Looking at Microservices, Containers, and Kubernetes with 2020 Vision

Some years are easy to predict than others. Stability in a market makes tracing the trend line much easier. 2020 looks to be that kind of year for the migration to microservices: stable with steady progression toward mainstream acceptance.

There is little doubt that IT organizations are moving toward microservices architectures. Microservices, which deconstruct applications into many small parts, removes much of the friction that is common in n-Tier applications when it comes to development velocity. The added resiliency and scalability of microservices in a distributed system are also highly desirable. These attributes promote better business agility, allowing IT to respond to business needs more quickly and with less disruption while helping to ensure that customers have the best experience possible.

Little in this upcoming year seems disruptive or radical; That big changes have already occurred. Instead, this is a year for building out and consolidating; Moving past the “what” and “why” and into the “how” and “do”.

Kubernetes will be top of mind to IT in the coming year. From its roots as a humble container orchestrator – one of many in the market – Kubernetes has evolved into a platform for deploying microservices into container clusters. There is more work to do with Kubernetes, especially to help autoscale clusters, but it is now a solid base on which to build modern applications.

No one should delude themselves into thinking that microservices, containers, and Kubernetes are mainstream yet. The vast majority of applications are still based on n-Tier design deployed to VMs. That’s fine for a lot of applications but businesses know that it’s not enough going forward. We’ve already seen more traditional companies begin to adopt microservices for at least some portion of their applications. This trend will accelerate in the upcoming year. At some point, microservices and containers will become the default architecture for enterprise applications. That’s a few years from now but we’ve already on the path.

From a vendor perspective, all the biggest companies are now in the Kubernetes market with at least a plain vanilla Kubernetes offering. This includes HPE and Cisco in addition to the companies that have been selling Kubernetes all along, especially IBM/Red Hat, Canonical, Google, AWS, VMWare/Pivotal, and Microsoft. The trick for these companies will be to add enough unique value that their offerings don’t appear generic. Leveraging traditional strengths, such as storage for HPE, networking for Cisco, and Java for Red Hat and VMWare/Pivotal, are the key to standing out in the market.

The entry of the giants in the Kubernetes space will pose challenges to the smaller vendors such as Mirantis and Rancher. With more than 30 Kubernetes vendors in the market, consolidation and loss is inevitable. There’s plenty of value in the smaller firms but it will be too easy for them to get trampled underfoot.

Expect M&A activity in the Kubernetes space as bigger companies acquihire or round out their portfolios. Kubernetes is now a big vendor market and the market dynamics favor them.

If there is a big danger sign on the horizon, it’s those traditional n-Tier applications that are still in production. At some point, IT will get around to thinking beyond the shiny new greenfield applications and want to migrate the older ones. Since these apps are based on radically different architectures, that won’t be easy. There just aren’t the tools to do this migration well. In short, it’s going to be a lot of work. It’s a hard sell to say that the only choices are either expensive migration projects (on top of all that digital transformation money that’s already been spent) or continuing to support and update applications that no longer meet business needs. Replatforming, or deploying the old parts to the new container platform, will provide less ROI and less value overall. The industry will need another solution.

This may be an opportunity to use all that fancy AI technology that vendors have been investing in to create software to break down an old app into a container cluster. In any event, the migration issue will be a drag on the market in 2020 as IT waits for solutions to a nearly intractable problem.

2020 is the year of the microservice architecture.

Even if that seems too dramatic, it’s not unreasonable to expect that there will be significant growth and acceleration in the deployment of Kubernetes-based microservices applications. The market has already begun the process of maturation as it adapts to the needs of larger, mainstream, corporations with more stringent requirements. The smart move is to follow that trend line.

From #KubeCon, Three Things Happening with the Kubernetes Market

This year’s KubeCon+CloudNativeCon was, to say the least, an experience. Normally sunny San Diego treated conference-goers to torrential downpours. The unusual weather turned the block party event into a bit of a sog. My shoes are still drying out. The record crowds – this year’s attendance was 12,000 up from last year’s 8000 in Seattle – made navigating the show floor a challenge for many attendees.

