Unlocking the power of Kubernetes without sacrificing its security

Unlocking the power of Kubernetes without sacrificing its security

As soon as Docker hit the market in the early 2010s, it was only a matter of time before containers took over as the ideal choice for application deployment by enterprise DevOps teams. The increasing presence of cloud services as the decentralized replacement for central tech infrastructure forced enterprise companies to adopt versatile IT solutions. And Docker was just the beginning. 

Since then, Google’s open-source container orchestration system, Kubernetes, has taken over the DevOps realm. By allowing companies to orchestrate their containerized workloads across a lightweight digital infrastructure, this technology is optimizing how large-scale companies do business. The promise of this technology is such that Gartner predicts upwards of 75% of all multinational organizations will leverage Kubernetes clusters by 2022. 

However, with all the container orchestration benefits, this technology is still very much in its infancy. In many ways, it is allowing developers to run before they walk, at least from operations and security perspective. So, to match the power of Kubernetes clusters with the necessary oversight, enterprise IT departments must understand how to maximize Kubernetes’ potential.  

The Double-Edged Sword of Using Kubernetes for Cloud Services

A complete picture of the functionality and benefits Kubernetes affords users helps in understanding the pain points. The power that Kubernetes unlocks from an infrastructure perspective is that it allows large-scale companies to deploy, scale, and manage their application containers through an automated engine. 

Flexible, Extensible, Powerful

Production experts at Google leveraged decades of collective experience to create a flexible, extensible, and powerful system. Enterprises can create Kubernetes clusters of any size to perfectly match their needs while allowing for the vertical and horizontal scaling of these clusters as those needs change over time. Essentially, Kubernetes is the same technology that the tech giant uses to run millions upon millions of containers for years. 

Errors and Security Risks 

A recent report from two of America’s largest security agencies perfectly illustrates the security risk of Kubernetes clusters’ use. The NSA and CIS Cybersecurity Technical Report, titled Kubernetes Hardening Guidance, explains that the benefits of the container orchestration tool also leave organizations exposed to harmful access — both internal and external. The authors state, “Kubernetes clusters can be complex to secure and are often abused in compromises that exploit their misconfigurations.”

This report is the culmination of years of frustration at the DevSecOps level, where everything from sensitive data to unused computing power is accessible to malicious actors. Internal threats are another common issue where administrators, users, or providers do not have their privileges properly constrained. High-profile security issues, like the Verizon customer data exposure on unprotected AWS servers, are leading more and more companies to adopt the next generation of tools for managing Kubernetes clusters: policy management engines.

Security Kubernetes Clusters with Policy Management

Policies are the oversight guidelines programmed into the system to ensure that the CI/CD pipeline is upheld.  Policy engines give cluster administrators the ability to enforce cluster- and container-specific best practices throughout multi-cloud application environments.

Security Kubernetes Clusters with Policy Management

Currently, the options for the top Kubernetes policy engine come down to two names: Kyverno vs. OPA. The former created an open-sourced by Nirmata and now a CNCF project, is relatively new, while the latter has been around for a couple more years. While they both provide similar capabilities at the broad level, key differences between the two policy engines make Kyverno ideal for large enterprises that predominantly deploy Kubernetes clusters. 

Two major benefits help set Kyverno apart from OPA as the leading policy engine for Kubernetes in the enterprise: Kubernetes-native programming and extended functionality. Unlike OPA, Kyverno is Kubernetes-native, meaning DevOps teams are not required to learn a new language to implement the powerful policy resources. Additionally, Kyverno offers automated policy generation at a more fine-grained level than OPA and other policy engines. 

The team at Nirmata developed Kyverno enabling more enterprise teams to conquer the complexity of Kubernetes once and for all. Through the combination of extensive container management experience and deep knowledge of Kubernetes architecture, Nirmata allows enterprises to unleash the full power of their Kubernetes clusters while still maintaining the necessary level of security.

Kyverno and Nirmata Policy Manager 

Continuous compliance is the name of the game when it comes to security Kubernetes infrastructure. Policy management in large, automated Kubernetes environments is challenging to manage manually, with continuous monitoring of practices virtually impossible in these situations. However, the extended functionality of the Kyverno engine makes this level of compliance possible through the use of Policy-as-Code functionality. 

Policy-as-Code is one of the numerous features of Nirmata Policy Manager for Kyverno making it a powerful tool for securely optimizing Kubernetes clusters. Some of the other features include: 

  • In-cluster admission controls that allow for resource validation, mutation, and generation based on programmed policies
  • Dynamic configurations, including those which are automated and fine-grained
  • Policy violation reporting at various scopes e.g. cluster, namespace, resource
  • Increased collaboration between Development, Operations, and Security teams with customizable reports, guidelines, best practices, and other information relevant to CI/CD.

Once properly implemented,, the Kyverno policy engine enables companies to realize a host of benefits. In particular, the curated policy sets help by immediately enforcing secure workloads across and within Kubernetes clusters. This leads to a more secure digital space for self-service needs and also helps reduce configuration errors. 

Essentially, Nirmata’s policy management tool helps eliminate the security risks of Kubernetes clusters without hampering the key benefits of flexibility and rapid scaling. Kyverno is currently one of the best ways for DevSecOps teams to unlock all the power and potential stored within Kubernetes clusters. If you want to learn more about how policy management, Kubernetes architecture and the Kyverno engine are changing the multi-cloud application environment landscape, reach out to the experts at Nirmata today!

Learn more about Kyverno for OSS needs on this page.


image source:  https://unsplash.com/photos/EUsVwEOsblE

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