2022 Predictions: The Exponential Evolution of Cloud-Native Communities
Adrian Gonzalez Sanchez
December 6, 2021
Cloud-native technologies are being adopted across every industry, providing developers with enormous opportunities across numerous open source technologies that are driving the development of new enterprise applications and infrastructures. However, to ensure developer success, we need to work with community managers and DevRel leaders to unify community knowledge from different platforms.
The next wave of cloud-native
It is no longer a secret. Cloud-native is here to stay. Thousands of companies around the world are already developing and adopting cloud-native technologies for containerization, orchestration, service mesh, etc. For more than a decade, the use and commercialization of open source technologies has rapidly increased, and technical schools and universities have included these topics as part of their new training programs. In addition, Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is at the forefront of bringing cloud native technologies to a broad audience.
We could see this as a linear evolution, but at Peritus.ai we believe that we are at the cusp of something bigger, even exponential. Since the first steps of containerization in the aughts, which was led by the Linux Foundation, Docker, and the Open Container Initiative, we have seen news almost every year about companies supporting new technologies and joining new projects. The release of Google's Borg to open source for Kubernetes and the creation of the CNCF in 2015 introduced the first wave of the cloud-native movement, and 2018 confirmed the trend when Kubernetes became the first project to graduate.
The good news for developers looking for a job
Since 2018, we have seen the emergence of new and successful cloud-native projects; there are currently more than one hundred CNCF projects. All relevant 2021 surveys from organizations such as O'Reilly and Stack Overflow indicate that Kubernetes and other related technologies are some of the most popular topics, and also the source of the best paying jobs. McKinsey defines Cloud and DevOps as two of the seven tech-talent battlegrounds.
The pandemic has accelerated cloud adoption and cloud-native communities have significantly increased the number of members and practitioners. This is only the beginning as organizations such as CNCF (e.g. the new KCNA), Amazon (with their APN training), Google's GCP (free training programs via Coursera), and Microsoft (Data & AI Academy and others) are heavily investing in entry and medium-level cloud training and certifications, some of them even for free. These initiatives should increase the total number of new practitioners and community members for cloud computing and cloud-native projects.
The challenge for 2022
However, even as the total number of projects and members has increased, many communities have struggled to keep a high level of engagement and participation among its members. While a large number of online, hybrid, and in-person community events are taking place, communications are being conducted using modern tools such as Slack and Discourse, and developer collaboration is growing on Github, it has been accompanied by a significant decrease in the community member engagement (see Figure 1 below for Peritus' analysis on engagement). One reason for this could be the hyper-communication phenomena we are experiencing, combined with the post-pandemic fatigue. Another is the concentration of expertise within these communities as the top 10-20% experts tend to solve most of the technical issues, which results in a lot of unsolved questions within the communities (see Figure 2 for Kubernetes communities). These factors don't encourage widespread participation and general engagement.
From the community perspective, the situation is not simple either. Members are participating less, and organizations are not creating a lot of value from the live discussions. This is a missed opportunity because technical discussions, answers to questions, and other content could be better structured to generate greater community value.
In 2022, we will continue to see growth in the $49 billion developer-led economy, manifested by the commercialization of cloud-native and open source software companies, as the 2021 IPOs of GitLab and Confluent strongly indicate. All of these new companies will face the same imperative of retaining their users, growing their market share, and accelerating their growth. We believe that this will begin with community managers, DevRel leaders, and other developer success stakeholders, and it will happen by unifying community knowledge to scale developer success.