Organizations grew to love Kubernetes: Usage in production is high

Kubernetes is delivering business value and is set to win an increasing share of production workloads, with almost all respondents to a Dimensional Research study saying they plan to scale and diversify their Kubernetes infrastructures in some way in the coming year.

Importantly, Kubernetes is already expanding beyond the familiar environments of the public cloud and data center. 35% of respondents already deploy Kubernetes at the edge.

With growth comes increased complexity, and already those respondents that have the most extensive use of Kubernetes — with more clusters and more distributions, across more environments such as edge and with more software elements in their ‘stack’ such as monitoring, security, ingress or service mesh — are experiencing more significant challenges.

Researchers found that as well as a shortage of essential skills and headcount to keep up with Kubernetes’ famously steep learning curve, organizations reported they lacked mature management capabilities, such as multi-cluster management and enterprise-grade guardrails, to stay in control of their environments. The majority of respondents said they were investigating new commercial management platforms to address this issue.

Kubernetes usage in production is high and growing as organizations see the benefits of Kubernetes

Sixty percent of respondents said Kubernetes was their preferred or only way to deploy new production applications, with 43% of all workloads already in K8s today. Ninety percent expect to add new applications and 79% expect to migrate existing applications to K8s in the next 12 months.

Multiple distributions, environments and software elements are increasing K8s complexity and diversity

Half of those surveyed run more than 10 clusters, and 80% expect to add or grow their clusters. Seventy-eight percent use Kubernetes across multiple environments (such as one or more clouds, virtualized data centers, bare metal, and edge). Eighty-nine percent already use more than one Kubernetes distribution in production and 76% have more than five distinct software elements in their Kubernetes infrastructure stack.

Challenges are widespread and those with more complex environments and K8s stacks see more issues

Ninety-eight percent say they face challenges running Kubernetes in production, with two-thirds saying they suffer availability and performance issues due to interoperability of elements in their software stack. Eighty-six percent say that when you use multiple Kubernetes environments, the challenges increase exponentially. Those with more clusters reported more challenges across the board.

Edge K8s is compelling but those that have tried it found it extremely difficult

Eighty-one percent of respondents say that there are “compelling” use cases for edge in their industry. Fifty-five percent expect their use of Kubernetes at the edge to grow over the next 12 months. But 72% say it’s too challenging to deploy and manage Kubernetes on edge devices. Those already using edge today reported greater challenges than they expected, primarily having too many clusters to manage at scale.

Kubernetes has a steep learning curve and the skills shortage is real — but respondents disagree on how their businesses are tackling it

Eighty percent said that Kubernetes has a steeper learning curve than most technologies they use, and lack of talent/resources was the top challenge cited by individual contributors and managers, who named training as the top tactic to solve it. But VPs and C-level respondents did not rank the skills shortage as a major issue — a tension that needs to be resolved.

Commercial management platforms are poised for growth

Only 34% of organizations use a commercial solution to manage their Kubernetes environments, but a further 53% are planning or considering adopting one of these platforms. The top capability they’re looking for? A single tool to deploy and manage all Kubernetes clusters across multiple environments. Those with a commercial management platform today were three times more likely to say they are “highly satisfied” with their overall experience of Kubernetes.

“Kubernetes adoption continues to be one of the most exciting and dynamic areas of enterprise technology,” said Diane Hagglund, principal at Dimensional Research and author of the research study. “The data clearly shows the value of large-scale Kubernetes deployments in production, while highlighting the increasing complexity of operating environments. In particular, the high levels of interest in commercial management platforms shown by Kubernetes stakeholders is a strong indicator of increasing maturity,” said Tenry Fu, Spectro Cloud CEO.

“Kubernetes is growing at pace as it becomes the first choice for both new and existing applications in production — and that growth results in Kubernetes environments that are not just larger, but more complex and more diverse,” said Fu. “Organizations shouldn’t be constrained in their choice of which environments, distros and software elements make up the right K8s stack for their workloads, but our survey found that more complex stacks create significant challenges for organizations that lack the team resources and management tools to stay in control. The decisions that businesses take now in these areas will dictate how effectively they can continue to get value from Kubernetes as they scale, particularly in embracing new opportunities such as edge workloads.”

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