Kubernetes Now Within Reach For Mid-Size Companies

For years, Kubernetes shined in big organizations supporting vast container-based deployments. With the staff to support large DevOps initiatives, enterprises have seen increased scalability, improved fault tolerance and better reliability by using Kubernetes in their container-based strategy. However, it’s not been as easy for smaller companies to hop on the Kubernetes bandwagon.

Small-to-medium businesses (SMBs) are less well-equipped to handle Kubernetes for a number of reasons. For one, Kubernetes might simply be overkill for smaller projects and might not make sense to implement. Kubernetes may also be difficult to enforce at smaller companies due to a lack of skills and resources. Developers often cite high platform complexity and persistent storage challenges as hurdles to adoption.

I recently met with Murli Thirumale, VP and GM of Pure’s Cloud-Native business unit, to discuss the state of Kubernetes use among small to mid-size companies. According to Thirumale, new improvements to persistent storage and networking are making it so that mid-size companies have a better shot at adopting Kubernetes successfully. In short, K8s technology is ready to enter the mid-market. Below, we’ll review the state of Kubernetes adoption and consider how its evolution over the past few years makes it prime for more teams to use.

From Early Innovators to Early Majority

Kubernetes use continues to blossom. A 2021 CNCF survey found that 96% of organizations are either using or evaluating Kubernetes. The open source container platform is extremely prevalent throughout the Global 2000 list, says Thirumale, which makes up the largest companies in the world. Kubernetes also sees use regardless of the vertical, whether health care, retail or financial services.

“We’re definitely crossing the chasm of the early innovator stage and entering the early majority stage,” he adds.

This growth mimics the overall trend toward cloud-native technologies, too. There’s now a stark contrast between preexisting applications and today’s greenfield development, says Thirumale. New applications are increasingly created in the cloud-native modality, using microservices, containers and a strong DevOps orientation. From GitOps to deployment, everything is relatively seamless—there’s not a siloed development path like legacy approaches.

Unlocking Kubernetes For SMBs

Kubernetes deployment in large enterprises may be strong, but certain realities have been holding it back within small-to-medium businesses (SMBs). The single biggest reason, says Thirumale, is a lack of skillsets. Whereas large companies have the resources to invest in DevOps and knowledge sharing around containerization, smaller companies don’t have large IT groups or even a dedicated DevOps center.

The second key factor holding back mid-size K8s deployment is complexity and a lack of stability. Until recently, the maturity of solutions wasn’t that strong, says Thirumale. However, the community has come a long way in a few short years and there has been much improvement. For example, the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) has played a huge role in standardizing APIs and creating shared models for how container orchestration should be managed, says Thirumale.

Solution Maturity Signals Mid-Size Deployments

SMBs can embrace Kubernetes more easily since products have matured and are highly reliable, says Thirumale. Nowadays, you don’t have to self-host and integrate Kubernetes yourself. Instead, all major cloud providers offer managed Kubernetes environments: EKS, AKS and GKE. This means a lack of skillsets and resources is less of an issue.

Furthermore, many open source and proprietary solutions have emerged to support ancillary requirements around K8s. These areas encompass things like storage, networking and observability. Tooling compatibility is less and less a problem since most solutions on the market are now Kubernetes-native. Some packages are even intended to be deployed as Kubernetes operators.

The move toward as-a-service functionality is significant, as this mode is more prevalent among new companies emerging in a post-cloud, post-DevOps era. These organizations won’t be looking to purchase large data centers to host their workloads. Instead, they prefer scalable ‘pay-as-you-go’ models to accommodate the challenges of forecasting usage. “The as-a-service movement has blossomed in the container market over the last few years, really bringing it into reach for SMBs,” Thirumale says.

The Second Coming of Kubernetes

Although Kubernetes began as a tool to orchestrate containers and applications, over the past five years, it’s expanded to becoming the hybrid multi-cloud control plane for orchestrating modern infrastructure. Its evolution into a universal control plane for storage, compute and networking has Thirumale calling this era ‘The Second Coming’ of Kubernetes.

With increased automation and self-service capabilities, Kubernetes enables operators to manage infrastructure-as-code more efficiently. You don’t need hardware folks to manage infrastructure—instead, engineers can provision it on their own. For example, significantly more effort was required to enact storage and networking in the past. But now, K8s-native automated backup solutions make it possible to remain highly available across multiple zones, explains Thirumale.

“Now that products have become more stable, the technology is ready to enter the mid-market.”

Bill Doerrfeld

Bill Doerrfeld is a tech journalist and analyst. His beat is cloud technologies, specifically the web API economy. He began researching APIs as an Associate Editor at ProgrammableWeb, and since 2015 has been the Editor at Nordic APIs, a high-impact blog on API strategy for providers. He loves discovering new trends, interviewing key contributors, and researching new technology. He also gets out into the world to speak occasionally.

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