hardware). The examples are too many to handle, but the central one is the Von Neumann architecture altogether, that computers still follow.

The catch with this approach is that humans have problems. And recreating the original conditions for these problems in a computer, can lead to these same problems – unless some other axiomatic truth is interfering with the results (demonstrated with the sentence “humans/computers have to work – computers do not question what they have to do“).

Human problems are of multiple types. Personal problems are one type. Problems that have to do with how one is managing oneself. They have clear boundaries, and exist without depending on external stuff, while they can get solved without involving external entities. Yet, I propose that, humanity as a whole is suffering way more from a different kind. The Social ones. The ones that cannot be solved atomically, and not generally by the ones having them. Homelessness, Climate Change, Capitalism are trending in this category.

Computers do not directly inherit social problems from humans, as they are not social animals (and they didn’t get their own Aristotle yet), but they get programmed to eventually be. Think of the Internet, think of networks and distributed computing. And this brings us to the topic. Think of Kubernetes.

Kubernetes has been created to distribute workloads across computers. Its heart is a component called scheduler that basically orders the hosts to run containers, depending on their current workload. To make it graphic, imagine the below:

but with computers.

Yet, you won’t find the scheduler in the above photograph.

He is in this one:

overseer

Kubernetes is Greeklish for “Κυβερνήτης” a Greek word for captain or governor, with the latin root of “guberno” which is the word that “government” comes from. So far so good! That thing went political instantly. So let’s dive in a bit more in this technology called Kubernetes.

A Kubernetes cluster consists of a bunch of computers connected through a standard TCP/IP network. The computers are divided in 2 roles. Masters and Workers. And these are actually official terms, not some kind of jargon – “Kubernetes Master” is pretty googlable. We somehow programmed class division at the root of that system as well. Oh, and there are no elections (like e.g Elasticsearch clusters) – Workers will stay workers until they fail out of existence.

So deriving from the names the following is not really clear: “Workers” or “Worker nodes”, well, “work“, but what do Masters do? They don’t rip the “surplus value” as this would make Kubernetes a system analyzed through Marxism and close the case, but they “work” too. Yet, what they do is not general “workload”. The “scheduler” runs in the Master nodes. The Masters order the Workers. We are at least consistent on how we design co-existence for people or computers, aren’t we?

Finally, we, the Kubernetes Users – or should I say stakeholders – only talk with Master nodes. This scheme looks a lot like the 1900 movie where the Padrone (Robert De Niro) has his selected overseer (Donald Sutherland) (who is also initiating fascism in the movie and also kills a cat – what’s worse?) to order and keep in-check the villagers working on his fields (Gérard Depardieu’s family). The reason I do this uncalled-for parallel, is not to pitch a ~50 year old movie. Is to prove the point that this scheme is familiar over 1900 (the movie and the real century), has led to some bad stuff (with Wars of various temperatures and revolutions), and looks very similar with what happens in our cloud computers every day.

The good part is that computers don’t really get depressed. They -at most- fail and get decommissioned, but they don’t get abused by the capital in a way that gets into their psychology. So there’s no sense of Hegel’s dialectic duo here: a slave that gets minified by the master just enough to keep existing only to re-assure the master’s role. Masters and Workers in Kubernetes do not have such issues. They do not indulge in any class struggle, they co-exist without any existential angst – but peacefully. So what is the point of all that?


Back to the Big Picture

What happened here is that some people started creating a Container Orchestrator. When they faced the who-runs-what-depending-on-what they took the old trusted path: one orders – rest obey. If the ordering entity has enough info (metrics delivered by the kubelet of Workers) the system will run smoothly. And it did and it is called Kubernetes and conquered the clouds.

The problem with this design is not any lack of efficiency. It is lack of imagination. And given that we indeed create stuff “in image and in likeness“, this design might have something to say for us, humans, and our society. The fact that when we face a leadership problem we fall back to that “old trusted path” – dictatorship, might indeed mean that our inner deep-rooted values are reflected. And it works both ways. Seeing such designs as so familiar (Kubernetes has dominated the cloud – it is everywhere), can deprive our imagination from other, more creative and less master/slave (for god’s sake) designs.

Finally, if we want to eventually see a more equal society, we have to design stuff towards it. So we don’t see inequalities and divisions whenever we rest our eyes on our creations. And our mind will eventually flip the switch. And out society might (just might) follow.


Disclaimer

I have worked a lot with Kubernetes while wearing my SecDevOps hat. I have done all kinds of stuff with it. Worked on Cloud SIEM designs, open-sourced some, created tools for it, and even tried it out as a game engine. This is to ensure you that I am not into a tech savvy rant for some trying-to-be-original issue. I am not canceling a technology, and I am not gonna suggest Nomad as a “Communist Alternative“.

This is (as always) a tongue-in-cheek approach of how we recycle ideas in sectors that seem pretty much irrelevant (IT), preventing us from thinking out-of-the-box, repeating ourselves, our surroundings and the collective unconscious on original fields, maybe tainting them and depriving them from the possibility of developing something new and unseen. Depriving them from the possibility to inspire us back.