CNCF: Forefront of the Cloud Native Landscape

Published 19.04.2021

Author Hrittik Roy

Categories Engineering

Cloud Native Computing Foundation or CNCF is a term you would see flying all around the cloud native landscape. You might know about it a bit as a prominent organization that maintains your frequently used open source tools like Kubernetes, Prometheus (and more!) without charging you a penny or might know it for the fantastic seminars and meetups it conducts.

But it’s more than that. A lot more, to be exact!

In this post, we would go in-depth to explore this big non-profit organization that is backed by the likes of Google, Red Hat, Microsoft, and over 600 other members and how you can be a part of it as an individual or a project 😀

Why wait? Let’s dive in!

What is cloud native and CNCF?

Organizations use cloud native technology to develop and run scalable applications in new, complex environments like public, private, and hybrid clouds. This approach consists of containers, service meshes, microservices, immutable infrastructure, and declarative APIs.

“These techniques enable loosely coupled systems that are resilient, manageable, and observable. Combined with robust automation, they allow engineers to make high-impact changes frequently and predictably with minimal toil.”

CNCF Official Definition

If you want to know more about cloud native, read this here. I can wait!

Now, coming back, CNCF is a project under the Linux Foundation that focuses on building and maintaining a sustainable ecosystem around cloud native technologies.

Ecosystem = the people, processes, and tools that facilitate building world class software

What is the Linux Foundation?

Now, a bit about LF. It’s also a non-profit that takes care of various projects like the CNCF and makes sure things move towards open innovation.

Simply, CNCF hosts many open source cloud native projects (like k8s), and LF hosts and oversees many organizations like the CNCF across different technologies (like Blockchain, ML).

Back to the central theme 😀

What does the CNCF bring to the table?

For me, the foundation has three primary purposes (there are more but let’s wait for a few more text blocks for that):

Safeguarding Interest

Projects without open governance can behave however they like, with individuals even moving the project’s direction to an entirely new goal. Think about bitcoin as an example and how many parallel forks have been created.

Don’t get me wrong! It’s not bad that the new forks with specific user requirements are created, but it would be better if the existing project had all of the development power under one project.

Therefore, the foundation has a goal to create an open project and make sure the project is moving in a direction that will help the community.

Nexus of Trust

It’s common in the industry to have doubt surrounding the competition’s motive. The doubt kills the win-win advantage and, in turn, the innovation. CNCF is a neutral third party that companies mutually trust where they can innovate towards the greater good of the cloud native world.

Brand Name

CNCF is a cool brand and organization, people and products like to be associated with it. This coolness allows new products to be widespread as it’s already known anything accepted as a donation would be of high-quality engineering—more about donation in the later section.

Moreover, the cool factor helps participation of volunteers who love to contribute back in the form of code, issues, and also meetups 😀

Now, aren’t you curious how this humongous body is governed? The following section simplifies the governance structure.

CNCF Governance Structure

The structure consists of 3 bodies dealing with different requirements:

Governing Board (GB)

It deals with marketing, evangelism, fund allocation (also raising), and oversees the scope for CNCF in consultation with the TOC.

It doesn’t take part in the technical decisions and ensures the foundation gets the budget it needs to function.

Technical Oversight Committee (TOC)

The TOC body admits new projects and oversees existing projects. It consists of independently elected 11 members by the community members who are responsible for creating a conceptual architecture for the projects, aligning the projects, and removing or archiving projects.

In short, they keep the innovation vision spreading.

cncf governance structure
CNCF Governance Structure Source:CNCF

End User Community (EUC)

The EUC is responsible for providing production feedback from companies and startups to the CNCF projects to improve the whole CNCF ecosystem.

Donation of Projects

Google donated Kubernetes to the CNCF in 2015. You must ask why even donate the cutting-edge proprietary code? Well, it has some advantages.

Donation allows projects to become independent of a single company. Docker justified the donation of Distribution with these comments:

“There are now many registries, with a lot of companies and organizations providing registries internally or as a service. Many of these are based on the code in Docker Distribution, but we found that many people had small forks and changes that they were not contributing to the upstream version, and the project needed a broader group of maintainers. To make the project clearly an industry wide collaboration, hosting it in the CNCF was the obvious place, as it is the home of many successful collaborative projects, such as Kubernetes and Containerd.”


Apart from getting all the maintainers working on the same project and not on the fork, CNCF provides few more advantages.

