How to Choose the Right Kubernetes Management Platform

Jun 22, 2017 | by Slava Koltovich

Ditch the management overhead and get production-ready, out-of-the-box

Under pressure to deliver applications faster and ensure 24/7 runtime, organizations are increasingly turning to DevOps methodologies to deliver applications quicker and in an automated fashion. But what tools should you have in your DevOps toolkit?

It starts with the cloud. DevOps and cloud are joined at the hip. Cloud enables the very automation that DevOps depends on, with a standardized platform for testing, deployment, and production. Similarly, everyone wants to have cloud-like services, even in their own data center. They want auto scalability, reliability, the ability to provision on-demand, etc. In short, they need infrastructure tools that create a cloud-like infrastructure in the data center.

This is where tools like Kubernetes and Docker play well, delivering much of this desired functionality out-of-the-box.

Docker, for example, is the best way to distribute software in a DevOps enabled environment. Providing a thin layer of isolation and utilizing resources better than virtual machines do. Immutable and independent from the underlying infrastructure, Docker runs the same way on a developer machine as it does in a production environment.

Yet, it’s Kubernetes that is fast emerging as the most popular container orchestration engine and seems to be winning the container war. Why? The answer seems to come down to community building. The Kubernetes open source community is vast and includes Google, Red Hat, Canonical, CoreOS, and Microsoft, to name a few. This has given the open source project the legs it needed to grow and mature faster than any other product on the market. And of course, being open source, it’s independent from corporate planning or constraints.

As the market continues to mature, organizations that add these technologies to their DevOps toolkit will reap the rewards – transforming their IT operations, augmenting collaboration between ops and development, and increasing the overall agility of the business as a whole.

But there are some hurdles along the way.

Kubernetes Challenges and Misconceptions

As much as it is beloved, managing Kubernetes is a time-consuming process requiring highly-skilled staff and a potentially large monetary commitment.

Many organizations make the critical mistake of underestimating the level of effort involved in the configuration and additional development to adapt Kubernetes to their needs. Like Docker, it has many out-of-the-box features that create the impression of ease-of-use. To the untrained eye, Kubernetes looks like it can be up and running in hours or days, but this is far from true for production environments where additional functionality is needed – security, high availability, disaster recovery, backups, and maintenance – everything you need to make Kubernetes “production-ready.”

The result is that organizations that go the Kubernetes route quickly realize that they are unable to deliver it without bringing in skilled and costly external resources.

The vendor community can help. However, many of the Kubernetes management solutions on the market today focus solely on providing a simplified user interface (UI) to ease deployment on any infrastructure. A pretty UI and infrastructure flexibility doesn’t solve the fundamental problem of creating a production-ready environment. You’re still getting the same open source Kubernetes – a cluster that is ready for your experimentation but isn’t ready to run in production.

If you can’t hire the right resources, how do you achieve production readiness?

The market is evolving fast, and you do have choices. New Kubernetes management tools are appearing each day, yet they vary wildly. Finding the right tool with the needed flexibility to adapt in an ever-changing IT landscape can be a problem. To help you navigate your options, we’ve broken down the four “must-haves” of a Kubernetes management platform.

What to Look for in a Kubernetes Management Platform

Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind as you shop for the right Kubernetes platform, and some potential pitfalls to look out for.

1. Production-Readiness

This is key. Kubernetes configuration can be complex and resourceintensive. A production-ready platform will ensure you have the fullyautomated features you need, without the configuration hassles.

An important feature of production-readiness is security. Kubernetes itself has strong security features but look for a provider that can connect these features to your enterprise system.

Production-readiness also means that the solution should handle all management tasks on the cluster. Automation here is key. Automated backup, recovery, restore, etc. If it’s not automated, it falls to you to do it, which can quickly strain your resources and budget.

Finally, Kubernetes provides high-availability, scalability, and self-healing for your applications, but make sure your platform can provide the same features for your cluster.

2. Future-Readiness

As the cloud and software become more sophisticated, where you host a system may impact system performance. Today the trend is towards a multi-cloud strategy. According to a recent study by Microsoft and 451 Research2, nearly a third of organizations already work with four or more cloud vendors. The great thing about Kubernetes is that it allows you to abstract from cloud or data center providers and build a common infrastructure between clouds, cloud regions, and the data center. Your apps can run anywhere and everywhere without the need to adapt them to the new hosting environment. However, this involves extensive configuration of Kubernetes and its underlying infrastructure.

Make sure your Kubernetes platform can support these capabilities and help you configure them when you need them down the road.

3. Ease of Management

Not to hammer the point home too much, but managing a Kubernetes cluster is challenging and draws on a variety of skill sets. Part of the reason is that Kubernetes generates a mass of raw information that you must translate to understand what’s going on with your cluster. Early detection and intervention is essential to preventing disasters. If you can’t decipher what Kubernetes is telling you, you have a problem.

You could throw more resources at it, but instead, we recommend that you identify a Kubernetes platform that removes the problem of analyzing raw data. By incorporating automated intelligent monitoring and alerts, such a solution can provide key information on status, errors, events, and warnings so that your team has the insight it needs to take action.

4. Support and Training

Finally, as your organization begins to acquire Kubernetes skills, it’s important to have a vendor that can provide 24/7 support and training to ensure your Kubernetes journey is a smooth one.

It’s Time to Ditch the Kubernetes Management Overhead

When implemented successfully Kubernetes is a great DevOps solution for automating the deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers. But the complexity and cost can be prohibitive. Get it wrong and you’ll add an additional layer of complexity to your infrastructure management. Save yourself the headache and expense, leverage automation tools that provide production-readiness (the single most important feature), future-readiness, ease-of management, and the support you need to use Kubernetes, without the management overhead.

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