The Long and Winding Road to Kubernetes


The Long and Winding Road to Kubernetes

November 16, 2019 - by Spruha Pandya | appeared on HackerNoon

A look at why enterprises are slow in moving to Kubernetes.

With the advent of the microservices architecture, containers have emerged as the tool of choice for building and deploying applications. Enterprises are rapidly adopting containers as that enables them to scale on-demand. But when it comes to deploying a bulk-load of applications, container orchestration and management becomes a tough nut to crack. Enterprises are increasingly embracing a cloud-first strategy for their applications, and for all these requirements, Kubernetes seems to be the go-to solution. Yet, the adoption rates of Kubernetes are not as high as one would perceive them to be. Kubernetes has become the defacto standard in enabling enterprises to build massive digital architectures to be able to successfully deliver business goals. Yet, only 40% of the companies have completely moved their applications to Kubernetes.

The reason that Kubernetes is successful is because people look at it and they don’t understand why they need it until they see it do stuff. Then they say “Oh my God, I need that!”
Tim Hockin

One of the reasons for this estimated gap in adoption of Kubernetes could be the amount of complexity that it brings to the table. Most organizations lack the expertise required to run and manage multiple Kubernetes clusters. While they acknowledge the benefits that Kubernetes has to offer, deploying large systems at scale in the Kubernetes cloud poses a lot of inconsistencies due to the varied interfaces and different topologies of multiple cloud providers.

Developers and enterprise IT engineers have to learn the nuances of the cloud and deal with all its dependencies. As a result of such a steep learning curve, obstruction of the workflow due to complexities becomes common, developer productivity decreases, and cost increases.

There are multiple factors that deter an enterprise from moving to Kubernetes and here are some factors faced by organizations across all business units:

  • The complete change in approach Kubernetes provides new abstractions and mechanisms for a lot of infra-specific stuff that developers really didn't have much visibility into, but the real problem is pre-k8s developers told servers what they wanted to run but post-k8s they tell servers how they want their applications to run. For Ops teams, complex deployment systems aren't totally new. They have for a long time now created systems wiring up Puppet/Chef/Salt/Ansible, AWS, Terraform, etc. But with Kubernetes, they are facing a situation where they need to learn to solve a complexity that they did not organically build themselves. That's tough and takes time.
  • The initial inertia The IT operations of any enterprise do not shift directions overnight. Also, when it comes to Kubernetes adoption, there is a certain amount of inertia that the developers and IT leaders face due to the drastic change in direction, the increase in budgets and the impending possibility of major downtime. All digital transformation initiatives are generally implemented and driven by developers and IT leaders. Their aim is to take advantage of the next big shift in enterprise IT and thereby position their organizations in the market. All these initiatives need to happen without the involvement or disruption of the rest of the organizational activities. It takes a lot of effort on the part of the app development and IT ops leaders to convince the organization that the benefits of Kubernetes are worth all the trouble.
  • DevOps or SILOs? As discussed before, due to the steep learning curve within their zones of expertise, the developers and IT operation teams have their roles and tasks clearly defined. The goal of the development team is agility in developing and testing new code and apps along with generating all the YAML files that are required for the applications to run on Kubernetes. Meanwhile, the IT Ops are supposed to develop all the necessary supporting artefacts needed for deployment to Kubernetes and at the same time, enable reliability and scalability, enhance performance, and ensure security. Considering both teams have a lot on their plates with limited expertise in the arena, the DevOps system set in place crumbles and before anyone realises turns into SILOs. SILOs end up creating a lot more confusion, slowing down the workflow eventually bringing it to a standstill.
  • Distraction from coding Even when an organization has all the required skills and expertise for moving their applications to the Kubernetes cloud, doing it manually at scale means a huge workload. Deploying to multiple Kubernetes clusters require the creation of YAML files and all the other supporting artefacts required for the integration. Doing this at scale for large applications and then scaling, managing, and upgrading all the clusters is a massive challenge. In short, a lot of time and effort go into working with Kubernetes cloud clusters thereby leaving no time for improvising the core functionalities of the application.
  • Too many alternatives Considering the challenges in deploying applications to Kubernetes in-house, most organizations consider experimenting with Kubernetes clusters as a platform for deploying containers due to its flexibility and cost savings. All Kubernetes cloud providers are painting themselves as the experts of the field. But, each one has a different way of implementation and a different infrastructure with limited amount of flexibility. With too many variables to consider and too many options in the market, there is no definite way to choose the most suitable one, as each organization is unique and requires an app infrastructure that can complement its business goals.

Towards a road without obstacles

Though there are ways to effectively run multiple app clusters without Kubernetes, deploying to Kubernetes is the preferred way as it makes the container operational aspects simpler. To overcome all the challenges discussed above, organizations are required to take a methodical approach and implement best practices to ensure smooth maintainability, as well as seamless developer interaction. In order to speed up the transition to Kubernetes journey, it is imperative to have a well-knit strategy.

Enterprises today need to smartly choose which skills need to be developed and which ones need to be automated or outsourced. One can either look for a suitable Kubernetes cloud service provider or a platform that can check all the requirement check-boxes of the organization or set in place a self-service DevOps system than can enable dev and IT Ops teams to work in perfect sync.