Containers are at the heart of so-called “cloud-native” applications and platforms — the emerging term of art for apps born in or redesigned for container-centric technologies. Containers enable faster software delivery, tremendous scale, higher resiliency, greater flexibility, and a wider range of implementation options — all critical features that EA pros need to accelerate digital transformation. But large, highly distributed collections of application components running in containers require coordination and orchestration. As enterprises begin to adopt containers throughout the application life cycle, the number of inquiries Forrester receives about container orchestration is increasing.

Two types of software offerings provide container orchestration features. Open source frameworks and commercial solutions such as CoreOS Tectonic, Mesosphere DC/OS, and Docker Datacenter (as part of Docker Enterprise Edition) can cover most of the major enterprise features around container orchestration. There are also open source tools that include some but not all orchestration features, such as Apache Mesos for task scheduling and etcd for service discovery. Among these, Kubernetes (K8s) dominates client inquiries and is enjoying high adoption momentum. To help tech management pros understand the K8s ecosystem, I’ve recently published a report with my colleague Dave Bartoletti focusing on the rapidly maturing landscape of K8s vendors and solution providers. Some of the key takeaways:

  • Container orchestration is a critical component of a cloud-native strategy. Container technologies form the foundation of cloud-native platforms and enable microservices-based application architectures. Orchestration is essential to fully leverage containers.Clients most frequently ask about Kubernetes, Docker built-in orchestration (AKA swarm mode), and Apache Mesos. These orchestration platforms typically include several components that provide six essential capabilities that encourage broader enterprise adoption.
  • K8s has quickly dominated developer mindshare and adoption. K8s is not only a popular open source project run by an independent foundation and famous for its Google heritage; it’s also a production-grade container orchestration platform that is useful for a broad range of container-based application architectures. K8s is quickly becoming as popular as Docker itself, and for good reason.
  • The vibrant K8s ecosystem is growing and changing quickly. Enterprise architects must understand the K8s ecosystem. Commercial solution providers, enterprise customers, service partners, and open source organizations from around the world are improving K8s itself and building complementary products. New entrants are joining the market and vying for position at a rapid pace.