Containers and Kubernetes underpin more edgy, artificial intelligence efforts

Containers are popular, and surveys show rise in Kubernetes adoption as their primary orchestration engine. This is key as applications grow more complex.
Written by Joe McKendrick, Contributing Writer

Containers have become a key building block for some of today's most sophisticated applications under development -- from artificial intelligence to the edge. These encapsulated application units require orchestration, and Kubernetes is the vehicle being employed to accomplish this. At the same time, recent studies show, it takes time and education to align Kubernetes-based applications to enterprise requirements. 

Photo: Joe McKendrick

Kubernetes-based container deployments are on the rise, according to a recent analysis of data from 7,000 backend developers, as reported in the most recent State of Cloud Native Development Report developed for the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) by SlashData. The study finds that Kubernetes adoption soared during the 2020-2021 time period – to at least 5.6 million developers, representing a 67% increase within a year's time. This group now represents 31% of all backend developers.   

The CNCF/SlashData report also finds that edge computing is the leading use case for container or Kubernetes-based deployments. Among edge developers only, Kubernetes usage increased in the last 12 months by 11 percentage points to 63%. Along with edge computing, the types of applications in which containers and Kubernetes are being applied represent some of the most cutting-edge types of projects of this era, including the following:

  • Edge computing (76% employ containers, 63% use Kubernetes)
  • Quantum computing (65%, 59%)
  • Haptic feedback (61%, 56%)
  • DNA computing / storage (69%, 56%)
  • 5G (64%, 54%)
  • Blockchain applications other than cryptocurrency (68%, 52%)
  • Computer vision (68%, 45%)
  • Conversational AI (61%, 44%)
  • Robotics (56%, 42%)

At the same time, more education is required to impress the potential advantages of Kubernetes among IT professionals, the CNCF/SlashData survey suggests. "Kubernetes seems to exhibit a distinctive positive trend within the cloud native space, and there is arguably still room to grow," the study's authors point out. "While overall awareness of Kubernetes has significantly increased, many backend developers remain unsure of what it can do for them." Tellingly, 21% of backend developers say they "have heard of Kubernetes but are unsure what it does." Another 11% even say they "have not heard of Kubernetes." 

A separate vendor-sponsored survey suggests that while Kubernetes-orchestrated containers are extremely popular vehicles that ensure rapid application development and portability, they also have their issues in the enterprise. Operational capabilities arise, and security continues to be an issue. Most IT professionals employing Kubernetes report difficulties in sustaining its viability. At the same time, Kubernetes may offer support in the emerging areas of artificial intelligence and machine learning. 

The survey of 300 IT executives and professionals conducted by Vanson Bourne and sponsored by D2iQ  A survey finds that while 75% of organizations are using Kubernetes in production or pre-production environments, they all agree that Kubernetes deployments come with challenges. Only 42% of organizations claim that all applications running on Kubernetes successfully made it to "day-two" environments.

On average, 53% of all an organization's projects are currently in production on Kubernetes, according to the Vanson Bourne/D2iQ data. This is an increase from the 2020 survey, which found that 42% of projects were in production using Kubernetes. Close to eight in 10 respondents (77%) also indicate that it took six months or less to get their organization's Kubernetes deployments to production. The average time that it took was four and a half months, down a half month from 2020. 

The survey also finds 43% of respondents cite data analytics or machine learning as their most popular Kubernetes workloads. Kubernetes growth in AI and ML workloads displaced the 2020 survey's top choice of application build structures -- 40% of respondents cite AI/ML as the most popular workloads. In addition, 88% of organizations agree that in the next two years, Kubernetes will be the platform of choice for running AI and ML workloads. 

Rounding out the top three most popular Kubernetes workloads were Windows containers (34%) and distributed data services (33%).

The study also demonstrates the positive impact Kubernetes has on the professional development of developers and engineers. 41% of developers say Kubernetes makes them really excited to come to work every day and that it brings their entire IT team together. It's important to note, however, that nearly one quarter (23%) of developers claim Kubernetes makes them feel extremely burnt out. "The added complexity, security and governance concerns and cluster sprawl that comes with Kubernetes adoption is increasing the strain on developers and architects," said Deepak Goel, chief technology officer, D2iQ. 

Still, Kubernetes is still seen as the choice for container orchestration across much of the industry. As the authors of the CNCF/SlashData study put it: "As adoption of containers has not been trending upwards, it may be a sign that it is already or slowly reaching a high plateau; that is, a point where further adoption becomes less likely. On the other hand, the usage of Kubernetes appears to still have plenty of room to grow."

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