When organizations move to Kubernetes, the most obvious, pressing challenges are related to Day 0 and Day 1 — design and deployment. The push to Kubernetes is often driven by a desire to improve developer agility, improve development velocity, and remove friction in the development process by giving developers access to self-service provisioning. Given these motivations, it’s not surprising that the focus is often on the development stage.
Many organizations do see dramatic improvements in velocity and agility, moving from deploying monthly to daily, for example. But an application’s lifecycle doesn’t end at deployment. The longest life-cycle phase for any application is the production phase when it needs to be monitored, upgraded, and secured. These Day 2 Kubernetes operations are essential to continued success with Kubernetes but can be neglected in the rush to deploy.
Ignoring Day 2 can ultimately doom the Kubernetes initiative, preventing organizations from taking advantage of the agility and speed cloud-native offers. Especially for mission-critical applications in an enterprise setting, reliability, availability, risk management, and monitoring are not optional. Too many incidents and the Kubernetes experiment is likely to be canceled.
The move to Kubernetes doesn’t come in a vacuum, either. It’s often accompanied by a move to hybrid and multi-cloud environments; often each environment has slightly different configuration requirements and operational needs. Kubernetes itself is complex, and at scale can involve managing many clusters spread across multiple clouds. In addition, Kubernetes isn’t used alone. Most companies use dozens of additional tools to manage everything from CI/CD pipelines to monitoring. This can lead to a proliferation of dashboards that further complicates the operational story, and makes it difficult to get an easy overview of the health of the system.
Day 2 challenges with Kubernetes Operations
Here are some of the most common Day 2 pitfalls that companies run into with Kubernetes.
Health and Availability. Particularly with mission-critical apps, the ability to meet uptime SLAs is both essential and challenging, especially as complexity grows and organizations struggle to build the Kubernetes-specific skills needed to ensure high availability.
Monitoring and logging. Organizations need monitoring and logging tools that will work across clusters and workloads to get the information they need from Kubernetes deployments, and legacy monitoring tools often can’t do so.
CI/CD integration. A surprising number of new Kubernetes users have trouble figuring out how to build a paved road to get the application into production. Integration with DevOps workflows and CI/CD is essential to getting the developer agility and speed organizations are looking for from Kubernetes.
Platform management. Provisioning and managing cluster add-ons as shared platform services, including setting up load balancing, is challenging in an enterprise environment. Unless tools are in place to allow developers to manage this process themselves, it can also be a friction point in the development workflow.
Security and governance. Organizations need a way to ensure that security best practices and organizational governance policies are enforced for any workloads in production. The distributed nature of Kubernetes — as well as the fast, DevOps-style delivery methods it usually goes hand-in-hand with — make this challenging unless guardrails are put in place and central platform teams have both visibility and control.
The core challenge in managing Kubernetes operations on Day 2 comes down to managing complexity. There are too many knobs to configure and tools in use for an operations team to effectively ensure correct configurations, make sense of the logs and build self-service capabilities for developers without the help of an integrated platform.
Tame operational complexity
Cloud-native systems become exponentially more complex with scale. The combination of multiple clusters, tools, compliance frameworks, business units, and cloud environments can quickly become too complex to visualize or manage. Here are some of the components that organizations need to succeed for Day 2 Kubernetes operations.
A single pane of glass platform. Operations teams need the ability to visualize the entire system in one place, with one unified dashboard. Information that’s buried in dozens of separate tools needs to be pulled into one place so that teams can easily see how different signals relate to each other and get an idea of the system’s general health in minutes.
Complete separation of concerns. Application developers should be able to self-serve as much as possible, relying on a small team of platform engineers to manage the underlying operating system.
Centralized policy controls. Operations teams need a way to centrally control cluster and workload policies to ensure that Kubernetes and containers are configured according to the organization’s policies around security, compliance, and other best practices. Without the ability to centrally manage policies, mistakes are almost inevitable.
Kubernetes-native monitoring and logging for security and availability. The central management pane has to include robust monitoring capabilities that are designed to work in a cloud-native environment. Operators need to be able to monitor both potential security vulnerabilities as well as performance and availability issues.
Resource utilization tools. Many organizations hope to reduce their IT spend by moving to cloud-native — and many are unpleasantly surprised to find that moving to the cloud does not always translate to reduced costs. Managing Day 2 Kubernetes operations has to include tools to help companies understand their costs, optimize resource utilization, and eventually reduce overall costs.
Better Day 2 Kubernetes operations
It’s never too early to start thinking about Day 2 operations. The choices organizations make at the design and implementation phases have dramatic consequences on Day 2. Not only should the monitoring tools and centralized controls ideally be put into place before an application is deployed, but establishing the right guardrails for application developers can both reduce development friction while also simplifying operations down the road.
Nirmata’s platform helps operations teams meet enterprise Day 2 requirements while increasing the opportunities for developers to self-serve. Curious? Download the Day 2 Kubernetes whitepaper to learn more on how Nirmata can assist with your Kubernetes operations. Please reach-out to us here with any questions you may have on Day 2 needs and how Nirmata assists DevOps with Kubernetes operations.