Pathfinder Insights: Enablement of containers and rise of Kubernetes



  • Across the enterprises, people view containers in general and Kubernetes in particular as the future of software deployment
  • HPE Pathfinder invests in startups in this ecosystem like AgileStacks and PortWorx
  • Containers are the future of software deployment and as enterprises embrace hybrid clouds, Kubernetes will play a central role 

As Kubernetes transforms software deployment, HPE aims to play key role in this growing ecosystem of deploying applications across hybrid clouds

The tech industry is no stranger to hype. Every new startup is the next Amazon and each new technology promises to literally change the world. It is easy to get hype fatigue. But once in a while, we encounter a new innovation that’s even more profound than the PR would lead you to believe. That’s where we are today with containers and the emerging industry-standard platform for managing them: Kubernetes.

Why is the industry so excited about Kubernetes? And how did it go from zero to ubiquitous seemingly overnight? Let’s take a closer look.

Rise of Container Orchestration

The buzz around containers may be new, but the idea itself, and the rationale for using them, has been around for decades. To be specific, 1979 saw the introduction of the chroot system call for Unix, which, for the first time, created the idea of process isolation. Developers have long recognized that breaking up software into its constituent parts (i.e., microservices), and running those parts out of self-contained packages, was superior to monolithic software development. But it wasn’t until 2013 when Docker, with its entire container ecosystem (starting with LXC but then branching off on its own), created the first viable framework for packaging and managing containers, kicking off the modern container movement.

In the early days, most organizations viewed containers as a promising science project. But some pioneers like Google and Facebook (whose business models depended on efficient software development) dove headfirst into using them. As they did, they quickly bumped up against a big unmet need: orchestration at scale. If you’re working with a handful of containers, it’s not really an issue. But get into hundreds and thousands, and you need some rational way to manage them. Google launched an internal effort as early as 2003, codenamed Borg, to try to bring order to the chaos. Eventually, Borg inspired the open-source container management project we now know as Kubernetes.

Google wasn’t the only company trying to tackle container orchestration; startups were also getting into the game. Mesospehere, part of the HPE Pathfinder Portfolio, released its Marathon platform in 2013, aiming to create an enterprise-grade container orchestration solution along the lines of Red Hat Linux. Docker released its own orchestration platform, Swarm, in 2015. Ultimately, however, Google’s market dominance, and the fact that they offered an open-source solution giving the power to the developers, tilted the playing field in their favor.

By the end of 2017, Kubernetes was acknowledged as the de facto standard for orchestrating containerized workloads across hybrid environments.  Within a year, the major public cloud providers were offering managed Kubernetes services. Today, Knative is extending Kubernetes to the serverless ecosystem, and Istio (another Google open-source project) is on its way to becoming the standard for service mesh. And a large, growing number of enterprises are turning their attention to containers.

Huge Room for Growth

Just how big is the market for containers? Goldman Sachs estimates that the Kubernetes ecosystem is now worth more than $5 billion. By 2021, they expect the market to reach $7 billion, with 1.6 billion paid containers. That’s just the start. Gartner estimates that less then 30% of organizations are running containerized applications in production environments today. By 2022, that figure will climb to 75%. More than half of those containers will be running in hybrid environments—and they’ll be running on Kubernetes.

The broader market has not missed these developments. A thriving ecosystem is evolving around Kubernetes, and major players (Microsoft, Red Hat, VMware) are making big investments, both organic and acquisitions. The acquisition valuations —in the hundreds of millions of dollars—underscores the fact, that across the industry people view containers in general, and Kubernetes in particular, as the future of software.

Backing Kubernetes

Here at HPE Pathfinder, we have been following the evolution of the container market for a while. We were an early investor in Mesosphere, and we continue to back promising startups in this space. Today, the ecosystem is evolving to grow more specialized, with companies emerging to address the container ecosystem across the stack—monitoring, security, storage, networking and more.

HPE Pathfinder has the opportunity to invest in a thriving ecosystem and work with startups to solve a wide range of challenges our customers face as they transform their environments to run hybrid cloud environments using containers at scale. Our recent investments in AgileStacks (which provides composable infrastructure for containers) and PortWorx (container storage) are the most recent examples. We are just getting started!

There’s little doubt that containers are the future of software deployment and as enterprises embrace hybrid clouds, Kubernetes will play a central role.  Looking ahead, expect to see more companies emerge to address different parts of the container ecosystem. Expect HPE Pathfinder to continue to play an active role.

Coming to Discover next week? Attend our spotlight session on Wednesday June 19th from 3:00 – 4:00 PM to learn more and stop by the Pathfinder booth #501 to meet the Pathfinder team and our portfolio companies.


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