Predictions 2020: The Killer App for Edge Computing in 2020 will be Kubernetes

Edge computing is aptly named. Aside from the literal reference to its network boundary location, edge computing represents the next frontier of innovation—the nascent space where anything can happen and the possibilities seem endless. Even with standards and use cases just beginning to emerge, the industry buzz is deafening. But what will the tipping point look like? Where is the killer app that will make edge computing compelling and essential for consumers and enterprises?

Here’s our prediction: We’ll see that killer app in the coming year. And its name will be Kubernetes.

Here’s why.

Kubernetes Is Itself an Application

Let’s make this clear at the outset: Although Kubernetes is commonly seen as an infrastructure tool, it’s also entirely qualified to be called an app in and of itself. Like any other app, it draws compute, network and storage resources from its underlying infrastructure—in this case, bare metal—through the operating system and physical resources of its host machine via the container runtime.

(Keep in mind that, while a virtual machine-based technology such as EC2 depends on abstracted storage, compute and networking resources to be mounted and allocated by an operating system, the operating system for a container-based technology such as Kubernetes is itself also abstracted, so developers don’t have to worry about any of the underlying hardware. That’s a key distinction we’ll come back to in a moment.)

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So that’s why Kubernetes is an app. What makes it killer?

Kubernetes Is on Fire

Kubernetes is catching on fast as the orchestration platform of choice for all types of workloads. According to Stackrox in a July 2019 survey of 390 IT professionals, over 86% of organizations have adopted Kubernetes, up from 57% just one year prior.

Not only are most modern cloud-native workloads being built on Kubernetes, but we can also expect to see legacy applications and workloads migrate to Kubernetes at an accelerated rate moving forward.

People Are Excited to Put Kubernetes to Work

We all know how the hype cycle works. The initial excitement outpaces the reality of adoption as organizations struggle to identify clear use cases and business justifications for making the transition to the next big thing. Everybody wants to find a way to cross the chasm. We’re seeing this now among Signal Sciences customers. Some early adopters are already seeking to use our modules for container and service mesh platforms including Kubernetes or Envoy, but customers are often unable to move as quickly as they’d like to these new platforms due to legacy apps running on older technology.

The Edge and Kubernetes Are Made for Each Other

As is often the case with young technology, edge computing today is a fragmented landscape with multiple players vying for mindshare and attention. These include cloud providers, CDN providers, hosting providers, startups and telcos, each with its own different definitions and use cases. For example, according to Microsoft CEO Sataya Nadella: “The key here is that these 50 billion devices, whether you call them edge devices or the internet of things, will be generating tons of data. That means you will have to develop entirely new ways of thinking about how all this flows together. The capacity at the edge, that ubiquity is going to be transformative in how we think about computation in any business process of ours.”

There are clearly endless places for edge computing to go—and endless ways for it to get there. That makes flexibility key. To enable these next-generation services while continuing to interoperate with legacy IT, the technologies that power the edge must be deployable and scalable in any type of architecture—edge, cloud or centralized. Remember that part about Kubernetes being entirely hardware and OS-independent?

There’s No Stopping Developers

Developers are insatiable. Their drive to experiment and innovate has already yielded applications to disrupt communications, music, media, television, automotive, traditional IT and many other industries. As they race to figure out which apps and workloads can most benefit from moving to the edge, Kubernetes will be their go-to tool, their new best friend—and yes, the killer app that unlocks the power of the edge.

But Remember To Be Careful Out There

An exciting new technology can tempt organizations to let their ideas run ahead of good security practices. To keep Kubernetes adoption from increasing risk, be sure to follow well-known deployment patterns—for example, separating each microservice onto a different container. Organizing your apps and services into Kubernetes clusters in proven ways will also give you an easy way to troubleshoot and diagnose potential issues.

It’s also important to follow established best practices. The recent Capital One breach is suspected to have involved a default security practice in AWS regarding authentication of new infrastructure during startup. Make sure you know the right way to configure security for the infrastructure you’re using.

Visibility is another key to Kubernetes security. Make sure you know what’s going on in your application—not just ingress/egress traffic to see if bad actors are targeting your app from the outside, but also east/west visibility to understand both app performance and the security within your Kubernetes infrastructure.

Who will win the edge? Hopefully, many companies across many industries; definitely, the customers they serve. We don’t yet know what those victories will look like, but we can be sure that Kubernetes will play a decisive role.

Want to learn more about what to expect in 2020? Join us Jan. 23 for our Predict 2020 Virtual Summit featuring discussions from some of the industry’s best and brightest offering up their visions for the future. Sign up today for this free daylong virtual event.

Brian Joe

Brian Joe is Senior Director of Product Management at Signal Sciences, where he is responsible for all growth-related product management initiatives. Previously, Brian was Director of Product Management at Verizon Communications and spent 14 years leading product for their DDOS, WAF, Bot Mitigation, DNS, VPN, Networking, Storage, and Video Streaming domains. Brian received his MBA at New York University's Stern School of Business and his BS in Computer Science from UCLA.

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