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Kubernetes Usage Expanding in Large and Small Companies, CNCF Survey Shows

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Survey results from the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) revealed accelerating adoption of Kubernetes and containers, especially in production environments. This echoed the findings from the new, enterprise-focused, State of Kubernetes 2020 report from VMware

The CNCF polled its own community for the survey, and received 1,337 responses. 37% of the respondents came from North America, and 38% from Europe. 44% of the respondents worked at companies with more than 1,000 employees. And two-thirds of participants worked at software or technology companies. The State of Kubernetes 2020 report had different demographics. VMware commissioned an outside party who polled 247 individuals, all from companies with over 1,000 employees. 35% of respondents had more than 1,000 developers. The State of Kubernetes report was more North America centric (68% of respondents), but had a wider mix of industries represented, with just 22% of respondents working at technology companies.

"More" was the trend revealed by both surveys. The use of containers in production jumped from 23% in the 2016 CNCF survey, to 84% in the 2019 edition. The volume increased as well. In 2018, 56% of users had 249 containers or fewer in production. It's now flipped, and 55% of users reported 250 or more containers in production, with nearly 20% running 5,000 or more. Kubernetes was the dominant choice for those using containers. 78% of respondents reported using it in production, up from 58% in 2018. The CNCF also reported that the number of users running 2-20 Kubernetes clusters in production grew by 10%. The average number of clusters was between 2 and 5, which represented 43% of users.

Source: CNCF Survey 2019

The State of Kubernetes report from VMware showed similar trends among large enterprises. 59% of respondents said they're running Kubernetes in production. 33% operated 26 clusters or more, and 20% had more than 50 clusters in production. This report reminded readers that's it's still "early days."

More than half of respondents (57%) are operating fewer than 10 Kubernetes clusters, and 60% are running less than half of their containerized workloads on Kubernetes. Early adopters of container technologies relied on other container orchestration tools (or no orchestration at all), and these environments remain in place.

Respondents to the CNCF survey identified further details about their Kubernetes deployments. Cluster ingress is dominated by nginx and HAProxy, with 62% and 22% usage, respectively. Envoy is one to watch, as it's become the 3rd most popular option, and 29% are evaluating it for further use. Helm was the runaway favorite for packaging Kubernetes applications, with little else registering interest. When separating applications from each other, the preferred options were namespaces, and separate clusters.

Source: CNCF Survey 2019

The public cloud plays a big role for Kubernetes users. Amazon EKS and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) represented the top two management solutions, according to the CNCF report. 62% reported hosting in the public cloud, which was actually down from 2018 (77%). That's likely due to "hybrid cloud" being a new option in 2019, as it garnered 38% of responses. The State of Kubenetes report painted a different picture, likely due to the respondents coming from solely large enterprises. 64% of respondents deployed Kubernetes on premises, and 31% were using multiple public cloud vendors.

Source: The State of Kubernetes 2020

This year marked the first time the CNCF asked respondents about their use of service meshes. Only 18% report using a service mesh in production, but 47% were evaluating for future use. Consul was the most widely used software in production, with Istio being evaluated the most. Last week, the Istio team tweeted out acknowledgement of all the commercial products now using their software, which may foreshadow wider adoption in the future. The New Stack recently polled readers and surfaced new insight into adoption of service meshes. 60% of those using service meshes in production  considered it essential for controlling application traffic for distributed systems. Only 30% of those evaluating service meshes felt the same way. Their attention was on security and observability.

Source: The New Stack

Serverless computing made another appearance in this year's CNCF survey. 41% reported using serverless technologies—judging by the questions, this seems to refer only to function-as-a-service platforms—with 20% planning to use it in the next 12-18 months. Most were using hosted platforms, with AWS Lambda the clear favorite. For installable function platforms, Knative was the preferred choice. The percentage (41%) of those using serverless technologies mirrored recent results from an O'Reilly survey (40%). Serverless users valued the reduced operational cost, auto-scaling, and low maintenance. Some of the challenges included educating staff, vendor lock-in, and difficulty debugging and monitoring.

Source: CNCF Survey 2019

Both the CNCF and State of Kubernetes surveys highlighted the challenges faced by those using containers and Kubernetes. The CNCF results saw culture challenges and security concerns leading the pack. The lack of training came in as the fourth highest response. In the State of Kubernetes report, 67% of respondents called out "lack of experience and expertise" as the biggest challenge for managing Kubernetes. "Ease of use" was the top selection criteria for a given Kubernetes distribution, which complements the nearly 40% of CNCF users who claimed "complexity" as their top challenge.

Source: CNCF Survey 2019

The State of Kubernetes report went a step further and pointed out some of the decision-making challenges enterprises face when getting started with Kubernetes. 83% of respondents reported that more than one team was involved in choosing the product, with C-level executives playing a role 18% of the time. Interestingly, development teams were involved more than any other group. Some companies also appeared to be selecting technologies before deciding which problem to solve, for whom.

With more stakeholders at the table, complications arise. 40% of survey respondents cited a lack of internal alignment as a problem when selecting a Kubernetes distribution. Clearly, Kubernetes creates an opportunity to bring operators and developers closer together, but this has not been fully realized inside many companies.

Another misalignment identified by the State of Kubernetes report related to what impeded developer productivity. 29% of developers said that access to infrastructure was their top problem. Only 6% of executives answered that way. Rather, 49% of executives thought the top challenge for developers was the integration of new technologies. Only 29% of developers agreed.

Both surveys highlighted the benefits users saw by using Kubernetes, and cloud-native technologies. The CNCF respondents recognized faster deployment times, improved scalability and availability, and more cloud portability. The enterprises participating in the State of Kubernetes report realized benefits like improved resource utilization, faster software delivery, and reduced cloud costs, among others.

Source: The State of Kubernetes 2020

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