Despite the weather and the crowds, this was an exciting KubeCon+CloudNativeCon. On display was the maturation of the Kubernetes and container market. Both the technology and the best practices discussions were less about “what is Kubernetes” and, instead more about “how does this fit into my architecture?” and “how enterprise-ready is this stuff?” This shift from the “what” to the “how” is a sign that Kubernetes is heading quickly to the mainstream. There are other indicators at Kubecon+CloudNativeCon that, to me, show Kubernetes maturing into a real enterprise technology.

First, the makeup of the Kubernetes community is clearly changing. Two years ago, almost every company at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon was some form of digital forward company like Lyft or cloud technology vendor such as Google or Red Hat. Now, there are many more traditional companies on both the IT and vendor side. Vendors such as HPE, Oracle, Intel, and Microsoft, mainstays of technology for the past 30 years, are here in force. Industries like telecommunications (drawn by the promise of edge computing), finance, manufacturing, and retail are much more visible than they were just a short time ago. While microservices and Kubernetes are not yet as widely deployed as more traditional n-Tier architectures and classic middleware, the mainstream is clearly interested.

Another indicator of the changes in the Kubernetes space is the prominence of security in the community. Not only are there more vendors than ever, but we are seeing more keynote time given to security practices. Security is, of course, a major component of making Kubernetes enterprise-ready. Without solid security practices and technology, Kubernetes will never be acceptable to a broad swatch of large to mid-sized businesses. That said, there is still so much more that needs to be done with Kubernetes security. The good news is that the community is working on it.

Finally, there is clearly more attention being paid to operating Kubernetes in a production environment. That’s most evident in the proliferation of tracing and logging technology, from both new and older companies, that were on display on the show floor and mainstage. Policy management was also an important area of discussion at the conference. These are all examples of the type of infrastructure that Operations teams will need to manage Kubernetes at scale and a sign that the community is thinking seriously about what happens after deployment.

It certainly helps that a lot of basic issues with Kubernetes have been solved but there is still more work to do. There are difficult challenges that need attention. How to migrate existing stateful apps originally written in Java and based on n-Tier architectures is still mostly an open question. Storage is another area that needs more innovation, though there’s serious work underway in that space. Despite the need for continued work, the progress seen at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon NA 2019 point to future where Kubernetes is a major platform for enterprise applications.  2020 will be another pivotal year for Kubernetes, containers, and microservices architectures. It may even be the year of mainstream adoption. We’ll be watching.

Now Available, The 2020 Guide to Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery

Amalgam Insights’ Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli has just published a groundbreaking Market Landscape on Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery titled “The 2020 Guide to Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery: Process, Projects, and Products

This Market Landscape provides guidance on the processes, projects, products, and vendors that allow leading software development departments to effectively support continuous integration and delivery across their application portfolio. It is recommended for Software Engineering Directors  and IT Executives making “buy versus build” decisions and designing CI/CD workflows.

Canonical Takes a Third Path to Support New Platforms

We are in the midst of another change-up in the IT world. Every 15 to 20 years there is a radical rethink of the platforms that applications are built upon. During the course of the history of IT, we have moved from batch-oriented, pipelined systems (predominantly written in COBOL) to client-server and n-Tier systems that are the standards of today. These platforms were developed in the last century and designed for last century applications. After years of putting shims into systems to accommodate the scale and diversity of modern applications, IT has just begun to deploy new platforms based on containers and Kubernetes. These new platforms promise greater resiliency and scalability, as well as greater responsiveness to the business. Continue reading “Canonical Takes a Third Path to Support New Platforms”

VMware plus Pivotal Equals Platforms

(Editor’s Note: This week, Tom Petrocelli and Hyoun Park will be blogging and tweeting on key topics at VMworld at a time when multi-cloud management is a key issue for IT departments and Dell is spending billions of dollars. Please follow our blog and our twitter accounts TomPetrocelli, Hyounpark, and AmalgamInsights for more details this week as we cover VMworld!)

