The State of Cloud-Native Development

September 26, 2022

Are you thinking of investing in cloud-native software development, but you’re not entirely sure if it is just a trend that will fade away next year? Maybe you want to enter this realm, but don’t know if you’ll find a big enough community on the other side. Or you just want some advice on how to go about choosing a popular vendor or starting to use serverless products.

There is an answer to your concerns. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), a Linux Foundation project that focuses on advancing open source projects such as Kubernetes, regularly publishes the State of Cloud Native Development Report in partnership with SlashData, to keep the community informed with the latest trends. Let’s analyze the data from their latest report.

More than 7M of cloud-native developers

The number of backend developers that are working with cloud-native architectures has grown by 1 million worldwide in the last year. This includes container orchestration tools users (4.8M) and serverless platform users (4.2M). These numbers are on the rise from last year, with a clear tendency to continue growing in 2022.

The only region where there is a decline in usage of cloud-native technologies is East Asia, where (according to a CNCF report) developers consider complexity, security, and reliability the biggest challenges when using containers.

Kubernetes as the industry standard

Kubernetes, as you may know, is an open-source container orchestration tool that was developed by Google and then donated to the CNCF, where it has flourished way beyond anyone’s expectations. It is the third most popular open-source project on GitHub, and we’ve talked about how it can help you improve your app development in our blog before. 

Kubernetes usage remains stable, while its awareness among backend developers has risen. 90% of developers have heard of Kubernetes before, and roughly 75% know what it does. In the previous report, Kubernetes already crossed the chasm into the mainstream, and that is confirmed in the current one, with 30% of developers having used it in the past 12 months. 

Unsurprisingly, the survey shows that the larger an organization a backend developer works for, the more likely they are to use Kubernetes. Larger organizations — those with more than 500 employees — are particularly big on Kubernetes uptake, which is likely driven by project complexity. The graph also shows an interesting tendency in small businesses and mid-market companies, which apparently are as willing to take risks embracing a cloud-native architecture as their much bigger counterparts.

With this de-facto status, most container orchestration tools (including five of the top six most popular) are using Kubernetes “under the hood” (that is, they are managed Kubernetes solutions). Among the backend developers that use (or are aware of) any orchestration tool, Amazon’s Elastic Container Service (ECS) is the most widely adopted solution, followed by Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). However, we can see a trend in the developers using more than one orchestration tool, with many building their own container management solution or self-hosting an existing offer in conjunction with vendor-managed services.

CNCF is also starting to see organizations move up the stack – adopting less mature projects to tackle challenges including monitoring and communications. Argo, a workflow engine for Kubernetes still on the incubating project maturity level, showed a 115% year-on-year increase in use, and it’s not the only one: container runtime CRI-O, metrics monitor Prometheus, data collector FluentD… open-source technologies are now being seen and requested by organizations, so they can grow and evolve with the current cloud native landscape.

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Competition in serverless tools

A serverless architecture is a way to build and run applications and services without having to manage infrastructure. Your application still runs on a server, but its management is delegated to other tools, so you can focus on what matters to you. 

The use of serverless tools has increased by 5% since the last report, with AWS Lambda as the most widely adopted product, followed by Google Cloud Functions and Azure Functions. Developers are changing the way they use these tools: before, backend developers who used (or were aware of) serverless tools would leverage three or more tools simultaneously, and now they are choosing to use fewer products or even hosting them in their own data centers.

With different cloud vendors coming up with new serverless offerings, there is no common approach to building serverless systems as of now, although it seems to be the favorite architecture for edge development: in the last annual survey, 48% of edge developers preferred going serverless compared to 33% of backend developers.

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