Many will rightly point to 2023 as a year of AI, and it certainly was that. But what has really struck me in 2023 were the incremental, often less headline-grabbing changes, that have made developers’ lives easier and unlocked so much innovation.

Kubernetes has continued to mature this year, going ‘under the hood’ in organization’s infrastructure and regularly used to support major use cases by large, enterprise-level businesses. I have also been struck by WebAssembly’s surge in popularity amongst developer communities, with many embracing this universal compilation target as a vital asset in supporting advanced tech deployments by organizations.

Another interesting find in 2023 for me was HashiCorp moving to a Business Source License for all its future product releases, prohibiting use for commercial purposes. This sent shockwaves through the open source community. It had implications for investors; VC’s will now have to think before investing in companies built on top of open source software by a single vendor. It also reoriented trust in the open source world towards foundations, under which developers can run projects and be safe in the knowledge that there are license change restrictions.

But what lies ahead in 2024?

The year of WebAssembly

2024 could well be the year that WebAssembly (Wasm) comes of age. As cloud native ecosystems continue to grow and thrive, developers will increasingly rely on WebAssembly to deliver software and open up new paradigms.

WebAssembly enables the next generation of serverless infrastructure, and more cloud providers are deploying support for it. Its fast startup times and secure sandbox execution make it ideal for event-driven environments. I expect more organizations will use WebAssembly applications to deploy in a serverless ecosystem, and even on Kubernetes clusters with Wasm configured nodes, without relying on proprietary cloud services. We should not forget that WebAssembly clusters can run on simple Kubernetes nodes rather than complex infrastructure.

Additionally, the integration of WebAssembly with Kubernetes represents a significant stride in its adoption. This compatibility allows organizations to leverage the same Kubernetes tooling and expertise that they have been cultivating for over a decade. By enabling the creation and deployment of Wasm workloads within a familiar environment, WebAssembly not only simplifies the transition for teams but also enhances the efficiency of existing infrastructure. This seamless integration with Kubernetes underscores WebAssembly's potential as a versatile and scalable solution in modern cloud-native ecosystems.

We’ll also see continued adoption and innovations from Docker and other platforms to take WebAssembly to the next level. As WebAssembly gains critical mass, cloud providers will offer simplified ways for developers to leverage it. This will expand the possibilities for innovative serverless architectures. WebAssembly has the potential to fundamentally change how modern cloud-native applications are built and deployed.

Kubernetes goes under the hood

At the same time, Kubernetes itself is becoming more abstracted, and starting to become an automated part of the infrastructure stack that is run ‘under the hood’. Our research revealed the scale of this trend: of the 1,000 cloud developers surveyed, 51% responded that they are using Kubernetes and containers in their daily operations. Many were drawn to using it by key advantages like easy scaling of work (answered by 36% of respondents) and easy management of containers (by 35% of respondents).

How developers handle Kubernetes is fundamentally changing. Open source tools allow enterprises to programmatically set up production-grade Kubernetes following organizational best practices. Rather than managing clusters hands-on, developers can simply request a cluster suited to their needs and have it handled in the background. Kubernetes configuration is disappearing from view, thereby leading to the creation of API based platforms being used by the teams.

This shift represents the essence of platform engineering, where an internal developer platform allows teams within an organization to efficiently request standardized, security-compliant resources via APIs or a user interface. This streamlined approach is rapidly becoming a cornerstone in modern IT infrastructure management.

AI-driven automation will further enhance this trend, handling tasks like auto-detection and remediation of failures. Imagine having a Kubernetes GPT that can analyze clusters and streamline management via natural language conversations.

The trend is clear: the complexity of Kubernetes will be abstracted away more and more. Developers will be able to focus on application development, and much less on infrastructure management. Some of these applications will be built on Large Language Models (LLMs), as the cloud native ecosystem gets involved to create tooling to ensure cloud providers are easy to use.

With more and more LLM applications being developed, the cloud native ecosystem and tooling will get involved, and cloud providers will be proving easier to use developer tooling to build these AI applications.

In 2023 we have seen the growth in the education as well as adoption of sustainability wrt cloud native. There is a new Technical advisory group within CNCF now that focuses on sustainability. There are many existing projects that when used in conjunction, can create a significant difference. One example of this is using Kepler to identify carbon emission per pod and then using that data with another CNCF tool, Kube-green for scaling down the deployment to zero and directly creating an impact. In 2024 we will see more of this adoption and you can check out some of the sustainability talks form past Civo Navigate.

A new year of opportunities

I am really excited about what the new year will bring. I look forward to more enlightening and fascinating conversations with developers in 2024. Fundamentally, we want to create services that meet your needs and the problems you are facing. We want to help you worry less about infrastructure and spend much more time building and innovating!

If you want to read more about our predictions for 2024, Josh Mesout (Chief Innovation Officer at Civo) and Dinesh Majrekar (CTO) have reflected on AI and Sustainability and given their thoughts on the future of these developments: