Why containers will rule the cloud: the rise of Kubernetes

It’s clear we are moving in a cloud-native direction with microservices and containers. The big decision now is where to start

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Much has changed since the very first version of Kubernetes was released in July 2015. Over the past two years, the open community has made tremendous strides in evolving this container management platform, which has enjoyed an unprecedented adoption rate.  

Despite this astounding progress, the work and momentum behind Kubernetes is just getting started. In the past few months, we’ve seen several major projects come to fruition which make major strides in the security and operability of Kubernetes, as some of the largest tech companies come together to throw their weight behind the platform.  

The rise of Kubernetes, and containers in general, couldn’t have come at a more opportune time. Many organizations are shifting to an all-in cloud strategy to tap the flexibility and speed the cloud offers, and connect into advanced capabilities such as blockchain and AI. Containers help make this transition as smooth as possible by helping developers quickly spin up new, cloud-native workloads, as well as quickly port their traditional workloads over to the cloud to modernize them and secure them in new ways.  

Over the next year and beyond, we can expect to see innovations created around the platform grow. This is due to a groundswell of support from the open community, and major advances in how Kubernetes architectures can be used.  

Kubernetes and the power of the open community

IBM was an early adopter of Kubernetes, and it’s been fascinating to watch its evolution as more data and apps shift to the cloud. As a fast and stable platform capable of production-grade apps, Kubernetes is very impressive for such a young project. This strength and stability has sparked several initiatives which build on Kubernetes, and significantly evolve its functionality.  

An example of this is Istio, a service mesh built by IBM, Google, and Lyft in the open. Istio brings together the best in-house technologies of these three companies to provide a management and security layer on top of Kubernetes, giving developers a way to connect and secure networks of disparate containers and microservices.

Developers and engineers in the open community have been busy: working together, teams from Google, IBM, and others also built and open-sourced Grafeas, a tool built to address security concerns that arise when multiple agile teams are building with containers simultaneously. Grafeas was inspired by the reality that because containers and orchestration tools such as Kubernetes have made software development dynamic, they also have made apps more at risk for security vulnerabilities.  

Once again, companies banded together across the open community to solve this. Multiple teams brought their best container security expertise to the table, and built a tool to augment the visibility and security that developers have as they build with containers.  

These advancements are enabling teams to put apps into production which fully take advantage of the benefits that Kubernetes and containers offer: including data portability, agility and speed.

The tipping point of Kubernetes and containers

It’s clear we are moving in a cloud-native direction with microservices and containers.  For development teams and organizations, the big decision now is where to start. Many companies are in the early stages of embracing containers in production, and deciding which workloads to move to a containerized format.  

It’s understandable that many teams are still not ready to undertake a complete migration to the cloud and to containers. However, this is yet another area where Kubernetes is taking hold. We can now use Kubernetes to build and deliver private cloud capabilities that mirror the agility and speed of public environments. Using a containers architecture, companies can quickly deploy in-house platforms that make it easy to integrate and move data across systems, while ensuring sensitive data remains behind their firewall.   

This flexibility to deliver both private and public environments with Kubernetes will continue its growth, especially as the open community continues to elevate tooling that increases its security and scalability. As organizations shift to the cloud at different paces, this range of options and an increase in Kubernetes functionality will play a key role in moving more workloads to the cloud.  

Containers are also bringing new levels of security to apps. A previously common thought was that building with containers makes apps less secure. Projects like Grafeas and new capabilities to continuously scan and monitor containers have turned this idea on its head. Increasing the security of containers has led to the discovery of a major advantage: Because apps can be broken into many different and secure parts, the attack surface for hackers is significantly limited. This topples the last hurdle that many companies face as they shift to a containers and cloud-forward strategy.

Further validation of the momentum behind Kubernetes came last month when Docker announced the ability to deploy Docker containers using both Docker Swarm and Kubernetes. Long seen as a choice between one platform or the other, this move signifies the full alignment in the industry behind Kubernetes, and it continues to expand the breadth of options developers enjoy with containers.  

Keeping Kubernetes open

The future success of the Kubernetes platform rests in its ability to remain open. To fully evolve and reach its potential, it is crucial that it remains interoperable across all platforms—enabling developers across communities with a standard foundation to build and innovate.  

To support this, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation just announced the launch of its Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program. Done with many leaders across the open community, this program was established to ensure that workloads running on any Certified Kubernetes Distribution or Platform will remain compatible with other versions.  

It’s clear that open governance and collaboration continues to be the key driver of innovation. The best way to evolve any technology is to bring in different ideas and viewpoints—the more you have, the healthier and more successful any project will become.  

This approach is at the heart of how and why Kubernetes has become so successful so quickly, and why it will continue to have an impact.  This is also why my team and I will continue to invest in and work with the Kubernetes community as we shape this technology, and respond to the needs and challenges of enterprise developers as they shift more of their data and apps to containers.

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