Looking ahead, MacKay sees Ancestry maximizing the benefits of Kubernetes in 2017. "We're very close to having everything that should be or could be in a Linux-friendly world in Kubernetes by the end of the year," he says, adding that he's looking forward to features such as federation and horizontal pod autoscaling that are currently in the works. "Kubernetes has been very wonderful for us and we continue to ride the wave."
That wave, he points out, has everything to do with the vibrant Kubernetes community, which has grown by leaps and bounds since Ancestry joined it as an early adopter. "This is just a very rough way of judging it, but on Slack in June 2015, there were maybe 500 on there," MacKay says. "The last time I looked there were maybe 8,500 just on the Slack channel. There are so many major companies and different kinds of companies involved now. It's the variety of contributors, the number of contributors, the incredibly competent and friendly community."
As much as he and his team at Ancestry have benefited from what he calls "the goodness and the technical abilities of many" in the community, they've also contributed information about best practices, logged bug issues and participated in the open source conversation. And they've been active in attending meetups
to help educate and give back to the local tech community in Utah. Says MacKay: "We're trying to give back as far as our experience goes, rather than just code."
When he meets with companies considering adopting cloud native infrastructure, the best advice he has to give from Ancestry's Kubernetes journey is this: "Start small, but with hard problems," he says. And "you need a patron who understands the vision of containerization, to help you tackle the political as well as other technical roadblocks that can occur when change is needed."
With the changes that MacKay's team has led over the past year and a half, cloud native will be part of Ancestry's technological genealogy for years to come. MacKay has been such a champion of the technology that he says people have jokingly accused him of having a Kubernetes tattoo.
"I really don't," he says with a laugh. "But I'm passionate. I'm not exclusive to any technology; I use whatever I need that's out there that makes us great. If it's something else, I'll use it. But right now I believe in Kubernetes. I believe in containerization. I think if we can get there and establish ourselves in that world, we will be further along and far better off being agile and all the things we talk about, and it'll go forward."
He pauses. "So, yeah, I guess you can say I'm an evangelist for Kubernetes," he says. "But I'm not getting a tattoo!"