Reflections on the Fifth Anniversary of Kubernetes

By June 6, 2019 Blog

Guest post from the Kubernetes Project

Five years ago, Kubernetes was released into the world. Like all newborns, it was small, limited in functionality, and had only a few people involved in its creation. Unlike most newborns, it also involved a great deal of code written in Bash. Today, at the five year mark, Kubernetes is full grown, and while a human would be just entering kindergarten, Kubernetes is at the core of production workloads from startups to global financial institutions.

They say that success has a thousand parents and failure is an orphan, but in the case of Kubernetes the truth is that its success is due to its thousands (and thousands) of parents. Kubernetes came from humble beginnings, with just a handful of developers and in record time grew into its current state with literally thousands of contributors – and even more people involved in meetups, docs, education, release management, and supporting the broader community. At many points in the project, when it seemed that it might be moving too fast or becoming too big, the community has responded and stepped up with new ways of organizing and new ways of supporting the project so that it could have continued success. It is an amazing achievement to see a project reach this scale and continue to operate successfully, and it is a tribute to each and every member of our amazing community that we’ve been able to do this while maintaining an open, neutral and respectful community.

Five years in, it’s worth reflecting on the things that Kubernetes has achieved. It is one of the largest, if not the single largest open source project on the planet. It has managed to sustain a fast pace of development across a team of thousands of distributed engineers working in a myriad of different companies. It has merged tens of thousands of commits while sustaining a regular release cadence of high-quality software that has become mission-critical for countless organizations and companies. This would be no small achievement within a single company, but to do this while being driven by dozens of different companies and thousands of individuals (many of whom have other jobs or even school!) is truly amazing. It is a credit to the selflessness of all of the folks in the community who chop wood and carry water every single day to ensure that our tests are green (ish), our releases get patched, our security is maintained, and our community conducts itself within the bounds of our code of conduct. To all of the people who do this often tedious, and sometimes emotionally draining work, you deserve our deepest thanks. We could never have gotten here without you.

Of course, the story of Kubernetes isn’t just a story of community, it is also a story of technology. It is breath-taking to see the speed with which the ideas of cloud-native development have shaped the narrative of how reliable and scalable applications are built. Kubernetes has become a catalyst for the digital transformation of organizations toward cloud-native technologies and techniques. It has become the rallying point and supporting platform for the development of an entire ecosystem of projects and products that add powerful cloud-native capabilities for developers and operators. By providing a ubiquitous and extensible control-plane for application development, Kubernetes has successfully uplifted a whole class of higher-level abstractions and tools.

One of the most important facets of the Kubernetes project was knowing where it should stop. This has been a core tenet of the project since the beginning and though the surface area of Kubernetes continues to grow, it has an asymptotic limit. Because of this, there is a flourishing ecosystem on top of and alongside the core APIs. From package managers to automated operators, from workflow systems to AI and deep learning, the Kubernetes API has become the substrate on which a vibrant cloud-native biome is growing.

As Kubernetes turns five, we naturally look to the future and contemplate how we can ensure that it continues to grow and flourish. In the celebration of everything that has been achieved, it must also be noted that there is always room for improvement. Though our community is broad and amazing, ensuring a diverse and inclusive community is a journey, not a destination, and requires constant attention and energy. Likewise, despite the promise of cloud-native technologies, it is still too hard to build reliable, scalable services. As Kubernetes looks to its future, these are core areas where investment must occur to ensure continued success. It’s been an amazing five years, and with your help the next five will be even more amazing. Thank you!