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New Kubernetes releases and growing support stand out in 2017

New releases and rapidly growing adoption rates made 2017 a big year for Kubernetes. Twain Taylor takes a look at this year's big news around the evolving Kubernetes project.

Google's Kubernetes project has seen remarkable growth since its inception, and 2017 proved to be an incendiary year for the open source management system. Not only were there a number of new Kubernetes releases that enhanced its usability, but major software vendors like Microsoft and Oracle also pledged their allegiance to the project.

Let's look at the major updates around Kubernetes and its growth in 2017.

Foundational Kubernetes releases and open source success

Kubernetes has matured over the last year, progressing from release version 1.5 in early 2017 to 1.9 today.

The beginning of the year brought a big milestone with the addition of Kubernetes support for Windows Server 2016. Windows Server support opened doors to enterprise-grade workloads and wider adoption. Another win in the Windows space occurred in February, when Microsoft added support for Kubernetes on its Azure container service. For instance, you can now have contracts with service-level agreements.

The end of March brought Kubernetes version 1.6. This release's main focus was stability, security, scalability, federation and scheduling. Kubernetes took the 33rd spot in the top 100 open source software projects on the Battery Open-Source Software (BOSS) Index in April. Later in the year, a survey conducted at the 2017 KubeCon Europe conference showed Kubernetes as a leading choice for orchestration. It also revealed that it is one of the highest velocity open source projects, with over 1,700 developer authors contributing to the project over the year. This serves as further proof that one of the most important factors for Kubernetes' success is its strong open source community backing. Other container orchestrators, like Docker Swarm and Apache Mesos, lack this broad community support.

In June the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) released Kubernetes version 1.7, which brought enhanced security and extensibility, a key element for enterprise workloads. September brought the release of Kubernetes version 1.8, which centered on workload diversity, service automation, cluster stability, extensibility and security. CNCF released version 1.9  in December, adding new support for long-running workloads and features to help Kubernetes work more easily with third-party plug-ins.

The vendor ecosystem sees explosive growth

Through the year, we've seen multiple organizations either shift course to become a Kubernetes service provider or start from scratch in the managed Kubernetes space. Some of these providers include Platform9, Kismatic, Heptio, Containership and Mirantis. This explosion of a new niche in the container ecosystem is proof of Kubernetes' wide influence.

Also this year, Microsoft joined the CNCF. Microsoft has contributed to the Kubernetes project managed by the CNCF, and also has a vested interest given its support for Kubernetes as part of its Azure Container Service. At this point, it is starting to look like everyone wants a piece of the Kubernetes pie.

In August, Amazon Web Services (AWS) joined the governing board of the CNCF as well, rounding out the list of major cloud providers that back the CNCF. Later in the year, AWS announced its much-awaited support for Kubernetes for its Elastic Container Service. This support from the leading cloud vendor sealed Kubernetes' dominance over other container orchestrators.

Oracle was next in line to voice support for Kubernetes with the Oracle Cloud Infrastructure and also joined the CNCF as a platinum member. Companies like VMware and Pivotal also joined the CNCF. At this point, we can safely conclude that there is a lot of faith and strong backing for Kubernetes and containers.

In 2017, the industry witnessed a meteoric rise of Kubernetes with industry titans adopting Kubernetes.

The growing adoption of Kubernetes-based services has even influenced Docker. In October, we saw Docker finally give in and offer native Kubernetes support in Swarm. While Docker is still hanging on to its orchestration tool, this move was inevitable looking at the widespread adoption of Kubernetes. The industry is still debating whether Swarm will survive. At the end of October, Microsoft also rebranded its  Azure Container Service  (ACS) -- which it's important to note still supports multiple orchestration tools -- to AKS, as a nod to their dedication to managing Kubernetes.

Another feather in the Kubernetes cap this year was the CNCF's adoption of a certification standard for a set of base APIs, thus guaranteeing portability to any future version of Kubernetes. This certification program, known as the Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program, assures the standardization of Kubernetes and ensures workloads are compatible across vendors and service providers. Additionally, the Kubernetes Certified Service Providers (KCSP) program brings even more standardization to the list of Kubernetes vendors.

In 2017, the industry witnessed a meteoric rise of Kubernetes with new Kubernetes releases, adoption by industry titans, Kubernetes-centric service providers competing to capture a market with enormous growth potential, and clean operational standards being set up. Now we'll see how Kubernetes shapes up in 2018.

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