Docker Launches 2024 State of Application Development Report

Docker launched its 2024 State of Application Development Report, providing a deep-focus snapshot of today’s rapidly evolving world of software development. Based on a wide-ranging survey of more than 1,300 respondents, the report shares a broad array of findings about respondents’ work, including what tools they use, their processes and frustrations, opinions about industry trends, participation in developer communities, Docker usage, and more.

What emerges is an illuminating picture of the current state of application development, along with insights into key trends such as the expanding roles of cloud and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) in software development, the continued rise of microservices, and attitudes toward the shift-left approach to security.

2400x1260 the 2024 docker state of application development report

Reflecting the changing state of the industry, the 2024 report drills down into three main areas: 

  • The state of application development today 
  • AI’s expanding role in application development
  • Security in application development

The online survey is a key vector through which Docker product managers, engineers, and designers gather insights from users to continuously develop and improve the company’s suite of tools.

“The findings in this report demonstrate how Docker continuously seeks to address market needs so that we can better empower development teams not just to compete, but to thrive and innovate with the right processes and tools for their workflows,” said Nahid Samsami, Vice President of Developer Experience at Docker.

Read on for key findings from this year’s report and download the full report for more details.

2400x1260 2024 report key findings

The rise of cloud for software development

A key insight was the growing popularity of developing software in the cloud. When asked about their main development environment, almost 64% of respondents cited their laptop or desktop. But the real story is that more than 36% cited non-local environments, such as ephemeral environments, personal remote dev environments or clusters, and remote development tools such as GitHub Codespaces, Gitpod, and Coder.

These findings appear to underscore the growing popularity of developing software in the cloud — a trend fanned by benefits such as increased efficiency, shorter build times, reduced time to market, and faster innovation. 

Why this apparent increase in reliance on cloud during development? It seems likely that the growing size of applications is a factor, along with the increasing number of dependencies and overall growth in complexity — all of which would render an all-local environment difficult, if not impossible, to maintain in parity with production.

AI/ML goes mainstream in app development

Another key finding was the growing penetration of AI/ML into the software development field. Most respondents (64%) reported already using AI for work — for tasks such as code writing, documentation, and research.

This trend is notably driven by junior/mid-level developers and DevOps/platform engineers, who expressed a higher dependency on AI compared with senior developers surveyed. In terms of AI tools, respondents most often used ChatGPT (46%), GitHub Copilot (30%), and Gemini (formerly Bard) (19%).

This year’s survey showed a growing interest in ML engineering and data science within the Docker community. When asked if they were working on ML in any capacity, almost half of respondents (46%) replied in the affirmative. Within that group, 54% said that they trained and deployed ML models in one or more projects, 43% worked on ML infrastructure, and 39% leveraged pre-trained ML models.

Where developers get stuck

A primary goal of the survey was to gain insights into how Docker can improve the app development experience. When we asked where their team gets stuck in the development process, respondents cited multiple stages, including planning (31%), estimation (24%), and designing (22%). Planning was also one of the most-selected areas in which respondents desired better tools (28% of respondents). 

These findings demonstrate that respondents hit sticking points in project-level tasks before development. However, there are areas identified for improvement within the development process itself, as 20% of respondents reported getting stuck during debugging/troubleshooting or testing phases. Testing was also one of the top areas in which respondents wanted better tools (28%).

Microservices, security, and open source

Other notable trends include the continued rise of microservices, frustration with the shift-left approach to security, and interest in open source. Underscoring the growing popularity of microservices, nearly three times more respondents (29%) said they were transitioning from monolithic to microservices than were moving in the other direction, from microservices to monolithic (11%).

The shift-left approach to security appears to be a source of frustration for developers and an area where more effective tools could make a difference. Security-related tasks topped the list of those deemed difficult/very difficult, with 34% of respondents selecting one of these options. Regarding the need for better tools in the development process, 25% of respondents selected security/vulnerability remediation tools (behind testing, planning, and monitoring/logging/maintenance).

Open source software is important to developer ecosystems and communities, with 59% of respondents saying they contributed to open source in the past year, compared with 41% saying they did not. Of the 41% who did not contribute, a large majority (72%) expressed interest in contributing to open source, while less than 25% did not. 

Get the full report

The 2024 Docker State of Application Development Report is based on an online, 20-minute survey conducted by Docker’s User Research Team in the fall of 2023. Survey respondents ranged from home hobbyists to professionals at companies with more than 5,000 employees. The findings are based on 885 completed responses from the roughly 1,300 respondents surveyed. 

The survey was developed to inform Docker’s product strategy. Given the fascinating information we discovered, we wanted to share the findings with the community. This was the second annual Docker State of Application Development survey; the third will take place in the fall of 2024. 

Download the full report now. 

Learn more

Docker’s User Research Team — Olga Diachkova, Julia Wilson, and Rebecca Floyd — conducted this survey, analyzed the results, and provided insights.

For a complete methodology, contact [email protected].