On August 22, 2019, VMware announced the acquisition of Pivotal. The term “acquisition” seems a little weird here since both are partly owned by Dell. It’s a bit like Dell buying Dell. Strangeness aside, this is a combination that makes a lot of sense.

For nearly eight years now, the concept of a microservices architecture has been taking shape. Microservices is an architectural idea wherein applications are broken up into many, small, bits of code – or services – that provide a limited set of functions and operate independently. Applications are assembled Lego-like, from component microservices. The advantages of microservices are that different parts of a system can evolve independently, updates are less disruptive, and systems become more resilient because system components are less likely to harm each other. The primary vehicle for microservices are containers (which I’ve covered in my Market Guide: Seven Decision Points When Considering Containers), that are deployed in clusters to enhance resiliency and more easily scale up resources.

The Kubernetes open-source software has emerged as the major orchestrator for containers and provides a stable base to build microservice platforms. These platforms must deploy not only the code that represents the business logic, but a set of system services, such as network, tracing, logging, and storage, as well. Container cluster platforms are, by nature, complex assortments of many moving parts – hard to build and hard to maintain.

The big problem has been that most container technology has been open-source and deployed piecemeal, leaving forward-looking companies to assemble their own container cluster microservices platforms. Building out and then maintaining these DIY platforms requires continued investment in people and other resources. Most companies either can’t afford or are unwilling to make investments in this amount of engineering talent and training. Subsequently, there are a lot of companies that have been left out of the container platform game.

The big change has been in the emergence of commercial platforms (many of which were discussed in my SmartList Market Guide on Service Mesh and Building Out Microservices Networking), based on open-source projects, that bring to IT everything it needs to deploy container-based microservices. All the cloud companies, especially Google, which was the original home of Kubernetes, and open-source software vendors such as Red Hat (recently acquired by IBM) with their OpenShift platform, have some form of Kubernetes-based platform. There may be as many as two dozen commercial platforms based on Kubernetes today.

This brings us to VMware and Pivotal. Both companies are in the platform business. VMware is still the dominant player in Virtual Machine (VM) hypervisors, which underpin most systems today, and are marketing a Kubernetes distribution. They also recently purchased Bitnami, a company that makes technology for bundling containers for deployment. At the time, I said:

“This is VMware doubling down on software for microservices and container clusters. Prima facie, it looks like a good move.”

Pivotal markets a Kubernetes distribution as well but also one of the major vendors for Cloud Foundry, another platform that runs containers, VMs, and now Kubernetes (which I discuss in my Analyst Insight: Cloud Foundry and Kubernetes: Different Paths to Microservices). The Pivotal portfolio also includes Spring Boot, one of the primary frameworks for building microservices in Java, and an extensive Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment capability based on BOSH (part of Cloud Foundry), Concourse, and other open source tools.

Taken together, VMware and Pivotal offer a variety of platforms for newer microservices and legacy VM architectures that will fit the needs of a big swatch of large enterprises. This will give them both reach and depth in large enterprise companies and allow their sales teams to sell whichever platform a customer needs at the moment while providing a path to newer architectures. From a product portfolio perspective, VMware plus Pivotal is a massive platform play that will help them to compete more effectively against the likes of IBM/Red Hat or the big cloud vendors.

On their own, neither VMWare or Pivotal had the capacity to compete against Red Hat OpenShift, especially now that that Red Hat has access to IBM’s customer base and sales force. Together they will have a full range of technology to bring to bear as the Fortune 500 moves into microservices. The older architectures are also likely to remain in place either because of legacy reasons or because they just fit the applications they serve. VMware/Pivotal will be in a position to service those companies as well.

VMware could easily have decided to pick up any number of Kubernetes distribution companies such as Rancher or Platform9. None of them would have provided the wide range of platform choices that Pivotal brings to the table. And besides, this keeps it all in the Dell family.

Inside our Slack Channel: A Conversation on Salesforce acquiring Tableau

As you may know, analysts typically only have the time to share a small fraction of the information that they have on any topic at any given time, with the majority of our time spent speaking with clients, technologists, and each other.

