Data Security and Availability Top List of Challenges
June 13, 2019

Murli Thirumale

Responses to our annual Container Adoption Survey — conducted jointly by Portworx and Aqua Security — have shown a clear uptick in how complex containerized applications have become, demonstrating that IT organizations are increasingly confident that container infrastructure can manage business-critical applications. However, this year's responses also suggest a continuing lack of clarity when it comes to who's responsible for container security.

Production Adoption and Investment in Containers Surging

Container adoption has continued its strong growth over the past few years, with 87% of respondents running container technologies, up from 55% in 2017. Of those who run applications in containers, nearly 90% run them in production, which is a 23% jump since 2017.

Of course, the growth in adoption has seen growth in financial commitment alongside it. 24% of respondents currently invest over $500K a year on container technology. 17% spend over $1M. As with anything, the increased adoption and investment has led to a different set of primary concerns than in years past.


When we began this survey, most businesses hadn't moved their container technologies from development to production. At the time in 2017, the ecosystem was in a much different place, and when Kubernetes emerged as the scheduler of choice,  respondents listed basic issues like persistent storage as the #1 challenge to container adoption. With advances in containerized technology like CSI that provide an open standard to providing containers with persistence, this is no longer the case. 

Data security and availability have emerged as the top order barriers to container adoption with respondents specifically citing three items:

1. Data management (40%)

2. Multi-cloud and cross-datacenter support (36%)

3. Reliability (35%)

When focusing specifically on storage data management challenges, the numbers confirm that enterprises are searching for ways to run complex business applications with strict security and availability requirements in production. The top three storage data management challenges for 2019 are:

1. Data security (56%)

2. Concerns about data loss (46%)

3. Planning for disaster recovery and business continuity (40%)

If data security is the top storage challenge, then what are the top security challenges generally?

■ Data Security (61%)

■ Vulnerability management (43%)

■ Runtime protection (34%)

It's clear that data security is top of mind for these respondents, as it's #1 for both storage data management challenges and security challenges. Drilling down into data security specifically, it turns out that data protection and backup are the most common concerns. Here are the top three data security concerns:

■ Data protection and backup (46%)

■ Data encryption (21%)

■ Detecting and preventing data exfiltration (19%)

With data security as the paramount concern for both storage and security, it's no surprise to see organizations employ a host of strategies to combat corruption and loss.

Security Strategies

While data security is the top strategy used to protect data with 64% of respondents leveraging it, there are several other strategies used in tandem. Here's a list of the most popular security strategies according to our survey:

■ Data encryption (64%)

■ Runtime monitoring (49%)

■ Vulnerability scanning in registries (49%)

■ Vulnerability scanning in CI/CD pipelines (49%)

■ Blocking anomalies through runtime projection (48%)

Most respondents, but still only 31%, believe the main team responsible for container security is the security team. 24% believe it's a joint responsibility between teams or that it falls on DevSecOps. However, respondent roles heavily influenced the responses.

47% of respondents in DevOps roles believe DevSecOps is the main owner, while 54% of those in Security roles list Security as the main owner. This split suggests a lack of clarity over security and governance for containers — each team believes more responsibility falls on them than others — but also suggests a feeling of accountability for each team. As container technologies continue to be adopted and relied on for critical applications, security responsibility should become more clear for each organization.

The Kubernetes ecosystem has been steadily evolving since its birth in 2014 and the investment in storage fundamentals like Container Storage Interface has led to fewer problems with persistent storage. However, as organizations move containers into production, users have shown that data security, disaster recovery, and multi-cloud operations are all critical components to doing so successfully.

Murli Thirumale is Co-Founder and CEO of Portworx
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