It’s hard to believe that Kubernetes (K8s) is not yet even a ten year-old system, as it has fundamentally changed the way thousands of organizations automate their deployment, scaling, and development operations. Recently, DZone — one of the top media outlets for IT pros and developers — released their annual Kubernetes and the Enterprise report. In this report, DZone spoke to 499 global software experts across a number of verticals to learn how they’re using K8s in their IT organizations and what trends are defining the industry as we move into 2022 and beyond. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the top takeaways from this in-depth report and hopefully give you something to think about as you move into a new year of IT progress.
Top Takeaway #1: The honeymoon period of K8s benefits may be over — but not for security
When DZone took a look at what improvements users experience in using Kubernetes, respondents noted decreases in improvements nearly across the board, including small decreases in “deployment in general,” “autoscaling”, “application modularity,” “overall system design,” and more. While these decreases were uniformly minor, it does highlight gaps that are emerging in the ongoing operations of Kubernetes after deployment (AKA the “Kubernetes Operations Gap”). Ignoring these operational gaps can ultimately doom a Kubernetes initiative and prevent organizations from taking full advantage of the agility and speed cloud-native offers. Neglecting the required focus on the application lifecycle itself is an indication that the “honeymoon period” for this relatively new technology may be coming to an end as the most important work comes after design and deployment.
However, the one very notable outlier was in the area of security. From 2020 to 2021, users reported an increase in improvement for security, going from 24.9% to 31.3%. In an age when security and compliance is increasingly mission critical, this is a potentially big benefit to using K8s. But, just like any technology, K8s is only as secure as the design and implementation of the environment itself. We see an increasing desire for enterprises to establish a strong cloud security posture by setting key configuration standards that won’t interfere with team productivity. With emerging security models for containers, such as the 4C’s of Cloud Native Security put forth and being updated by Kubernetes Authors from The Linux Foundation, there are signs of a growing ecosystem across each layer of security within the cloud native model, particularly for containers and clusters. Being able to operationalize and effectively manage security policies such as role-based permissions across environments will most assuredly lead to future security benefits of using Kubernetes in production.
Top Takeaway #2: Application containers usage is — at best — flat
The results of the survey indicate that the percent of software professionals using application containers decreased marginally from 90.4% to 88.2% over the last year. There are likely many reasons for this, particularly as it relates to COVID, hiring freezes, and the nature of the changing workforce and work environment.
What’s interesting is that while usage has stayed the course (according to the DZone Trends Report), we see many organizations increasing their usage of Kubernetes to accelerate deployment frequency, increase automation practices and reduce IT costs. Additionally, a Kubernetes adoption survey conducted in 2021 by Portworx, also found that 68% of respondents increased their use of Kubernetes as a result of the pandemic.
In general, we expect container usage to continue along its strong growth trajectory. For example, 91% of respondents in a 2020 survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) reported using Kubernetes. In that same survey, 83% percent of respondents reported using Kubernetes in production, a considerable increase from 78% in 2019 and 58% in 2018. (Note that 92% of these respondents are using some form of containers in production, up from 84% in 2019 and up 300% from the first survey in 2016.)
Top Takeaway #3: Kubernetes usage up slightly — but it doesn’t mean K8s isn’t poised for growth
Prior to seeing the results noted in takeaway #2, DZone expected that Kubernetes usage was going to increase. However, when it was discovered application container usage was nearly flat, they expected to see the same from K8s usage.
This hypothesis was spot on, with K8s usage only slightly up from 2020 to 2021, moving from 77% to 77.2%. What does this mean? DZone points out that because K8s is a much more complex technology than application containers, stagnation in absolute adoption does not necessarily reflect the number of changes and growth that K8s is seeing over the years. To an earlier point, it also indicates that renewed focus on the lifecycle of container-based applications running in Kubernetes is an operational gap companies are trying to address before deploying more resources for getting Kubernetes up and running. While the absolute adoption rate is steady, the way that Kubernetes is used and the toolset available around the technology is rapidly evolving. Flat growth in adoption doesn’t mean that K8s is stagnant as we do expect usage of K8s to increase as we (hopefully) pull out from under the pandemic.
Top Takeaway #4: Infrastructure abstraction is a growing challenge for developers, but K8s helps solve the issue
DZone wanted to get an understanding of what developer’s attitudes are towards infrastructure abstraction. This year, there was an increase in the number of respondents indicating that “infrastructure abstraction in 2021 is excessive and getting out of hand” (going from 16% to 18.4% over the last year). There was also a decrease in the number of respondents who believe modern infrastructure abstraction is worth the benefits it provides for scaling and continuous delivery.
However, DZone took this a step further to look at users who specifically used Kubernetes and found something interesting. When it comes to those users who have personally worked with K8s versus those who have not, nearly 50% of Kubernetes users thought “the juice was worth the squeeze” and that the cost in complexity of infrastructure abstraction was worth the benefits (versus approximately 35% of non-K8s users).
Top Takeaway #5: Kubernetes excels as a workload orchestrator
One of K8s presumed major benefits is its ability to handle a high-variance of usage and traffic patterns without crushing physical resources or bogging down. But does that theory hold true in reality? The results of the survey indicate yes.
When asked what types of usage/traffic pattern Kubernetes clusters serve, a large portion (>40%) of respondents indicated that their K8s clusters served a variety of traffic and usage patterns, including predictable and frequent, predictable and infrequent, unpredictable with low variance, and unpredictable with high variance traffic patterns.
The DZone report offers an in-depth look at some of the current trends that are shaping the way developers are using Kubernetes and how K8s performs and is deployed in the real-world. K8s remains a popular choice for container orchestration and shows continued high-performance and adaptability across a variety of applications. If you’re interested in using Kubernetes in your IT org, or you want to learn more about how other K8s users are using this system in practice, the DZone report is definitely worth a read.