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DevOps / Kubernetes / Operations

Survey Shows Companies Moving away from DIY Kubernetes

According to the State of Kubernetes 2023 survey, 84% of companies prefer to let vendors handle assembling and keeping Kubernetes up to date.
Apr 12th, 2023 6:13am by
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We’re putting the finishing touches on the State of Kubernetes 2023 survey. This is the fifth time we’ve done this survey, and I’m always eager to see the changes over the years. Among other findings, this year I’m seeing an emerging best practice: a decrease in DIY Kubernetes.

People building Kubernetes on their own went from 28% in 2020 to 16% in 2023, according to the survey. That was already low three years ago, but it’s more or less dropped by half in the years since.

This significant drop shows that respondents think there’s not much special about building Kubernetes on your own, presumably customizing it to your needs. It turns out that many people don’t really have unique needs at the infrastructure layer.

Looking at it from the other direction, 84% of companies don’t see value in owning Kubernetes themselves and prefer to let someone else — vendors like us at VMware and public clouds — deal with assembling and keeping Kubernetes up to date.

Why should organizations want to create their own Kubernetes distros? Kubernetes is supposed to standardize the container management layer, making it all seem and act the same. This year, we’re seeing that Kubernetes is becoming more and more “boring,” as people used to say.

Below the Value Line

“Our goal now, moving forward, is we want Kubernetes to be boring. Good infrastructure is boring.”

— Joe Beda, co-creator of Kubernetes

Many years ago, our CTO James Watters started talking about “the value line” in platforms. The value line concept is a tool to guide where you should own and customize layers of the IT stack versus “outsourcing” those layers to a vendor or cloud service.

For example, for most organizations, the operating system is way below the value line: few people need something different than standard Linux or Windows distros. As you start climbing up the stack, you encounter virtualization, configuration and automation, monitoring and so forth. In the world of cloud native applications, you now encounter Kubernetes, which is, I’d say, right below “middleware” and, finally, the code you write for your applications.

When I look at the results from this year’s survey, I see that the value line has moved above Kubernetes. I’d say the line is above the middleware, too. Who needs to write their own database or even UI framework? This means that you probably shouldn’t be working on DIY Kubernetes. Sure, there are always exceptions, like frying chicken. But generally, organizations will get the most value from the software they run on Kubernetes, the software that they write themselves that runs their business.

Less Developer Ownership

Another shift that makes me think self-managing Kubernetes has dipped below the value line is the continual drop in development teams owning and operating Kubernetes, as the chart below shows:

Back in 2021, 48% of respondents said developers owned and operated Kubernetes. This matches my anecdotes of the time: developers were the ones driving a lot of Kubernetes usage. It’s only been in the past few years that I’ve talked with more and more infrastructure groups that are now officially owning and operating a large number of Kubernetes services. In this year’s survey, developers are still running Kubernetes, but that’s dropped from 48% in 2021 to 37% in 2023.

Developer Productivity, Deployment and Management Challenges and More

There’s plenty more in the survey. We also have questions about challenges deploying and managing Kubernetes, as well as our usual look at motivations for going multicloud. I pay particular attention to the benefits that companies get from running Kubernetes, which include some interesting shifts in software development cycles.

The survey will be out in the next few days, so stay tuned or get notified when it’s available by signing up for our newsletter. You can also join the discussion by registering for the upcoming webinar where we’ll share more of the findings.

And, if you’re going to be at KubeCon Europe in Amsterdam, my VMware colleagues and I will be there, as well. I’d love to hear what you’re doing with Kubernetes and how you’re getting the most value out of it.

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