A Reflection on the Kubernetes Market

Milan Kundera said, ‘We pass through the present with our eyes blindfolded.’

Running a young and growing company in the Kubernetes space means travelling at high speed in an ever-changing market. We are heading into our fourth year of business, and around this time of year I like to step back from the noise and figure out some of the larger trends I’m seeing develop.

I am not a technologist by background, so my thoughts tend to be more commercial in nature. If you’re interested, I wrote a similar post last year.

1.) Kubernetes is Dead, Long Live Kubernetes

Kubernetes continues to sweep the market. In fact, it’s gathering pace as a buzzword. I’m regularly told by tech leaders that if they didn’t use Kubernetes, they wouldn’t find engineers to work with them!

Although this fervour has been a bemusing aspect of the rise of Kubernetes, for the early adopters, I recognise a sense that Kubernetes is no longer the ‘thing’. Their attitude is now one of focusing on how they unlock the value of running services on Kubernetes. Not for PoCs or test services, but now as a kernel for their whole technology platform.

As Kubernetes matures, it will inevitably be commoditised, but crucially it will increase in importance as we rely on it to run entire businesses.

Matt-next

Matt Bates speaking at Google NEXT 2018

2.) We’re Moving up the Stack

Jetstack started as a way for companies to access high quality expertise around Kubernetes and Docker.

Entering the market early has given us a wonderful opportunity to grow with the community. Our company reflects the maturity of the ecosystem, just as an open source project strengthens with users and contributions.

At last, we are able to have conversations about the more holistic benefits of cloud native. Smart teams no longer worry about Kubernetes as a decision they should or shouldn’t take; they can now think about maximising the value their users will get out of it. They are also starting to understand how Kubernetes and related technologies can help them to build a platform that enables them to innovate and compete. In a number of cases, this means entering new markets and creating new product lines.

It’s taken longer than expected, but the thought that we would get to a standardised ‘stack’ with Kubernetes as the foundation was always the hope. We’re now consistently seeing certain ‘de-facto’ technologies in conversations with customers (i.e. Prometheus, Calico), and others that are being mentioned regularly (i.e. Istio, Spinnaker).

The idea that we may be able to offer a more standardised set of products formed around Kubernetes was even something we were considering back in 2014 when naming the company - the Jet ‘Stack’.

However, the exact mix of products you will need in your company will likely always need refinement based on requirements and developments in an ever-evolving ecosystem. In 2019 we’ll introduce a formalised approach to this discovery, and a reference architecture to help navigate the complexity. Our goal is to accelerate cloud native adoption and success in the same way we do so for Kubernetes.

team-retro

Kubernetes Operational Wargaming at NEXT 2018

3.) The Trough of Despondency

No matter how good Kubernetes is, confusion still abounds on how to deploy and operate it.

A look at the Cloud Native Landscape shows the difficulties involved in choosing a path, and this plays out with customers at all stages of the journey.

Questions abound:

  • Is EKS mature enough?
  • How do I secure it?
  • Do I consider a GitOps approach?
  • Is Azure a viable platform on which to run K8s?
  • Does Google have the enterprise knowledge to support me?
  • Is bare metal too complex to try?
  • Is consistent multi-cloud operation actually feasible?
  • Should I go kops or is kubeadm worth trying now?

With more vendors entering the market and marketing efforts ramping up, this confusion seems only to be increasing. In some instances, we’ve noticed elements of a backlash to Kubernetes’ complexity of software and ecosystem.

If Kubernetes continues to grow as a buzzword, so will it’s propensity to be sold as a ‘silver bullet’, and frustration will abound as enterprises realise just how much goes into a production-ready cluster.

Fortunately amongst business technologists, these developments just seem to be taken as an inevitable part of wider adoption and maturing of the technology.

Most people I see frustrated by the short term issues of even finding Kubernetes talent recognise the long-term value that Kubernetes can provide. One thing I often hear is that Kubernetes has the opportunity to take on the breadth of success seen by Linux or virtual machines and we only saw similar patterns in those.

The advice for now? Just keep going.

pingpong

Jetstack ping pong championships, Dublin 2018