Measuring Kubernetes’ Market Share and Mind Share

Just how popular is Kubernetes, the open-source container orchestrator? How does its market share compare to that of Swarm, Mesos and other alternatives? Let’s take a look.

Kubernetes, of course, is an orchestration tool for container clusters. It originated from Borg, an internal Google project. It’s certainly not the only container orchestrator. Nor was it the first one to hit the market.

Kubernetes Market Share

Yet, it would appear that, over the past 18 months or so, Kubernetes has quickly eclipsed Swarm, Mesos and other orchestrators in popularity.

Consider the following chart from Google Trends:

Google Trends chart comparing Kubernetes, Swarm and Mesos.

The chart shows levels of interest in Kubernetes (in blue), Swarm (red) and Mesos (yellow) over the past three years.

It’s clear to see that interest in Kubernetes far surpasses interest in Swarm and Mesos. Searches for the latter two orchestrators have basically flatlined, while interest in Kubernetes has been steadily increasing.

Notably, Kubernetes’ big ascent began in the spring of 2016, when it became the first project hosted by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF). This announcement probably explains why its popularity surpassed that of Mesos around this time.

As for Swarm, it has always been less popular. If you extend the Google Trends search back to May 2014, when Kubernetes was first announced, it was beating Swarm even at that time.Google Trends chart comparing Kubernetes, Docker Swarm and Mesos.

Caveats

There are some caveats with this data, of course. The biggest is that it only reflects trends based on Google data. This is not necessarily an accurate representation of overall Kubernetes market share and mind share.

In addition, the fact that Kubernetes has a highly unique name probably gives it a bump within Google search data. This makes it easier to measure Kubernetes interest than interest in Swarm, which is a more common name and has different meanings (think “swarm of bees,” for example). When people search for the term Swarm, they could be looking for any number of things. That’s why I tracked interest in the term Docker Swarm. Because my data does not include people who searched just for Swarm, the Docker Swarm representation is probably understated.

Last but not least, we can’t assume that Google Trends data necessarily correlates with market share. That said, it is very difficult to collect hard numbers regarding how many people are using each container orchestrator. The orchestrators are free to download, are available from multiple sources and don’t require registration, so there is no easy way to track the number of users based on server statistics or instance registrations.

Conclusion

All the same, if someone asks you the question, “Does Kubernetes have the greatest market share?” the answer is, “Almost certainly.”

What’s interesting is not simply that Kubernetes appears to be the most popular orchestrator, but rather just how popular it is. Swarm and Mesos don’t even come close.

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi

Christopher Tozzi has covered technology and business news for nearly a decade, specializing in open source, containers, big data, networking and security. He is currently Senior Editor and DevOps Analyst with Fixate.io and Sweetcode.io.

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