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The Big Interview: Thomas Graf, CTO, Isovalent, on eBPF, cloud-native networking and why Cilium is so hot right now

"We're taking on one piece of the network step-by-step. eBPF is making a lot of things possible and with cloud native, all aspects of the network and of connectivity have an opportunity to be redone better."

Cilium, one of the most active open source projects under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation umbrella – behind only Kubernetes and OpenTelemetry – is taking off in a big way with 16,000+ GitHub stars, thousands of forks and not far off 1,000 contributors. It has also become integral to projects at Adobe, Capital One and Google, amongst others. 

Cilium is serving, claims Isovalent CTO Thomas Graf (one of the project’s creators), as “a catalyst for a new era of software-defined networking.” 

Built as a user-friendly layer on top of eBPF, Cilium has become a de factor standard for Kubernetes networking and a powerful, flexible way to connect and secure containerised workloads across infrastructures. AWS uses Cilium to provide networking and security capabilities behind the scenes of its EKS Anywhere on-premises Kubernetes service; Google Cloud uses it to power the networking component of Google Kubernetes Engine. 

So what is Cilium? What does its rise say about changing tech stacks? The open source project’s co-founder Thomas Graf – a former principal software engineer at Red Hat and core team member of the Linux kernel networking stack– seemed the right person to ask, despite his vested interest in talking up the project! The Stack joined him to chat. 

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