When Salesforce announced their acquisition of Tableau Monday morning, we at Amalgam Insights obviously started talking to each other about what this meant. Below is a edited excerpt of some of the topics we were going through as I was preparing for PTC LiveWorx in Boston, Data Science analyst Lynne Baer was in Nashville for Alteryx, and DevOps Research Fellow Tom Petrocelli was holding down the fort in Buffalo after several weeks of travel. Hope you enjoy a quick look behind the scenes of how we started informally thinking about this in the first hour or so after the announcement.

When the Salesforce-Tableau topic came up, Tom Petrocelli kicked it off.
Continue reading “Inside our Slack Channel: A Conversation on Salesforce acquiring Tableau”

Kubernetes Grows Up – The View from KubeCon EU 2019

Our little Kubernetes is growing up.

By “growing up” I mean it is almost in a state that a mainstream company can consider it fit for production. While there are several factors that act as a drag against mainstream reception, a lack of completeness has been a major force against Kubernetes broader acceptance. Completeness, in this context, means that all the parts of an enterprise platform are available off the shelf and won’t require a major engineering effort on the part of conventional IT departments.

The good news from KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 in Barcelona, Spain (May 20 – 23 2019) is that the Kubernetes and related communities are zeroing in on that ever so important target. There are a number of markers pointing toward mainstream acceptance. Projects are filling out the infrastructure – gaining completeness – and the community is growing.

Project Updates

While Kubernetes may be at the core, there are many supporting projects that are striving to add capabilities to the ecosystem that will result in a more complete platform for microservices. Some of the projects featured in the project updates show the drive for completeness. For example, OpenEBS and Rook are two projects striving to make container storage more enterprise friendly. Updates to both projects were announced at the conference. Storage, like networking, is an area that must be tackled before mainstream IT can seriously consider container microservices platforms based on Kubernetes.

Managing microservices performance and failure is a big part of the ability to deploy containers at scale. For this reason, the announcement that two projects that provide application tracing capabilities, OpenTracing and OpenCensus, were merging into OpenTelemetry is especially important. Ultimately, developers need a unified approach to gathering data for managing container-based applications at scale. Removing duplication of effort and competing agendas will speed up the realization of that vision.

Also announced at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019 were updates to Helm and Harbor, two projects that tackle thorny issues of packaging and distributing containers to Kubernetes. These are necessary parts of the process of deploying Kubernetes applications. Securely managing container lifecycles through packaging and repositories is a key component of DevOps support for new container architectures. Forward momentum in these projects is forward movement toward the mainstream.

There were other project updates, including updates to Kubernetes itself and Crio-io. Clearly, the community is filling in the blank spots in container architectures, making Kubernetes a more viable application platform for everyone.

The Community is Growing

Another gauge pointing toward mainstream acceptance is the growth in the community. The bigger the community, the more hands to do the work and the better the chances of achieving feature critical mass. This year in Barcelona, KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU saw 7700 attendees, nearly twice last year in Copenhagen. In the core Kubernetes project, there are 164K commits and 1.2M comments in Github. This speaks to broad involvement in making Kubernetes better. Completeness requires lots of work and that is more achievable when there are more people involved.

Unfortunately, as Cheryl Hung, Director of Ecosystems at CNCF says, only 3% of contributors are women. The alarming lack of diversity in the IT industry shows up even in Kubernetes despite the high-profile women involved in the conference such as Janet Kuo of Google. Diversity brings more and different ideas to a project and it would be great to see the participation of women grow.

Service Mesh Was the Talk of the Town

The number of conversations I had about service mesh was astounding. It’s true that I had released a pair of papers on it, one just before KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. That may have explained why people want to talk to me about it but not the general buzz. There was service mesh talk in the halls, at lunch, in sessions, and from the mainstage. It’s pretty much what everyone wanted to know about. That’s not surprising since a service mesh is going to be a vital part of large scale-out microservices applications. What was surprising was that even attendees who were new to Kubernetes were keen to know more. This was a very good omen.

