Cornelia Davis on Computing, and Catalysts for the Cloud Native Revolution

By Cezzaine Zaher
March 26, 2020

We recently conducted a short video interview to get to know Weaveworks CTO, Cornelia Davis, a bit better and understand her view on the industry, including what she’s been working on since joining a few months ago.

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A couple of months ago, we introduced you to Cornelia Davis, our newly appointed CTO. We recently conducted a short video interview to get to know Cornelia a bit better and to understand her view on the industry, including what she’s currently been doing since she joined Weaveworks.

Cornelia starts off by explaining how she was lucky enough to have a career in something she’s so passionate about today, but it turns out that was by pure luck and an “aha” moment she had back in high school in 1981. Cornelia describes the moment she commanded a computer: “I typed in those four lines, and then I typed R-U-N because that’s how we ran our programs back then. The screen started counting 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 and then it started scrolling. I went from a teenage bad attitude to - this is so cool - and I literally never looked back.”

Cornelia later went on to study a masters and most of a Phd in Computer Science. And now today, since it was a female teacher in highschool who introduced her to programming, she pays that forward by mentoring and encouraging young women to study computer science and programming. However these days, Cornelia observes that exposure to programming doesn’t happen with young women until after they’ve already obtained a degree in biology or chemistry - something she’d like to change.

Do you think Kubernetes is the catalyst that made it all happen or were there other pieces involved before that?

The discussion then leads into why there has been so much innovation in the past few years, and that the need to innovate faster and react to marketplace events with more agility has really encouraged many organizations to embrace cloud native technologies. While Kubernetes has played a big part in this, it wasn’t the main catalyst to make this happen. Cornelia explains what she believes the two catalysts were in driving this innovation.

“Kubernetes certainly plays a big role, but I wouldn’t say that it’s the catalyst for happening. I believe that there were a couple of things that kicked it off. One was that startups were creating new software that didn’t require data centers,” explains Cornelia. Companies started in the cloud and that’s why we have the term cloud native. Because startups started in the cloud, they have a slightly different mindset to their infrastructure and know that it changes constantly. Cornelia points out that Amazon was clever enough to provide multiple failure domains. They never promised that a single failure domain would not disappear. But then it was up to the AWS user to make sure they leveraged the multiple failure domains they had available.  These startups sometimes called digital natives thought differently about infrastructure from the very beginning.

The other catalyst, according to Cornelia, was that digital natives, who took advantage of cloud technologies, quickly became massive and therefore needed to scale.

“...the Facebook's and the Uber's and the Googles, figured out how to build these systems that allowed them to scale, that gave them these resiliency characteristics and so on. Then of course Google was so good as to say, well, we're going to take what we've learned and open source it. It's what they learned. It's not what they implemented, and so they were able to build it the next time even better than they built it the first time themselves. That's what they'd done with Kubernetes, which has really opened it up to everyone because it used to be that you had to build your own platform before you could use it.” - Cornelia Davis, CTO, Weaveworks

Weaveworks team and Cornelia Davis

Over the last few months Cornelia has been working with our engineering teams on both our open source and commercial projects. She explains in more detail how we’ve been building a set of components that play important roles in the entire GitOps landscape. She discusses the history of GitOps and how the term was coined, comparing it to the a-ha moment she experienced herself after executing those first instructions.

“We had built operational practices to operate and manage Weave Cloud. At the core was that all of those declarations from Kubernetes were checked into Git. We use pull requests in Git as an abstraction for change control. That is how we operate Weave Cloud, and in that moment where we had that success, after the disaster when Weave Cloud went down, and where we just stood it back up in minutes and it all just worked. That was the moment where we went, ah, this is a new operational model that others could benefit from.”

GitOps leverages Git, and the very things that Kubernetes does well like rolling updates to create reconciliation loops. “That was the beginning of GitOps,” says Cornelia, “Now we are the GitOps company where we've taken that model and we're applying it across the entire landscape. We are applying that GitOps model to infrastructure, provisioning and operations.”

Finally we wrap up the discussion by asking Cornelia to tell us her favourite books she’d recently read!

Watch the full interview below.

You can hear more from Cornelia in our monthly podcast we are launching next month where she interviews industry figureheads and experts on some interesting topics. Stay tuned for more information soon!

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Learn more about the Weave Kubernetes Platform and ask us for a demo