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Microsoft engineer explains his love for hallways at Container World

As part of our coverage of Container World in Santa Clara, Calif., we spoke with a presenter from Microsoft about what he expects from this year's conference.

Developers, engineers, testers and other software pros will attend Container World 2017 in Santa Clara, Calif., this year to learn more about working with application containers. But attendees should know that not all the learning goes on within session rooms -- major breakthroughs happen in the hallways as well.

We spoke with Brendan Burns, software engineer at Microsoft, about what to expect at the 2017 Container World conference. In this Q&A, Burns discussed what he considers to be some of the most interesting container trends that will permeate discussions at the conference. He also explained why some of the biggest changes he has made to software have resulted from conversations he has had with attendees in the hallway between sessions.

What are a few of the biggest things that you've seen happen with containers in the last year that you think are going be some of the biggest highlights of this conference?

Brendan Burns: I think one of the most interesting things that I've been seeing over the last year is that trend from startups and early adopters [using containers] through to enterprise. Financial companies were sort of the first big companies that I saw starting to do this, because they do a lot of high-frequency trading and other sorts of large workloads that containers helped with. But now we're starting to really see these large companies [with] websites ... going from rolling out changes every month to rolling out changes every week.

That's a radical shift for them, and that's being powered by these container technologies. What we're seeing is these companies [realizing] an opportunity to address things that they were unhappy with in their existing development pipelines by switching to containers. And I think that as they realized that it was a safe thing to do, it really helped them with some very real problems that they had. They're not switching just because it's the cool thing to do ... they're taking on these architectures because it's actually really helping their business be more agile.

What are you most looking forward to at this year's Container World conference?

Burns: I always sit at the hallway track; it's my favorite. It's the opportunity to meet people and learn how they're using [our services]. Because at the end of the day, it's pointless for me to build services if it's not useful for someone.

On the flipside, I love hearing the conversations where people tell me what isn't working for them. If it was perfect, I'd just go home. We're constantly working to get better and so the feedback from people about places where they have had problems, things that they would love to see addressed … that's incredibly useful information. In fact, I try and encourage the team to get out to conferences and meetups to get that customer feedback. I think the only way we build a quality product is by talking and listening to people who are actually using it.

Do you have examples of a conversation that changed how you do things?

Burns: For a long time [we] had this notion that replicated things should all be the same. We wanted them all to be identical. We didn't want to treat anything specially, and we just kept getting feedback from people that it was hard to run existing stateful applications like MongoDB or Cassandra.

So we actually went back and we revisited some of the assumptions that we made, and we created this thing called StatefulSet that was released in the 1.5 of Kubernetes [which] addresses a lot of these things.

I think that's a really good example of where we listen to people and really heard what they were saying and built something that actually made their lives easier instead of making their lives harder, and I think that's important.

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