Analysts Say Kubernetes Is a Services-Building Opportunity for the Channel

Providing help and labor to assist customers with using the cloud-native technology will be critical for the channel.

Todd R. Weiss

November 25, 2019

6 Min Read
Building system

As more businesses use cloud computing for applications, storage and more, channel partners are finding new opportunities for helping their customers run and manage services on those clouds. And one of the fastest growing segments of that marketplace, services involving the Kubernetes container orchestration platform, is where channel partners should now be taking a closer look and making investments that will prepare them to help the growing number of customers that are eyeing the technology.

That’s the recommendation of four IT analysts who spoke with Channel Futures at the recent KubeCon CloudNativeCon North America conference in San Diego, where some 12,000 developers, IT executives, vendors, customers and others gathered for a wide range of sessions, keynotes and user panels about Kubernetes.


Gartner’s Tony Iams

“Most adoption of Kubernetes and containers has been by application developers so we’re just now getting to the point where this is being considered as tool for general purpose operations,” Tony Iams, an analyst with Gartner, told Channel Futures. “So if a channel partner is building software for anything, then they absolutely have to be thinking about this, if they aren’t already.”

A similar debate was happening some 20 years ago as Linux first started taking off in the enterprise, said Iams. “Of course this is a channel opportunity because someone needs to get the code to work and someone needs to support it.”

For customers, another key benefit of Kubernetes is that it is open source code, which reduces the possibility of vendor lock-in if customers want to move their workloads to different providers at any time, said Iams. “In theory, using open code reduces the barrier to switching because everyone is building on the same upstream code.”

A big change in the Kubernetes marketplace is coming in 2020 as VMware gets more involved in the Kubernetes space with its Project Pacific and Tanzu initiatives, which will essentially see VMware infusing their vSphere virtualization platform with Kubernetes, said Iams.

“You’ll be able to use Kubernetes with the same tooling and processes that you use for VMware vSphere,” he said, which will provide intriguing business opportunities for VMware partners for their midsized and large enterprise customers who use VMware. “You’re going to see a lot more interest in this as an operational technology.”

Kubernetes is a cloud native application that uses containers, microservices and other processes to deploy applications on the cloud that are portable and standards-based.


IDC’s Larry Carvalho

Another analyst, Larry Carvalho of IDC, said that channel partners can be particularly valuable to their customers by providing Kubernetes services in a marketplace where many companies are finding it difficult to find and hire their own experts in open source software technologies including Kubernetes.

“There is a huge shortage in talent…

…for open source, and systems integrators can fill that gap with their own capabilities,” said Carvalho. “Systems integrators also possess domain knowledge of certain industries and can use that, combined with cloud native technologies, to deliver additional value to customers.”

For MSPs, “Kubernetes is a must-have … due to the benefits offered to users such as infrastructure optimization leading to lower costs, scalability and portability,” said Carvalho. “Forward-thinking systems integrators should see the potential of cloud native technologies in helping their customers in their digital transformation journey and can help differentiate themselves in providing high value services solving the most pressing problems of enterprises across the spectrum of industries and size.”


451 Research’s William Fellows

William Fellows, an analyst with 451 Research, agreed that many enterprises are relying on channel partners to provide the skills needed to explore options such as Kubernetes due to a shortage of employees with skills in in open source technologies.

“Our belief is that access to talent is becoming more of a constraint than the access to capital, and is therefore a channel and service provider opportunity,” said Fellows. “Users are seeking cloud platform and cloud-native expertise from partners.”

Those skills gaps will only increase as cloud-native usage and cloud complexity increase, he added. “Enterprises are looking to partners to fill these gaps with both professional and managed services — through the channel. So, yes, there are significant opportunities for channel providers to grow their businesses by developing expertise around the entire cloud infrastructure, application and platform stack.”



Aberdeen Group’s Jim Rapoza

Jim Rapoza of Aberdeen Group said his company’s latest research has shown steady growth in the use of containers, microservices and Kubernetes.

“If the total number of current running applications built with the technology is still relatively small, most organizations we talk to say that all new applications will be developed in this way,” said Rapoza. “Increasingly, the role of VARs and other channel partners is changing. Aberdeen research shows that businesses are looking for them to be true partners, meaning they don’t want them to just sell them solutions, they need them to help with expertise and knowledge.”

That needed expertise and knowledge includes Kubernetes and containers, he said, because they are becoming the way that applications and services are built. “Channel partners will need to have skills with these technologies in order to meet the increased expectations of their customers,” he said. “Not understanding it would be similar to not understanding the cloud a few years ago.”


RedMonk’s Rachel Stephens

Analyst Rachel Stephens of RedMonk said her company is seeing a strong community coalesce around Kubernetes, which is at the heart of cloud-native applications that frequently underpin the digital transformation efforts of many enterprises.

“Kubernetes is not right for every organization or every…

…application, but the technology is increasingly on its way towards mainstream adoption,” said Stephens. “I think it is increasingly important for all members of the ecosystem to be able to have a conversation with customers about Kubernetes, channels and partners included.”

Kubernetes was originally developed by Google in 2014 to manage container sprawl within the company’s own IT infrastructure. A year later, Google donated the technology to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) to continue to grow the open source project. In early 2018, the CNCF “graduated” the Kubernetes project as its first open source software project to move from initial development stages to full-blown project supported by the group.

Since its inception, Kubernetes has been a tool eyed by a large number of enterprises and developers to solve application deployment issues with technology that is standards-based, portable and open source, which gives them a wide range of options for its use. But it isn’t always easy to deploy and run, which has led to a large number of technology vendors coming in to offer their own Kubernetes-based platforms along with services, support and even Kubernetes-as-a-service.

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About the Author(s)

Todd R. Weiss

Todd R. Weiss is an award-winning technology journalist who covers open source and Linux, cloud service providers, cloud computing, virtualization, containers and microservices, mobile devices, security, enterprise applications, enterprise IT, software development and QA, IoT and more. He has worked previously as a staff writer for Computerworld and, covering a wide variety of IT beats. He spends his spare time working on a book about an unheralded member of the 1957 Milwaukee Braves, watching classic Humphrey Bogart movies and collecting toy taxis from around the world.

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