It certainly helped that there was a big service mesh related announcement from the mainstage on Tuesday. Microsoft, in conjunction with a host of companies, announced the Service Mesh Interface. It’s a common API for different vendor and project service mesh components. Think of it as a lingua franca of service mesh. There were shout-outs to Linkerd and Solo.io. The latter especially had much to do with creating SMI. The fast maturation of the service mesh segment of the Kubernetes market is another stepping stone toward the completeness necessary for mainstream adoption.

Already Way Too Many Distros

There were a lot of Kubernetes distributions a KubeCon+CloudNativeCon EU 2019. A lot. Really.  A lot. While this is a testimony the growth in Kubernetes as a platform, it’s confusing to IT professionals making choices. Some are managed cloud services; others are distributions for on-premises or when you want to install your own on a cloud instance. Here’s some of the Kubernetes distros I saw on the expo floor.  I’m sure I missed a few:

Microsoft Azure Google Digital Ocean Alibaba
Canonical (Ubuntu) Oracle IBM Red Hat
VMWare SUSE Rancher Pivotal
Mirantis Platform9

 

From what I hear this is a sample, not a comprehensive, list. The dark side of this enormous choice is confusion. Choosing is hard when you get beyond a handful of options. Still, only five years into the evolution of Kubernetes, it’s a good sign to see this much commercial support for it.

The Kubernetes and Cloud Native architecture is like a teenager. It’s growing rapidly but not quite done. As the industry fills in the blanks and as communities better networking, storage, and deployment capabilities, it will go mainstream and become applicable to companies of all sizes and types. Soon. Not yet but very soon.

Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work

In May 2019, Amalgam Insights attended Knowledge 2019, ServiceNow’s annual end-user conference. Since ServiceNow’s founding in 2004, the company has evolved from its roots as an IT asset and service management company to a company that supports digital workflow across IT, HR, service, and finance with the goal of making work better for every employee. In attending this show, Amalgam Insights was especially interested in seeing how ServiceNow was evolving its message to reflect what Amalgam Insights refers to as “Market Evolvers,” companies that have gained market dominance in their original market and taken advantage of modern mobile, cloud, and AI technology to expand into other markets. (Examples of Market Evolvers include, but are not excluded to, Salesforce, ServiceNow, Workday, Informatica, and Tangoe.) Continue reading “Knowledge 2019 and ServiceNow’s Vision for Transforming the World of Work”

Amalgam Insights Publishes Highly Anticipated SmartList on Service Mesh and Microservices Management

Amalgam Insights has just published my highly anticipated SmartList Market Guide on Service Mesh. It is currently available this week at no cost as we prepare for KubeCon and CloudNativeCon Europe 2019 where I’ll be attending.

Before you go to the event, get prepared by catching up on the key strategies, trends, and vendors associated with microservices and service mesh. For instance, consider how the Service Mesh market is currently constructed.

To get a deep dive on this figure regarding the three key sectors of the Service Mesh market, gain insights describing the current State of the Market for service mesh, and learn where key vendors and products including Istio, Linkerd, A10, Amazon, Aspen Mesh, Buoyant, Google, Hashicorp, IBM, NGINX, Red Hat, Solo.io, Vamp, and more fit into today’s microservices management environment, download my report today.

Quick AI Insights at #MSBuild in an Overstuffed Tech Event Week

We are in the midst of one of the most packed tech event weeks in recent memory. This week alone, Amalgam Insights is tracking *six* different events:

This means a lot of announcements this week that will be directly comparable. For instance, Google, Microsoft, Red Hat, SAP, and ServiceNow should all have a variety of meaty DevOps and platform access announcements. Google, Microsoft, SAP, and possibly IBM and ServiceNow should have interesting new AI announcements. ServiceNow and Red Hat will both undoubtedly be working to one-up each other when it comes to revolutionizing IT. We’ll be providing some insights and give you an idea of what to look forward to.

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