The secret to Kubernetes’ success


It’s hard to believe didn’t hit 1.0 until mid-2015 (a year after ), given that the container orchestration platform is now in production at 78 percent of enterprises by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). That’s crazy fast adoption. 

And if we’re going to talk about “crazy fast adoption,” it’s worth pointing out that just a year ago, 58 percent of enterprises were running Kubernetes in production, according to the .

This speaks to the power of as enterprises look to improve how they develop applications. It also underscores just how critical has become to broad-scale technology adoption.

The Kubernetes kommunity

The secret to Kubernetes’ popularity is no secret: community. As , Kubernetes wasn’t first to market (Mesosphere and Docker get that honor). Nor was it the only open source container orchestration tool on the market. What it was, however, was open. It’s possible to be open source but have closed governance, thwarting would-be contributors (and competitors). Google, however, took a different tactic, as :

What accounts for these wildly disparate community results [between Kubernetes, Docker, and Apache Mesos]? In a word: Google—or rather, the relative lack of Google. While each of the other orchestration projects comes with a heavy dose of single-vendor influence, Kubernetes benefits from Google’s hands-off approach to ongoing development, as well as its original engineering.

Five years in, , followed by VMware and Red Hat (measuring by last year’s contributions). But Kubernetes is no longer all about Google. Not even close. There are more than 35,000 contributors spread across more than 2,000 companies, yielding over 1.1 million contributions. It’s incredibly impressive.

That success didn’t come because Google invented cool container orchestration technology. After all, the company had been managing containers using an equivalent (Borg) for a decade. “In a world in which k8s wasn’t open source,” , “it’s a niche product and many, many more workloads are welded to AWS than is the case today.”

, “It got significantly easier to deploy Kubernetes anywhere because of the broad adoption, and the community is developing/improving the project at very high speed.”


Of those production workloads, organizations are increasingly comfortable running larger quantities of containers:


With this background, it makes sense that Kubernetes adoption would spike from roughly 50 percent in 2017, bumping to 58 percent in 2018, and leaping to 78 percent in 2019. Enterprises are embracing containers in a big way, and need powerful ways to scale them. Kubernetes provides these ways.

But it’s not really about technology. Or, rather, it’s not exclusively about technology. The biggest obstacle to container adoption, according to respondents to the CNCF survey, is culture change. To truly build in a cloud native way, companies need to change the way they think about applications and how to build, deploy and maintain them. Kubernetes, as a broad community safety net, arguably does more than mere technology ever could to provide assistance to would-be adopters.

Community, in short, is Kubernetes’ not-so-secret sauce, and is 100 percent dependent on Google’s early decision not only to open source the code, but also to embrace open governance thereof.

Copyright © 2020 IDG Communications, Inc.