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Kubernetes Challenges and Alternatives: Insights from the Productivity Survey

Mike Winters
April 15, 2021
Breakdown of how respondents spend their time.

A look at the state of Kubernetes adoption, challenges after rolling out Kubernetes, and the container orchestration market

This is part 2 in a blog post series covering our 2021 survey report “In Search of Lost Time: Developer Productivity in the Cloud Native Era.” You can download a free copy of the full survey report here.

We first shared the results of our 2021 developer productivity survey two weeks ago, and in that post, we highlighted some of the key survey takeaways:

  • Respondents spend, on average, more than 15 hours every week on tasks outside of writing application code. In the US alone, this time spent could be costing companies up to $61 billion/year*.
  • All of this time spent seems to translate to frustration. 54% of respondents identify slow feedback loops during the development process as a major (top 3) frustration, second only to difficult communication between teams and functional groups (55%).
  • And respondents know they’re not spending their time as effectively as they could be. More than 75% of respondents say the time they spend on specific tasks is time wasted, suggesting it could be put to more strategic use.

In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the state of Kubernetes amongst our respondents: adoption, challenges, and yes, alternatives. After all, Kubernetes isn’t the only widely used container orchestrator.

Kubernetes Usage = More Time Spend Not Coding

Breakdown of how respondents spend their time.

First, we found that respondents whose organizations are using Kubernetes spend, on average, 2.2 hours more every week** on tasks outside of writing application code compared to respondents whose organizations aren’t yet using Kubernetes.

That might not sound like much, but it adds up to an extra 114 hours per year—more than 14 eight-hour workdays.

Specifically, respondents at organizations using Kubernetes spend, on average, 16.5 hours every week writing or maintaining internal tooling, setting up pipelines and automation, waiting for CI pipelines to run, waiting for builds and tests, or setting up dev environments.

And respondents at organizations not yet using Kubernetes spend, on average, 14.3 hours every week on those tasks.

The State of Kubernetes Adoption

The state of Kubernetes adoption at respondent organizations

We asked respondents to describe their organization’s adoption of Kubernetes, and the results speak to Kubernetes’ status as a fast-maturing, widely used technology.

Only 5% of respondent organizations are not planning to use Kubernetes, and 39% are running Kubernetes partially or fully in production.

Challenges When Rolling Out To Dev Teams

Respondent organizations face a wide range of challenges
_Base: organizations which are using Kubernetes for development, partially running it in production, or fully running it in production [249 respondents]_

And with Kubernetes adoption comes challenges when rolling out to development teams.

(Except for 5% of respondents. We tip our hats to you!)

What stood out to us is that respondents identified such a broad variety of challenges—from training, to cost visibility, to general complexity of the setup, to CI and testing—with no single challenge identified by a majority of respondents.

Which means there’s likely not one single, simple solution that would make Kubernetes easier to use for all organizations across the board. Rather, the challenges faced are likely complex and varied and require a nuanced response.

Not Only Kubernetes: The Broader Container Orchestration Market

Many other container orchestrators are in use beyond Kubernetes

Also notable is the fact that respondents aren’t only using Kubernetes for container orchestration—there are many other orchestrators in the mix.

And just 3% of respondents say they’re only using Kubernetes for container orchestration.

Google’s serverless offerings have a particularly strong share amongst our respondent base, followed by those from Amazon and Microsoft.

It’s a meaningful datapoint for companies like Garden that seek to improve cloud native developer productivity.

Beyond Kubernetes, where do we need to be able to fit in with a developer’s day-to-day workflow?

And what might this distribution look like one, or two, or five years into the future?

Wrapping Up

If you have a vague (or not so vague) sense that your development team is wasting way more time than it needs to when building on Kubernetes, we’d say a) you’re probably right and b) we’re here to help.

Please feel free to reach out to schedule time to talk. Even if you’re not sure if Garden’s the right fit, we’re always happy to learn more about what you’re working on.

To see our complete survey analysis, you can download the report.

And to learn more about Garden and to get started, check out our Product page.

* Based on median pay and number of software developer jobs in 2019, as reported by the US Bureau of Labor Statistics

** “Not Using Kubernetes” respondents are those who described Kubernetes adoption at their org as “We are not planning to adopt it” or “We are trying it out/evaluating it.” “Using Kubernetes” respon- dents are those who described Kubernetes adoption at their org as “We are using it for development”, “We are partially running it in production”, or “We are fully running it in production.” These segments exclude the 5 users who responded “Don’t know” when asked to describe their org’s Kubernetes adoption.