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Fairwinds 2021 Predictions: Kubernetes adoption, security breaches and policy enforcement

vmblog 2021 prediction series 

Industry executives and experts share their predictions for 2021.  Read them in this 13th annual series exclusive.

Kubernetes adoption, security breaches and policy enforcement

By Bill Ledingham, CEO, Fairwinds

Predicting a global pandemic last December that has altered everything this year would have been hard to do. So while a crystal ball that predicts the future can never be certain, we decided to ask our team what we can expect in 2021. This group included Bill Ledingham, Kendall Miller, Andy Suderman, Joe Pelletier and Robert Brennan, all of whom came at it from many different vantage points but agreed that in 2021 we'll see a lot of movement in the Kubernetes ecosystem.

Digital transformation has to happen in 2021.

The changes brought by COVID-19 will see companies accelerate their digital transformation plans. Migration of applications to the cloud will continue to see strong growth - not only the "lift-and-shift" of legacy apps, but the re-architecture and development of applications leveraging cloud native technology such as containers and Kubernetes. The Kubernetes ecosystem of users, open source and technology to support will keep improving, and we'll continue to see migration to Kubernetes. We'll also see Kubernetes become the default method for distributing self-hosted commercial software.

A high profile Kubernetes security breach is coming.

While we don't want to be doomsday predictors, we foresee a neglected Kubernetes cluster at a major enterprise resulting in a high profile security breach. The reality is that while Kubernetes offers advantages to security, users must configure it correctly and keep it up-to-date to stay secure. One or a few enterprises with multi-cluster, multi-user environments will lose track of a cluster or configurations, resulting in vulnerabilities that will be breached. Staying on top of your clusters and configuration becomes even more essential in 2021.

Policy tooling becomes widespread.

The journey to cloud native takes many forms from trials to dev to production. For many that have reached production, 2021 will be the year where policy becomes widespread. Tasks and tooling like OPA, RBAC, network policy and other policy-adjacent functions will take priority. These will become de-facto standards for running Kubernetes within 2021/2022. More specifically, OPA will start becoming the mainstream choice for custom policy. However, companies will seek easy-to-use solutions like Polaris for defining, implementing, monitoring, and scaling policies.

Policy from start to finish.

Related to policy tooling, in 2021, we'll see the need for policy enforcement accelerate as more Kubernetes clusters come online, and companies seek to implement security guardrails to accelerate time-to-market. We'll also see use cases for integrating policies early to help ensure security and operational reliability as more and more dev teams begin deploying to Kubernetes. To achieve this policy-as-code will be adopted. In 2021, you'll see this as a standard in Kubernetes and people will start assuming you're doing it.

"Batteries-included" distributions emerge.

A popular "batteries-included" Kubernetes distribution will emerge with built-in solutions for ingress, certificates, monitoring, alerting, deployment, and image hosting.

Multi-cluster becomes a big deal.

As more enterprises adopt Kubernetes, multi-cluster and multi-tenancy become big deals. Tools that support multi-cluster environments will evolve including load-balancing, geographically aware dns, and even policy enforcement tools for security and reliability.

There will be challenges moving to the cloud.

As companies move to the cloud, there are two main challenges in 2021. First, companies will continue to struggle to find the requisite talent and expertise to leverage cloud native technology. Second, organizational challenges will continue to hamper full realization of DevOps.

Tools, training, and process redesign is needed to help bridge the gap between development and operations. Companies will need to focus on their developer enablement tooling. While there won't emerge "one standard," we will see standards around development processes, pipeline and tooling.

Persistent storage in Kubernetes becomes a lot safer and more popular.

Persistent storage has been a problem for Kubernetes users. While a number of vendors have worked toward solving this problem for years, we saw some major acquisitions this year that will lead to further investment in persistent storage in 2021. Expect to see more funding and acquisitions with investment to make persistent storage safer and more popular. 

2021 will be transformational.

2021 will be another year of change as we continue to live through the pandemic. Digital transformation will become prioritized as companies thrive or try to survive the next year. Given their rapid adoption and powerful ability to scale, the cloud, cloud native technologies and Kubernetes continue to be essential tools for enterprise infrastructure digital transformation. But as we've seen in previous years, security will continue to be essential to success. Ensure that whatever cloud native technology is adopted, policy enforcement is used.


About the Author

Bill Ledingham 

Bill Ledginham is the CEO of Fairwinds, the Kubernetes  enablement company. He can be reached at

Published Thursday, December 31, 2020 7:55 AM by David Marshall
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