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Is it bad to be boring? Why it’s good news for developers that Kubernetes is going mainstream

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Like most developers, the team at The New Builders are always susceptible to the shiniest new technologies. There’s never a shortage of hot solutions on the horizon, and all of them promise a better way of solving both technical challenges and business problems.

The problem is, until these technologies mature and gain widespread adoption, it’s difficult to tell whether they are truly the best option for your use case.

That’s why it’s no bad thing for developers when today’s state-of-the-art technical marvel turns into tomorrow’s standard-issue business tool. What you lose in excitement, you gain in reliability—and more importantly, you usually free up head-space too.

As technologies mature, they tend to gain simpler APIs and better libraries, broader community support, and even formal education and certification programs. A mature technology is one that helps you focus on solving your high-level business problems, instead of having to take a deep dive into the implementation details.

We were reminded of this when we recorded the latest New Builders podcast with Chris Aniszczyk, CTO of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), and Jason McGee, CTO for the IBM Cloud Platform. The topic was Kubernetes—a technology that has been on everyone’s lips for the last couple of years, and that now seems to have passed the tipping point for mainstream adoption.

The stars align for Kubernetes

Earlier this year, Kubernetes became the first project to graduate from the CNCF incubator, and Chris identified three key reasons why it has now crossed the chasm.

First, in early 2017, Docker donated its containerd technology to CNCF, turning the core runtime of the Docker container platform into a community-owned project. This helped to establish a de-facto industry standard for containerization.

Second, in a rare example of spontaneous standardization, most of the world’s major cloud providers and IT vendors came together in adopting Kubernetes as a default solution for container orchestration. Many of these organizations have now launched their own Kubernetes distributions, platforms and managed cloud services.

And third, CNCF created its Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program, which helps vendors certify that their solutions are compliant with Kubernetes standards—giving clients confidence that they can adopt Kubernetes without being locked in with a single vendor.

Boring means business

But if Kubernetes has now entered the world of certification and best practices, does that mean it’s no longer a hot new technology? Or to put it another way: is Kubernetes becoming boring?

From Jason’s perspective, “boring” is no bad thing. Kubernetes may have grown up in a supportive bubble of container orchestration enthusiasts, but to survive in the wider world, it needs to appeal to developers who can’t devote so much time to learning its intricacies. These are the vast majority of the people who will be using Kubernetes to solve business problems over the coming years—and for those users, it’s vital for them to be able to get up to speed quickly, and for the technology itself to just work.

That’s why the CNCF is building up a portfolio of training and education resources that target not only Kubernetes administrators, but also the broader developer population. If you have an app and you just want to get it deployed, the new Certified Kubernetes Application Developer program will give you everything you need.

Boring made easy

In addition to certification and education, Kubernetes adoption is also gaining momentum due to the increasing availability of managed services from IBM and other cloud vendors.

As Chris says, a developer’s first goal is to build their application and get it running. They may eventually want to become an expert Kubernetes administrator, but that’s not something they need to do on day one. The managed service model allows developers to create and benefit from Kubernetes without worrying about maintaining and optimizing the environment from the outset.

Not just for cloud-native applications

Chris was also keen to stress that containerization with Kubernetes isn’t just for new, green-field, cloud-native projects—it also aligns well with modernization initiatives for existing applications. By containerizing a legacy application and orchestrating it with Kubernetes, you can move from a model where your application must be built to fit within the limitations of a rigid infrastructure, to a model where the infrastructure adapts to the needs of the application.

Moreover, by enabling legacy apps to take advantage of a modern architecture—with better efficiency, resiliency and scalability, plus powerful routing, logging, monitoring and security tools—you can make it easier to extend their functionality by adding new microservices around them.

Finding a new source of excitement

So if Kubernetes is getting too safe and sensible to be considered a bleeding-edge solution, where should developers look for their next shot of technological adrenaline?

Well, the best thing about a technology becoming mainstream is that it opens up new opportunities to develop the next generation of cutting-edge solutions. In this case, just as containerization solutions like Docker paved the way for Kubernetes, container orchestration with Kubernetes unlocks the possibility of taking microservice architectures to the next level with new solutions like Istio.

As more organizations move Kubernetes into production, the ability to connect, manage and secure microservices will be the next challenge to solve, and we can expect to see Istio making the same journey from early-adopter hype to mainstream adoption and standardization over the next few years.

So there’s still plenty for developers to be excited about in the container orchestration and microservices space. To learn more from Jason and Chris about how Kubernetes and Istio can help turn DevOps into a reality, where serverless architectures fit into the picture, and how machine learning and AI-driven infrastructures could be the next frontier, tune in to the podcast on iTunes, Google Play, or here.

 

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