5 Kubernetes predictions for 2021

As Kubernetes enters a new phase of maturity at many enterprises, what’s next? Let's examine five automation issues that matter post-Kubernetes rollout – and advice for teams grappling with them
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kubernetes trends 2021

For companies that have deployed containers, Kubernetes is now the predominant orchestration solution, and table stakes for most cloud-native environments. Like many technologies before it, the maturity and stability of Kubernetes has reached the point where some people even consider it “boring.” Looking forward, if we consider that every cloud provider and software platform vendor offers an option with Kubernetes baked-in, what are the next challenges that practitioners are turning to the ecosystem to solve in this "post-Kubernetes world"?

[ Kubernetes terminology, demystified: Get our Kubernetes glossary cheat sheet for IT and business leaders. ]

Kubernetes prediction 1: Simpler ways to use AI/ML

The role of infrastructure has always been as an enabler for applications. A class of applications that continues to see growth and investment is the data-rich world of artificial intelligence and machine learning. The scalability and distributed architecture of Kubernetes has always been a great match for AI/ML, and the maturation of solutions makes 2021 a year to watch for growth in this space.

The goal of simplifying AI/ML requires building a software development lifecycle on the foundation of containers, which allows the extraction of business value from data. [ For more on this topic, get the eBook: Top considerations for building a production-ready AI/ML environment. ]

The challenge for most enterprise IT organizations today is that there isn’t coordination between the team’s infrastructure and application/data owners, and each has their own tooling which isn’t integrated together.

Kubernetes prediction 2: Improved developer and operator experience

While containers helped bring the unit of consumption closer to the application, there is still work to do to simplify both the developer and operator experience. The leading vendors in the ecosystem have created and matured solutions that follow the operational model of serverless (or “NoOps platforms”) - yes, there are still servers, but the underlying service takes care of it. Microsoft created Azure Container Instances back in 2017, followed by AWS Fargate (initially only on ECS, then support for EKS in 2019). In 2018, Google introduced Knative, an open source and industry-wide solution to simplify building, serving, and eventing of cloud-native applications. Knative powers Red Hat OpenShift Serverless and Google Cloud Run. At re:Invent 2020, AWS made a number of announcements to continue to blur the line between containers and serverless.

All of these solutions look to reduce the amount of interaction with the underlying infrastructure – allowing more focus on the application and other business needs. In 2021, users should balance understanding all of the nuances of Kubernetes and related projects, versus consuming those technologies as a piece of a purchased platform or managed service.

[ Read also: 3 reasons to use an enterprise Kubernetes platform . ]

Kubernetes prediction 3: Automation, automation, automation

Automation is a top priority for the C-suite, and touches every aspect of the technology estate. Automation is a key goal of Kubernetes (automating manual tasks of container deployment and scaling is the core of the technology), so what requires improvement? Automation has seen, and will continue to see a rise in solutions for everything from installation and upgrades, to management and self-healing of environments. Full end-to-end application automation will bridge the gap between teams and technologies to accelerate deployment, scalability, and ease of management. Automation tools also help maintain a secure environment, which will especially be needed, as we watch Kubernetes environments expand to the edge, which leads to…

Kubernetes prediction 4: Exponential edge

If there is any remaining argument that hybrid or multi-cloud is a reality, the growth of edge solidifies this truth: When we think about where data and applications live, they will be in many places. The discussion of edge is very different if you are talking to a telco company, one of the public cloud providers, or a typical enterprise. When it comes to Kubernetes and the cloud-native ecosystem, there are many technology-driven solutions competing for mindshare and customer interest. While telecom giants are already extending their NFV solutions into the edge discussion, there are many options for enterprises. Edge becomes part of the overall distributed nature of hybrid environments, so users should work closely with their vendors to make sure the edge does not become an island of technology with a specialized skill set.

[ Want to learn more? Get the free eBooks: Getting Started with Kubernetes and O'Reilly: Kubernetes Operators: Automating the Container Orchestration Platform. ]

Kubernetes prediction 5: Project overload

The breadth of the CNCF project landscape is so daunting that it has become an internet meme. Kubernetes was designed as a thin layer; in order to have a full solution, you need to have tools for logging, CI/CD, security, and much more. Each category has many tooling options; it is the classic paradox of choice. Just as we saw the maturation of Kubernetes adoption move from predominantly do-it-yourself (DIY) to vendor options, we are seeing the growth of container platforms.

Enterprises can either spend their time and efforts on choosing, integrating, and testing an environment to build their own platform, or they can find a partner that delivers a platform that offers a combination of simplicity of use with the flexibility to leverage any projects and services to meet the requirements of the business.

Embracing change in 2021

The advice for enterprises is to remember that tooling supports your business goals; it is not the answer by itself. Events in 2020 forced every business to react fast to unplanned changes. Kubernetes and the solutions available built with the cloud-native ecosystem can accelerate the pace of software development, while also enabling flexible usage of data and modern applications. Modernization of platform, applications, and workforce skills will allow your company to thrive in any business climate.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ]

Stu Miniman is Director of Market Insights on the Red Hat cloud platforms team. He is the host of the Red Hat livestreaming show In The Clouds. He is a former analyst and host of theCUBE.