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The state of Kubernetes: 2021 in review

Nigel Poulton
Nigel Poulton

As we near the end of 2021, let’s look back and talk about the state of Kubernetes in 2021. Here are 2021’s top 5 Kubernetes highlights, including new K8s certifications, Docker changes, stateful apps, and how K8s is the OS of the cloud. Let’s dive in!

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1. Stateful apps on K8s

So for me, 2021 has been a massive year for stateful workloads on Kubernetes. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that data-driven apps have a true home on Kubernetes.

And this is massive, considering it only seems like yesterday we were saying it was just for stateless.

At the heart of this change is the maturity of the container storage interface, the CSI. Like it’s default on the latest versions, and it even went GA for Windows. So that low-level plumbing for proper grown-up storage and data management is there and it’s production-ready.

But we also saw thid-party tools from the community step up. So it’s one thing for the Kubernetes project itself to build the CSI framework, but the wider community has properly stepped up with extensive support through their own CSI plugins.

Plus, ecosystem projects like Kubedirector among others are just making it so much easier to run complex stateful apps on Kubernetes.

So thanks 2021! Kubernetes is now a safe harbor for data-driven apps.

2. Kubernetes: The OS of the Cloud

Something else I’ve noticed as 2021 draws to end: as I’ve been presenting to organisations across the globe about Kubernetes, I’ve more and more been dealing with the idea of Kubernetes as the OS of the cloud.

So the same way that operating systems like Windows and Linux abstract server and storage hardware. Like you write apps to run on Windows or Linux, and you don’t massively care what hardware it’s running on. Well, customers certainly don’t. 

Kubernetes abstracts underlying cloud infrastructure in the same way: write your apps to run on Kubernetes and you don’t have to care which vendors cloud or whatever it’s running on. And not only that, it makes migrations way easier.

On top of all that, the maturity of projects like Kubevirt, and Knative, OpenFaaS, and others — well, these let us run virtual machine and serverless workloads through Kubernetes….

And it’s all just making Kubernetes more and more the platform of choice for modern cloud-native apps. Like I said, the OS of the cloud.

I expect it to be very much “more of the same” in 2022, with pretty much everything new running on Kubernetes. And why wouldn’t it?

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3. Docker changes

Another thing that left an impression on 2021 were changes to the way Docker does things.

The first one was the rate limiting placed on Docker Hub downloads for free user accounts. I mean, honestly, the community practically went into melt-down. And it was partly due to poor messaging, but definitely some intentional misinformation from so-called ecosystem partners.

But it was similar with changes to the Docker Desktop license agreement.

People lost the plot. The changes were minimal, and to me at least were perfectly reasonable and low impact.

But despite these changes, Docker remains an important part of the community, while evolving to remain relevant and solvent as a company.

4. In-person is back

Number 4 on my list for 2021 was the slow and steady return of in-person events. With the big one being KubeCon in the US.

Now, of course, it wasn’t an instant return to the heady days of 15K people in a single venue. But it did show the resiliency of the community, and a desire to get back to face-to-face.

Which for me is a big thing. I like meeting people, and I think the community needs it. Or benefits from it! I hope the trend is able to continue into 2022.

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5. More K8s certifications

Rounding out my top picks from 2021 are the new Kubernetes certifications.

There are a couple of angles to this.

First and foremost, I’ve seen a massive increase in the value of Kubernetes certifications. Not only are people interested in taking them, but employers are looking for them.

I suppose that’s to be expected with something as relatively new as Kubernetes. Not many people have 20 years experience (cough, cough) for obvious reasons. So a way to show proficiency in Kubernetes is through certs.

But the other angle to certs from 2021 has been the increase in number of certifications offered by the CNCF. We went from the CKAD and CKA and added the certified Kubernetes security specialist. And then just in the last few weeks, we saw the new entry-level Kubernetes and Cloud-Native Associate.

So if you like your certs, Kubernetes has a growing number to choose from. And they’re getting more and more desirable!

Keep up with K8s

That’s it for this month’s edition of Kubernetes this month. Stay safe, and I’ll see you all again next month — same Kube time, same Kube place.

Want to keep up with all things Kubernetes? Follow Nigel on Twitter or keep up with him here. Subscribe to A Cloud Guru on YouTube for regular updates, analysis, and assorted awesomeness. You can also like ACG on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or join the conversation on Discord!


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