Kubernetes has practically become the standard for container orchestration. Enterprises see it as one of the crucial elements contributing to the success of the implementation of a cloud-first strategy. Of course, Kubernetes is not the most important success factor in going cloud-native. But the right tooling is the enabler for achieving DevOps maturity in an enterprise, which builds primarily on cultural change and shift in design thinking. This article highlights the most common challenges enterprises encounter while adopting Kubernetes and recommendations on how to make Kubernetes adoption smooth and effective in order to drive productivity and business value.
Challenges in Kubernetes adoption
Kubernetes is still complex to set up. Correct infrastructure and network setup, installation, and configuration of all Kubernetes components are not that straightforward even though there are tools created with the goal to streamline that part.
Kubernetes alone is not enough. Kubernetes is not a cloud-native platform by itself, but rather one of the tools needed to build a platform. A lot of additional tooling is needed to create a manageable platform that improves developers’ experience and drives productivity. Therefore, it requires a lot of knowledge and expertise to choose the right pieces of the puzzle and connect them in the right way.
Day 2 operations are not easy. When the initial problems with setup and installation are solved, there comes another challenge: how to productionize the platform, onboard users, and manage Kubernetes clusters at scale. Monitoring, upgrading & patching, securing, maintaining high availability, handling backups – these are just a few operational aspects to consider. And again, it requires a lot of knowledge to operate and manage Kubernetes in production.
Another aspect is the platform’s complexity from the developer’s perspective. Kubernetes requires developers to understand its internals in order to use it effectively for deploying applications, securing them and integrating them with external services.
Recommendations for a successful Kubernetes adoption
Choose a turnkey solution – do not build the platform by yourself as the very first step, considering the aforementioned complexity. It is better to pick a production-ready distribution, that allows to set it up quickly and focus on managing the cultural and organizational shift rather than struggling with the technology. Such a solution should offer a right balance between how much is pre-configured and available out-of-the-box, and the flexibility to customize it further down the road. Of course, it is good when the distribution is compatible with the upstream Kubernetes as it allows your engineers and operators to interact with native tools and APIs.
Start small and grow bigger in time – do not roll out Kubernetes for the whole organization immediately. New processes and tools should be introduced in a small, single team and incrementally spread throughout the organization. Adopting Kubernetes is just one of the steps on the path to cloud-native and you need to be cautious not to slip. Start with a single team or product, learn, gain knowledge and then share it with other teams. These groups being the early adopters, should eventually become facilitators and evangelists of Kubernetes and DevOps approach, and help spread these practices throughout the organization. This is the best way to experience Kubernetes value and understand the operational integration required to deliver software to production in a continuous manner.
Leverage others’ experiences – usually, it is good to start with the default, pre-defined or templated settings and leverage proven patterns and best practices in the beginning. As you get more mature and knowledgeable about the technology, you can adjust, modify and reconfigure iteratively to make it better suit your needs. At this point, it is good to have a solution which can be customized and gives the operator full control over the configuration of the cluster. Managed and hosted solutions, even though easy to use at the early stage of Kubernetes adoption, usually leave small to no space for custom modifications and cluster finetuning.
When in need, call for backups – it is good to have cavalry in reserve which can come to the rescue when bad things happen or simply when something is not clear. Secure yourself for the hard times and find a partner who can help you learn and understand the complexities of Kubernetes and other building blocks of the cloud-native toolset. Even when your long-term strategy is to build the Kubernetes skills in-house (both from development and operations perspective).
Do not forget about mindset change – adopting the technology is not enough. Starting to deploy applications to Kubernetes will not instantly transform your organization and speed up software delivery. Kubernetes can become the cornerstone in the new DevOps way the company builds and delivers software but needs to be supported by organizational changes touching many more areas of the company than just tools and technology: the way people think, act and work, the way they communicate and collaborate. And it is essential to educate all stakeholders at all levels throughout the adoption process, to have a common understanding of what DevOps is, what changes it brings and what are the benefits.
Even though Kubernetes is not easy, it is definitely worth the attention. It offers a great value in the platform you can build with it and can help transition your organization to the new level. With Kubernetes as the core technology and DevOps approach to software delivery, the company can accelerate application development, manage its workflows more efficiently and get to the market faster.