Advantages of Donation


The committees make sure that the project sustains, adapts, and grows without losing its primary purpose. Surveys are conducted, and the path of innovation is walked, keeping in the interest of the whole cloud native ecosystem.


CNCF is a strong brand, and a tweet from them could increase your star in just a few moments. Donated projects need recognition/adoption, and the foundation helps in this aspect.

It helps them by:

  • Promoting the project on different social channels, newsletters, and gatherings.
  • Tapping into the foundations’ huge meetup network and spread awareness
  • Helping with security audits and documentation upgrades, so it’s trustworthy and more accessible
  • Contributions and Input

Now anything coming from CNCF is of quality. People understand that and adapt the tools and are always there to contribute back.

This contribution comes in the form of issues, code, docs, or feature suggestions. Whatever be it, the project expands and becomes a part of the CNCF ecosystem.

The Tiers

Projects enter into the program depending upon their maturity by the vote of TOC. There are three stages of maturity which we will discuss one by one.


To enter as a sandbox project, you need two members voting and sponsoring your project from the TOC committee. A project documenting as a sandbox project shows that they’re relevant and solve an actual problem the users face in the cloud native ecosystem.

Apart from that, you have to demonstrate how it compares to other projects solving the same issues.

Whatever tier you enter in, don’t forget to ensure that your code and the dependencies are adequately licensed (Apache 2) as it’s a mandate for the legalities.


The next level of promotion requires 2/3rd of all TOC votes apart from the public voting. The upgrade depends upon you demonstrating adoption by the community and companies.

The TOC looks for signs that your project is maintained by companies (also external contributors) and solving real-life production use cases for the organizations. There need to be written use cases and talks surrounding your project to get to this level.


The final level of promotion needs you to follow industry best practices regarding test suites, release notes, security of other various categories.

You graduate when you demonstrate shared governance across multiple organizations, with 2/3rd of the TOC voting in favor.

CNCF project structure
Project Stages Source: CNCF Project Proposal Process v1.3


Once a year, all of the projects go through a review. If the project is no longer active, it’s can be archived to save resources.

What else does the CNCF provide?

Apart from helping the world go flexible without vendor locks, they provide evangelism efforts and innovation. The other side of CNCF focuses on kindling the open-source spirit and setting industry standards.

Diversity and Inclusion Scholarship

A lot of scholarships are provided on a need-based and diversity-based criteria for conferences and training programs. The scholarships help people to jump-start their careers and have interests in the open source ecosystem.

Open Source Programs

Internships and programs like Google Summer of Code are always encouraged by the foundation, and this helps people get exposure to the CNCF ecosystem and build themselves on top of it.

Meetups and Conferences

Many of them are conducted every month, where thousands of people participate in learning and sharing new tools and their experiences.

Certification Standards

CKAD, CKA, and CKS, and other certificates, are the gold standard when looking for a position in an organization. CNCF makes sure that the bar is high and people passing the examination are well trained for facing challenges.

CNCF Ambassadors

Suppose you have experience in the CNCF landscape and want to give the community back. A good place to start would be to become a CNCF Ambassador. They are volunteers who contribute to the community, educate people, and promote cloud native projects and technology. Think of them as the evangelists who are spreading the cloud native magic everywhere.

Learn more about them here and consider joining if you feel you would be a good fit.

Join the CNCF

Joining the CNCF community is easy and can be fun with all the events coming.

If you want to learn and follow the best practice, the hosted meetups are an excellent place to start. The CNCF meetups combined have 159k+ participants where you can learn about the landscape alongside getting suggestions free of cost. Cool, isn’t it?

Join a meetup group and the slack channel to be a part of the community and experience cutting-edge innovation. Quite simple 😉

You can also consider contributing code and updating the documentation as it helps the organization and the users. CNCF boasts 111k+ contributors who are supporting the organization to move forward.

What if you’re new to all this and want to learn?

The foundation has partnered with for courses that help people learn essential cloud native technologies for free and runs scholarships to include more people in the cause.

I myself have received a scholarship for the 2021 KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Europe and am excited to learn.

Final Thoughts

I hope this post gives you a high-level overview of how CNCF functions, its governance architecture, and the things it stands for.

Thanks for reading through this post. I hope you have a great day ahead, and don’t forget to check out the CNCF meetup we host bimonthly.

Happy Contributing!

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