451’s container orchestration usage survey – Notebook


As part of CoreOS’s conference this week, 451 put out a sponsored study on container orchestration. It’s been much cited and is free, so it’s worth taking a look. Here’s my highlights and notes:

  • Leadgen yourself to CoreOS get a copy of the report.
  • This report is really more of a “container orchestration usage” report than much about “hybrid cloud.”
  • Demographics:
    • “We surveyed 201 enterprise IT decision-makers in April and May 2017. This was not a survey of developers; rather, we received responses from those in C-level and director-level positions, including CISO, CTO, CIO, director of IT, IT Ops and DevOps, and VPs and managers of IT.”
    • All from the US
    • “All of our survey respondents came from organizations using application containers, and all were familiar with their organization’s use of containers.” – This survey, then, tells you what people who’re already using containers are doing, not what the entire market is thinking and planning on.
    • “A significant slice of the survey respondents represented large enterprises.”
  • Organizations are hoping to use containers for “[a] ‘leapfrog’ effect, whereby containers are viewed as a way to skip adoption of other technologies, was tested, and a majority of respondents think Kubernetes and other container management and orchestration software is sufficient to replace both private clouds and PaaS.”
  • Obviously I’m biased, being at Pivotal, but the question here is “to do what?” As we like to say around here, you’re going to end-up with a platform. People need a “platform” on-top of that raw IaaS, and as things like Icito show (not to mention Pivotal’s ongoing momentum), the lower levels aren’t cutting the mustard.
  • There’s an ongoing semantic argument about what “PaaS” means to be mindful of, as well: in contexts like these, the term is often taken to mean “that old stuff, before, like 2009.” At the very least, as with Gartner’s PaaS Magic Quadrant, the phrase often means means “only in the public cloud.” Again, the point is: if you’re developing and running software you need an application development, middleware, and services platform. Call it whatever you like, but make sure you have it. It’s highly likely that these “whatever you want to call ‘PaaS’ PaaSes” will run on-top of and with container orchestration layers, for example, as Cloud Foundry does and is doing.
  • That said, it’s not uncommon for me to encounter people in organizations who really do have a “just the containers, and maybe some kubernates” mind-set in the planning phase of their cloud-native stuff. Of course, they frequently end-up needing more.
  • Back to the survey: keeping in mind that all respondents were already using containers (or at least committed to doing so, I think), ~27% had “initial” production container use, ~25% of respondents had “broad” containers in production. So, if you were being happy-path, you’d say “over half of respondents have containers in production.”
  • In a broader survey (where, presumably, not every enterprise was already using containers), of 300+ enterprises, production container use was: 19% in initial production, 8% were in broad production implementation.
  • Nonetheless, 451 has been tracking steady, high growth in container usage for the past few years, putting the container market at $2.7B by 2020 and $1.1bn in 2017.
  • As the report says, it’s more interesting to see what benefits users actually find once they’re using the technology. Their original desires are often just puppy-love notions after actual usage:

  • Interesting note on lock-in: “Given that avoiding vendor lock-in is generally a priority for organizations, it might seem surprising that it was not ranked higher as an advantage since much of the container software used today is open source… However, our respondents for this study were users of containers, and may have assumed that the technology would be open source and, thus, lock-in less of a concern.” (There’s a whole separate report from Gartner on lock-in that I’ll take a look at, and, of course, some 140 character level analysis.)
  • On marketshare, rated by usage, not revenue:

  • On that note, it’s easy to misread the widely quoted finding of “[n]early three-quarters (71 percent) of respondents indicated they are using Kubernetes” as meaning only Kubernetes. Actually, people are using many of them at once. The report clarifies this: “The fact that almost 75% of organizations reported using Kubernetes while the same group also reported significant use of other container management and orchestration software is evidence of a mixed market.”

As one last piece of context, one of the more recent Gartner surveys for container usage puts usage at around 18%, with 4% of that being “significant production use”:


Of course, looks at more specialized slices of the market find higher usage.

This early in the container market, it’s good to pay close attention to surveys because the sample size will be small, selective, and most people will only have used containers for a short while. But, there’s good stuff in this survey, it’s definitely worth looking at and using.

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