Kubernetes by the numbers, in 2020: 12 stats to see

How is Kubernetes impacting enterprise IT? Let's unpack a dozen (and then some) numbers that speak to Kubernetes' continuing rise to IT ascendancy
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Kubernetes facts

It’s been about a year since we last checked in on publicly available numbers that help quantify Kubernetes interest and usage. Consistent with the overall momentum around containers and other cloud-native technologies, the Kubernetes numbers keep getting bigger.

Teams and organizations are ramping up, not vice versa. In fact, just three percent of IT leaders in Red Hat’s 2020 The State of Enterprise Open Source report said they expected their use of containers to decrease in the coming year.

[ Kubernetes terminology, demystified: Read How to explain Kubernetes in plain English and get our Kubernetes glossary cheat sheet for IT and business leaders. ]

12 compelling Kubernetes statistics

Let’s unpack a dozen more (and then some) numbers that speak to Kubernetes’ continuing rise to IT ascendancy.

84 percent: In its most recent survey, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) found that in 2019 the vast majority of respondents – 84 percent – were running containers in production. That was up roughly 15 percent (or 11 percentage points, from 73) from the previous year. Production container usage was at just 23 percent when CNCF first did its survey in March 2016.

There are solid reasons for this trend. Here’s one: As Red Hat OpenShift principal technical marketing manager Chris Short said recently, devs are getting used to containers and embracing their benefits; containers are no longer new and exotic.

"Containers allow for complete packaging of services to eliminate the toil of maintaining unique developer environments."

“Developers are becoming acclimated to building and shipping containers,” Short says. “Containers allow for complete packaging of services to eliminate the toil of maintaining unique developer environments."

56 percent: Meanwhile, that usage still appears to be growing considerably. 56 percent of the organizations polled for the 2020 edition of The State of Enterprise Open Source report said they expected their use of containers to increase in the next 12 months. The report polled 950 IT leaders.

250+ containers in production: That finding jives with another data point from CNCF: In 2019, the percentage of companies running 250 or more containers in production grew by 28 percent, crossing the 50 percent threshold for the first time. Conversely, the percentage of organizations running fewer than 250 containers dropped by 26 percent, and the percentage of companies running fewer than 50 containers dropped even more significantly, with a 43 percent decline.

78 percent: Kubernetes is not the only option for container orchestration, but it has clearly become the go-to choice: more than three in four firms included in the CNCF report said they were using Kubernetes in some form.

[ Read also: OpenShift and Kubernetes: What’s the difference? ]

91,680: The number of commits made to date to the Kubernetes repository on Github.

8/10: The ratio (81 percent) of companies that have already adopted public cloud that say they’re working with two or more providers, according to Gartner. “Two or more providers” is the fundamental definition of the term “multi-cloud” and the IT strategy it represents. (Portability and scalability are among the key appeals of containers and Kubernetes.)

Roughly seven out of 10 companies reported a detected misconfiguration in their Kubernetes environment.

69 percent: As Kubernetes use grows, so does the overall interest in the security of the platform. And a recent StackRox report found that a familiar threat is by far the most common cause of a Kubernetes-related incident: Misconfigurations. Roughly seven out of 10 companies reported a detected misconfiguration in their Kubernetes environment, making it by far the most common type of vulnerability.

That’s consistent with the advice of many security pros when it comes to Kubernetes: The platform offers plenty of robust security controls and protections, but you’ve got to invest the effort in properly tuning them for your environment.

A common example is the proper configuration of role-based access control (RBAC) settings. Check out Kubernetes security: 4 strategic tips and Kubernetes deployments: 6 security best practices for more on this topic and related advice.

133: The number of Kubernetes Operators now available on OperatorHub.io. Operators are a growing part of Kubernetes’ reputation for being pluggable and/or extensible – or, put another way, customizable – to a team’s or organization’s particular needs.

[ Get the free eBook: O'Reilly: Kubernetes Operators: Automating the Container Orchestration Platform. ]

The Operator framework for building and managing Operators – which includes the Operator SDK – is a good example of the growing ecosystem of open source projects in the expanding Kubernetes universe.

As Red Hat technology evangelist Gordon Haff wrote recently: “Beyond container runtimes, Kubernetes has also served as the primary center of gravity for the many other cloud-native projects that have come into its orbit. These projects have brought many additional capabilities to Kubernetes, such as performance monitoring, developer tools, serverless capabilities, and CI/CD workflows.”

[  What kind of projects? Read also: 5 open source projects that make Kubernetes even better. ]

18 percent: This reputation for extensibility and pluggability (and the legitimate reasons behind it) is also seen in the growing use of service mesh technologies for the networking or “glue” that binds multiple independent services. While tools like Istio are even younger than Kubernetes itself, they’re gaining traction: 18 percent of respondents in the CNCF report said they’re using service meshes in production, while 47 percent indicated they are currently evaluating service mesh use cases.

4th: Speaking of Istio, it ranked fourth in Github’s “fastest-growing open source projects by contributors” in the form’s most recent Octoverse report, with 194 percent growth. (Github limited the list to projects with 1,000-plus contributors.) Another Kubernetes-related project, Helm, came in sixth, with 184 percent growth.

149: The number of certified Kubernetes service providers, according to CNCF, defined as “a pre-qualified group of vetted service providers that have significant experience helping enterprises successfully adopt Kubernetes.” That’s up nearly 50 percent from June 2019, when the program first reached the 100-provider mark, less than two years after its initial inception.

6 years old: All of these numbers are made more impressive by Kubernetes’ relative youth: The project just celebrated its sixth birthday on June 7.

Additional Kubernetes resources

The Enterprisers Project's deep dive: Everything you need to know about Kubernetes.

Kubernetes by Example: Try Kubernetes

Opensource.com: A beginner’s guide to Kubernetes container orchestration

Opensource.com: Build a Kubernetes cluster with the Raspberry Pi

eBook: Getting Started with Kubernetes

eBook: O'Reilly: Kubernetes Operators: Automating the Container Orchestration Platform

eBook: O'Reilly: Kubernetes patterns for designing cloud-native apps

Kubernetes glossary cheat sheet:  10 key concepts in plain English

Containers primer: Learn the lingo of Linux containers 

Kubernetes DocumentationFrom the official Kubernetes site

Why Kubernetes matters to IT leaders: Red Hat’s point of view

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his InformationWeek.com story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.