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This article was contributed by Nate Matherson, cofounder, and CEO of ContainIQ

Containerization has transformed the way modern applications are developed. More and more teams are adopting intelligent application architectures like microservices to break their apps down into easily manageable units with the help of containers.

Kubernetes has proven to be a technology of extreme importance in this trend. And according to a recent study by RedHat, 85% of IT leaders agree that Kubernetes is “extremely important,” “very important,” or “important” to cloud-native application strategies. But how did Kubernetes catch on in a world that was accustomed to virtual machines (VMs) and hypervisors?

What is Kubernetes?

Containerization has been at the heart of modern DevOps techniques since its inception. It allows you to package applications with their environment and runtime parameters to ensure that they run the same in production as they did on your developers’ laptops.

However, problems start to arise when you have to break your app down into numerous distinct containers and scale them each to thousands to meet the incoming traffic demand.

This is where Kubernetes comes to the rescue.

Kubernetes is a modern container-orchestration framework that allows you to manage massive swarms of containerized applications to meet your users’ needs. Kubernetes helps developers to deploy, manage, and scale their apps easily. It acts as an abstraction between you and the raw containers.

All you have to do is lay out your requirements and resources, and Kubernetes will come up with the best arrangement for you. Without it, it would be impossible to imagine apps like Pokémon Go or organizations like OpenAI.

The rise of Kubernetes adoption in recent years

Kubernetes was originally developed by Google as the Borg project but was later brought under the Cloud Native Computing Foundation for further development. In recent years, many major brands, including AWS and Microsoft, have shown support for the technology.

Kubernetes’ adoption across the industry has also seen a gradual rise. In the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s 2020 Survey, 91% of respondents reported using Kubernetes, up from 78% in 2019 and 58% in 2018.

It’s important to understand the factors that led to this trend and the impact that it has had on the market.

Four big reasons Kubernetes has grown so swiftly

Kubernetes offers engineering teams many reasons to migrate from their traditional non-containerized deployment setups. Some of the prominent reasons are discussed below.

1. It makes container orchestration effortless

It would be an understatement to say “Kubernetes can do container-orchestration,” as it does that and so much more.

With Kubernetes, you do not need to interact with the raw containers anymore. You do not need to worry about load balancing incoming requests or monitoring resource consumption to prevent excess usage. Box cofounder Sam Ghouds states how Kubernetes has simplified Box’s DevOps workflows — deploying a new microservice earlier used to take six months, but with K8s, it is done in fewer than five days.

Gone are the days when you have to manually onboard a new machine into your server cluster and expand your workload into it. Kubernetes does all of this automatically.

Since Kubernetes is an abstraction over your available hardware resources, you can quickly request more computing capacity based on your needs and availability. Juggling resource limits between teams is a matter of a few clicks; Kubernetes does the dirty jobs of moving containers and pods around for you. Babylon made use of this property to build a self-service AI training platform on top of Kubernetes.

2. It is highly cost-efficient

Apart from making container orchestration a breeze, Kubernetes also shines in optimizing the cost-to-value ratio for companies. According to a 2021 study by Pure Storage, 55%: of IT professionals surveyed expect Kubernetes will reduce their annual costs by 20% or more. This is because of two significant reasons.

The first is that containers are lightweight and require fewer resources to run than virtual machines. It is much simpler to provision resources for a container because it is only an application wrapped around with environment data. In the case of VMs, you need to manage resources for the underlying kernel and other drivers as well.

The second reason is that Kubernetes enables teams to make the best use of available resources with container orchestration. Kubernetes can make use of the fact that containers can be provisioned and decommissioned faster than VMs, and intelligently shut down containers that are not in use. Apart from autoscaling, Kubernetes’ efficient packing, too, has helped companies cut their costs.

As the largest retail stock investment platform in the world, Zerodha cut its computing costs by 50% after switching to Kubernetes and Prometheus. With Kubernetes, “we are able to utilize cloud resources more efficiently.” said Zerodha Tech’s chief technology officer Kailash Nadh.

3. Receives regular updates and innovations

One of the primary reasons why Kubernetes has been able to dominate its market is because it has been under aggressive development. The Kubernetes ecosystem has been regularly updating itself with the changing requirements of the market.

Even today, Kubernetes receives major releases every two to three months. The last major version of K8s (v1.23.0) received changes under thirteen themes. This is a great indicator of how active the development team is. Each new version provides developers with more control over how their apps are deployed.

Over the years, major cloud providers, including AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure, have rolled out tools and services that help get started with and manage Kubernetes better. The introduction of more and more enterprise tools in the domain indicates that Kubernetes has made a significant impact in the industry and that these tech giants believe that Kubernetes is here to stay.

4. Has a vast community that backs it

Keeping corporate involvement aside for a while, Kubernetes has received tremendous support from the open-source community as well. According to the Kubernetes Community Annual Report 2020, the K8s community has more than 52,000 contributors and 24 active Special Interest Groups (SIGs) and crossed over 100k pull requests/issues on their main GitHub repository (Kubernetes/Kubernetes). Examples such as Helm and Tilt show how well the community has stepped in at times to solve common development issues.

Many open-source tools available for the technology make Kubernetes quite simple to use. The fact that this community is ever-growing only makes things better; more and more minds are working together to share knowledge and resolve each other’s issues. This has acted as a catalyst in Kubernetes adoption across the industry.

How has Kubernetes and container orchestration impacted the market?

Kubernetes has had a striking effect on how businesses build and scale applications. Kubernetes has made distributed architectures possible and popular. Numerous companies have cut down their operational costs and gotten the most out of their resources.

Kubernetes has made DevOps easier and provided software teams with more refined control on how their apps are deployed. For instance, Bitmovin has been able to simplify multi-stage canary testing and has had a faster development-to-product lifecycle ever since then.

A decade ago, an app like Pokémon Go would have struggled to keep up with a 50 times higher than expected initial traffic. OpenAI has been able to do a couple of months of work in a matter of weeks. None of this would have been possible without a framework as resilient as Kubernetes.

What does the future look like for Kubernetes and container orchestration?

While Kubernetes has enjoyed a rich past, its future seems to be quite promising too. Giants like AWS are already experimenting with orchestrating microVMs with Kubernetes. MicroVMs are lightweight virtual machines that offer the isolation and security of virtual machines but are comparatively faster and can be easily scaled.

Businesses can also look forward to better security and lightweight distributions of Kubernetes in the future. Kubernetes is being experimented with IoT and smart systems, a wholly new and unexplored horizon for the technology.

All in all, there is a lot more that can be improved and introduced to the tool, and there’s no limit on how intuitive these updates can get.

Kubernetes revolution

Kubernetes has revolutionized how modern DevOps functions. It has brought cost reductions and performance optimization to a wide range of apps and projects. While there are other container orchestration technologies, none challenge Kubernetes due to its large community and corporate backing.

The future of Kubernetes appears to be full of new possibilities and innovation. It would be safe to say that Kubernetes will continue to reach new heights in the coming years.

Nate Matherson is the cofounder, and CEO, of ContainIQ. Nate is a second-time founder, building his second venture-backed startup. Outside of work, Nate is also an angel investor having invested in 28 startups and is a Board Member at Blankets of Hope, a 501(c)3 non-profit.

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