App container market to hit $2.7bn by 2020 – with consolidation signs already afoot

James has more than a decade of experience as a tech journalist, writer and editor, and served as Editor in Chief of TechForge Media between 2017 and 2021. James was named as one of the top 20 UK technology influencers by Tyto, and has also been cited by Onalytica, Feedspot and Zsah as an influential cloud computing writer.


The application container market is expected to grow to $2.7 billion by 2020 up from $762m in 2016, according to the latest note from 451 Research.

The analysts put app containers in the overall bucket of cloud-enabling technologies (CET) alongside virtualisation, automation, and private platform as a service, and argues that while by no means the largest segment, containers will see the quickest growth. The overall market will see a 15% CAGR over the next four years, and be worth $39.6bn by the end of 2020.

According to 451 Research, there are 125 application container vendors in the market – well, 125 that are worth tracking, at any rate – and expects many new entries into the market on a quarterly basis. The firm says it is ‘remarkable’ that vendors large and small are able to meaningfully leverage or offer app container technology and support.

The researchers also take the opportunity to compare app containers to OpenStack, which was valued at $1.8bn in 2016. With both markets being based on open source software and both experiencing rapid enterprise growth in a relatively short space of time, it makes sense to compare the two.

“Current estimates are conservative,” said Jay Lyman, principal analyst for cloud management and containers at 451 Research. “In the three years we’ve been tracking the OpenStack market, we’ve watched it grow from just 30 vendors in 2013 to more than 91 vendors today. We will be tracking the container market closely to see whether that translates into even higher revenue and faster growth than with OpenStack.

“Just as we saw with OpenStack, revenue generation in the early application container market is characterised by some pure-play vendors and larger established vendors generating significant revenue, but most players are just beginning to realise paid engagements,” added Lyman.

451 added it expects to see more movement for app containers beyond development and testing towards production use. The research firm cited Apprenda’s acquisition of Kismatic, a backer of Kubernetes, and Cisco acquiring ContainerX, a supporter of Docker Swarm, as signs of consolidation in the market.

Back in July, a study from NetEnrich found that 70% of 200 IT professionals surveyed were using containers within their environments, yet adding that integrating with existing IT ecosystems was the biggest challenge. Lack of experience in managing container technologies was also cited as an issue, with Docker, Kubernetes and Mesos being described as ‘moderately challenging’ to learn.

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