Episode 7: Building a Business Around Popular Open Source Tools for Kubernetes with Richard Li


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Sponsored by Reblaze, creators of Curiefense


Justin Dorfman | Richard Littauer | Tzury Bar Yochay


Richard Li

Show Notes

Hello and welcome to Committing to Cloud Native Podcast! It’s the podcast by Reblaze where we talk about open source maintainers, contributors, sustainers, and their experiences in the cloud native space. Today, we have as a panelist, Tzury Bar Yochay, who is the CTO and Co-Founder of Reblaze. Also, joining us as our guest, we have Richard Li, who is the Co-Founder and CEO of Ambassador Labs, which builds popular open source tools for Kubernetes. Today, Richard explains to us the story behind starting Datawire and the different projects that were built out of that, including Telepresence and Ambassador API Gateway. We also find out about Richard’s experience at Red Hat and why he moved on to becoming an entrepreneur. He shares two areas to focus on in order to build a successful open source company, as well as the process he went through starting his company, and what his first product was. We also learn more about Argo and the things Richard sees Ambassador Labs focusing on in the next few years. Download this episode now to hear many more fascinating things!

[00:01:36] Richard explains what Datawire, Ambassador API Gateway, and Emissary- Ingress is.

[00:03:58] Tzury gives us his insight into his experience in CNCF licensing.

[00:05:11] Speaking about the new project and the donation that Richard did, Justin wonders what his expectations are in getting to graduation and if he’s looking to accelerate getting it to the next level.

[00:06:47] We learn how long it took Richard to get to 150 contributors and how closely he works with the Envoy team.

[00:08:57] Find out the “golden rules” to build a successful open source company or project, and things you must do from the very beginning to keep the project interesting to the community and to get it out and reach out to those achievements.

[00:10:53] Richard explains to us about having a business on top of an open source, the success with open source, where he draws the line between the paid and the free, and all the ecosystems around it.

[00:13:32] Justin mentions that overall what Richard is doing for the Cloud Native ecosystem seems to be helping a lot of companies that could turn into monthly recurring revenue or whatever packages he sells and wonders if this is happening.

[00:15:30] Richard tells us about his experience at Red Hat and why he moved on to becoming an entrepreneur. He also tells us he is hiring at Ambassador Labs.

[00:18:05] Learn where Richard was in his career that got him into The O’Reilly Velocity Conference back in the days.

[00:19:30] Richard tells us the process he went through starting his company, what his first product was, and the first thing he was working on. He also elaborates on Telepresence and how it has changed the development life cycle.

[00:24:47] With Richard’s awesome education background, Justin wonders what he did at MIT.

[00:25:52] Tzury asks Richard to explain what Argo is.

[00:27:47] Richard tells us the first product he released under Datawire, which is today, Ambassador Labs. Also, he explains what goes into the API Gateway, what he thinks should go into the Proxy, into the Envoy, and what type of functionality he would keep out of the API Gateway.

[00:31:51] Richard gives us his take on how the nature of software development has changed with Kubernetes being in the cloud.

[00:34:48] Learn where Richard sees Ambassador Labs in five years.

[00:35:45] Find out Curiefense updates for the week.


[00:02:00] “So, we ended up basically just using instant domain search and just typing in random things, and we ended up with Datawire, and it was a Black Friday sale, it was five bucks!”

[00:02:16] “The reason we called it Ambassador API Gateway was because it was built on Envoy and an Envoy Proxy, an Envoy in the U.S. Department of State Hierarchy actually reports to an Ambassador, so Ambassadors are at a higher-level Envoy.”

[00:02:54] “And the CNCF says, well, in order to donate the technology, we need to take your trademark, which is Ambassador, and we said, well, but that’s the name of our company, and they said, well, the only thing you can do is to rename it.”

[00:07:04] “And if you’ve ever tried to use Envoy Proxy on its own and then try to use, deploy it on much less deployed on Kubernetes, you would realize, oh, this is actually quite complicated.”

[00:09:28] “Especially if you’re a startup, I think the two areas I would focus on is making it easy to install and use, and then two, sort of correlated to that, is to have good documentation.”

[00:10:42] “Everyone loves Istio until they try to upgrade it in production at which point they realize it’s actually terrifying.”

[00:11:09] “My opinion is my next company is I’m not going to do an open source company because you really have to figure out two different kinds of products and that’s twice as much work as a regular kind of company.”

[00:22:08] “I think one of the things is that what developers discover is that when they start developing a microservices-based application on Kubernetes, life gets very complicated.”

[00:26:35] “And so, we’re big fans of Argo and we’ve actually integrated Argo with our API Gateway so that you can do something like I have a new version two to replace version one of my software."

[00:29:48] “I think the thing that we’ve seen people run into trouble with is when people start to put too much business logic into the API Gateway.”

[00:31:59] “I think with Kubernetes itself, I think the key difference is that the nature of software development has actually changed in a very fundamental way.”

[00:32:36] “So, I like to say a full stack developer now is a full lifecycle developer.”

[00:34:23] “You could argue that Kubernetes has accelerated productivity in some dimension, like the last mile soft delivery, clearly Cloud beats CD ROMs any day of the week.”



Curiefense Twitter

Cloud Native Community Groups-Curifense


Justin Dorfman Twitter

Richard Littauer Twitter

Tzury Bar Yochay Twitter

Richard Li Twitter

Richard Li Linkedin

“CNCF Adopts Ambassador’s API Gateway, Emissary Ingress” by Mike Melanson (The New Stack)


Ambassador Labs

KubeCon 2021

“No one wants to manage Kubernetes anymore” by Scott Carey (InfoWorld)



Special Guest: Richard Li.

Sponsored By:

25 episodes