Looking ahead

Kubernetes Is Much Bigger Than Containers: Here’s Where It Will Go Next

Murli Thirumale
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Kubernetes isn’t just limited to containers. It is becoming an operating system for the cloud, both private and public. The technology began as an orchestrator for containerized apps, speeding deployment times and increasing app portability. See where it will go next!

When Apple launched the first iPod in 2001, it was a marvel of engineering that transformed the market for portable music players, but it was also the start of something bigger. The iPhone built on the iPod’s engineering advances with an amazing antenna, a touch display and eventually the App Store. Suddenly, music was one app among many and cell phones had changed forever.

There’s a parallel here with Kubernetes, which has quickly expanded beyond its role in container management. The technology began as an orchestrator for containerized apps, speeding deployment times and increasing app portability. That won’t change – Kubernetes’ impact on software agility and automation has been as profound as the iPod’s was on music.

SEE ALSO: Containers & Security – how to build more than another stage into software processes

But just as the iPod led to the iPhone and eventually the App store, Kubernetes has evolved quickly too and is now being used as a vendor-neutral control plane for the broader IT infrastructure. Extensions such as CSI, CNI and OCI allow Kubernetes to manage and orchestrate storage, networking and compute resources — the holy trinity of infrastructure — as well as the apps themselves.

Suddenly, thanks to Kubernetes, infrastructure can be easily provisioned according to specific application needs and controlled by an app administrator via an automated, self-service interface. That means no more waiting around on IT requests — or the miscommunication and human errors that those can bring. App teams can move as fast as they want to, ungated by IT.

But Kubernetes isn’t done yet, as the many innovations at November’s KubeCon/Cloud NativeCon showed. If Kubernetes today is in its late adolescence, where will it go as it matures further? Here’s where I see Kubernetes evolving next:

Non-containerized apps

Kubernetes will become the control plane for any apps running in VMs, whether they’re containerized or not. Kubevirt is a proofpoint here and on its way to becoming mainstream, allowing Kubernetes to stand up and orchestrate VMs. When that happens, enterprises will be able to manage their virtualized workloads without needing the VMware suite, which is a powerful financial incentive. Google’s Anthos is also heading in this direction, and will soon be able to run VM workloads in a hybrid environment without VMware.

SEE ALSO: Why Kubernetes and containers are the perfect fit for machine learning

Infrastructure management

Traditional storage, network and compute resources will all be consumed and managed by a Kubernetes admin in a self-service model, instead of needing separate admins for each area as in the past. This will greatly simplify and accelerate infrastructure management and make enterprises less dependent on proprietary management tools from the big equipment vendors. It also has profound implications for IT skills, and smart admins should be looking to certify on Kubernetes as soon as they can.

In effect, Kubernetes is becoming an operating system for the cloud, both private and public. Currently, enterprises must deal with a hodgepodge of disparate solutions to manage their infrastructure and apps, from various hardware, software and cloud vendors. This is costly and inefficient, which is why the industry is coalescing around Kubernetes as an overarching, standards-based solution for app and infrastructure management. I believe that within five years, Kubernetes will displace each of those disparate options to become the universal management solution for on-prem and cloud — one that’s open, low-cost, and truly multi-cloud.


Murli Thirumale

Murli Thirumale is co-founder of Portworx, and vice president and general manager of the cloud native business unit at Pure Storage.

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