Community Snapcrafter on MicroK8s, summits and the evolving nature of snaps

In January 2018, Dan Llewellyn joined his first Snapcraft Summit in Seattle in his role as a community Snapcrafter. At that event, we discussed his views on everything snap related from most requested snaps, new feature requests and popular discussion topics. Since then, snaps has grown across every metric and seen numerous new high profile snaps enter the store including Microsoft Visual Studio Code, a suite from JetBrains, Opera and more. We took the opportunity at the most recent Snapcraft Summit in Montreal to get Dan’s insider perspective 18 months on.

“Snaps are reaching ubiquity. People using or building snaps no longer think of themselves as early adopters, but more adhering to the status quo,” Dan observes. There has been a “natural progression” in the growth trajectory that snaps have experienced. Dan believes part of this is driven by developers seeing the likes of Microsoft, Amazon and Google publishing software in the Snap Store. Similarly, Dan has noticed an increase in commercial interest in the format compared to individual developers in the earlier days.

Dan also suggests two additional factors for the increased adoption. Firstly, the availability in the Ubuntu store with desktop users being served snaps first over other formats. Secondly, the crossover with the Docker container story – users like the throwaway nature. They can do their work, delete and start again with the next build. 

Such trends are evident in the nature of the forum conversation as well with less discussion around how to build snaps and far more around the management of existing snaps. He has also seen less around the automatic update feature which he believes is due to the message resonating and it is now a given. “People are comfortable with the feature and expect automatic updates when originally they may have been sceptical if it would work on a desktop or IoT device,” Dan adds. Talking of IoT, Dan has seen an uplift in topics around the internet of things given the benefits snaps can bring to embedded devices. 

What has been Dan’s favourite additions to the Snap Store recently? Gitkraken is one that Dan sees as relevant to his everyday work. He also can’t overlook the addition of Visual Studio Code which he views as an “evergreen”. “Without even thinking about it, you have an up to date editor. Just open your browser and you have a ‘What’s New’ page just updated,” Dan says in reference to snaps’ automatic updates. In terms of what’s next, he’d love to see Ring – the video conference app – available in the Snap Store. 

Referencing the move away from pure desktop snaps, Dan cites MicroK8s as a good example and one in which he has used himself. For some of the websites he builds, Dan runs Kubernetes on GKE. As he explains, “once I had a proof of concept locally I found I could directly mirror my development environment to production really easily. The way you spin-up a local service on MicroK8s to test your code is identical to how you spin up an in-production service of Kubernetes in the cloud. This meant I could go from development to production in minutes.”

With three Snapcraft Summits attended, Dan is able to start observing trends in the attendees and engagement. “I’ve not seen anyone back away once they have published a snap following a summit which is encouraging. If I compare the Seattle one to the London event in November 2018, I saw an increased purpose and a sense of everyone sharing each other’s achievements,” Dan states. There were some big wins from the Seattle summit including Slack, Skype and Microsoft Powershell. However, in just three days in Montreal, 17 snaps were published emphasising Dan’s observations further. 

With the next Snapcraft Summit scheduled for 2020, the challenge is on to surpass the last 18 months achievements.

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