Getting over the hype to drive potential – from kale to Kubernetes
Tue 17 Nov 2020 | James Orme
Is Kubernetes the kale diet of the enterprise world? VMware Tanzu’s Bas Lemmens explores
When kale first became synonymous with healthy eating, consumers rushed to buy kilos of it. However, without other ingredients or the right recipe what ends up on the plate can be pretty underwhelming, and in some cases plain inedible.
It’s no coincidence then, that a bag of kale is the first thing to pop into my head when I think about Kubernetes – a recent craze within the tech industry.
Just like kale, Kubernetes has been given a lot of attention, as an emerging technology that can help streamline DevOps teams. But following the hype – whether it’s a new superfood phenomenon or cutting-edge technology – runs the risk that they become viewed as ‘silver bullet’ solutions, and avoid the critical planning required to make them a success.
Indeed, when we think about container technology – we know that while it was once the domain of developers, IT operations are now taking control, and Kubernetes is out in front. According to VMware’s The State of Kubernetes 2020 report, although it’s early days for enterprise adoption – more than half of respondents (57%) operate fewer than 10 Kubernetes clusters, and 60% run less than half of containerised workloads on Kubernetes – momentum is increasing. Spending on containers is up too, with one in four enterprises now allocating more than $250,000 a year on these technologies.
Thinking about superfoods and super tech
As the adoption of Kubernetes moves beyond the experimental phase, it’s imperative for IT teams to be fully aware of the value added by adoption, before investing millions in container technologies. This can be likened to the hype surrounding superfoods – such as kale. Kubernetes is often seen as a ‘fix all problems’ product with massive potential. Similar to superfoods though, such as kale, it’s about how you use it that really counts.
It’s important for IT teams not to rush into buying kilos of Kubernetes – assuming naively it’s the only solution for achieving agility, positive customer experience and innovation. Defining business outcomes before investing time, energy and money is the best approach to maximise investments.
A silver bullet solution?
It requires more than just Kubernetes to achieve business outcomes. Hype surrounds the technology and term Kubernetes. A lot of false expectations exist too. Some companies may have heard on the IT grapevine that Google, AWS, Netflix, and Microsoft bet on Docker as a container format and Kubernetes as the orchestration engine – that the technology can scale and provide infrastructure at the same level as the big players. Simultaneously they may not be aware that the whole business model of such companies focuses on making infrastructure fluid and immediately available. Regular customers have a very different business model, with solutions based on trusted platforms by trusted partners that have solved virtualisation in the past, and those partners now have solutions to achieve the same outcomes with containerisation.
Of course, Kubernetes technology also has its benefits. Businesses can become more efficient in their use of IT and achieve better results, faster, from development life cycles. They’ll produce better software because via more automation and standardisation. Organisations can then use software to explore new business opportunities, experiment with the best ways to profit from ideas, and evolve accordingly. In contrast, a ‘non-K competitor’ will have a harder time evolving software quickly, and the software supply chain will become a bottleneck for helpful ideas they have.
Getting the right dose of Kubernetes
Kubernetes is still a maturing technology that needs a degree of handholding to ensure successful deployment. It’s useful to build efficient platforms, because it can be extended, and gives good abstractions to interact with containers, scheduling them in an efficient way. But if you think you can simply install it and be productive, you’ll find yourself on a rocky road. You have to train and enable teams. Everything is different in Kubernetes, starting from the declarative definition of how you want your systems to be run, to the way you enable logging and routing on pods.
To make things easier, organisations may want to look at certain tools and existing systems that reduce complexity overall, rather than jump on every bandwagon that, in an architectural context, only adds complexity to an already complex world.
Once large organisations switch over to a cloud native platform, developers can get more productive and create more sustainable streams of software updates. This means that these organisations can start to explore new features and approaches to solving business problems with software, every week. While a week’s worth of code might seem small, it adds up over time to major changes. Best of all, because organisations are testing features out with real-world feedback, changes are validated with data: software is only getting better.
Cloud native platforms like Tanzu Application Service and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid help out here because they put in place self-service options for development teams and standardise how infrastructure is created and managed. This not only removes a tremendous amount of time-consuming manual work, but also leads to better production resilience and security, because developers can follow a set path and it’s harder to deviate from best practice.
The ultimate beneficiaries of Kubernetes
Developers get the most tangible benefits from Kubernetes. According to VMware’s report, the top two benefits are improved resource utilisation (56%), and shortened software development cycles (53%). Instead of waiting weeks or months for the simple infrastructure needed, let alone complex clouds to run applications in, developers can now get those environments quickly and through self-service.
Operations equally benefit. Less time is spent on mundane tasks, and production is stable and reliable. Once business teams know how to take advantage of a weekly release cycle to test new features, they benefit as well by getting a fast time-to-market, and a tool to evolve the business with validated data.
There are many traditional ways to design and run software. This variability adds extra expense, time, and risk to the software process – as years of over-budget, over-schedule, and under-featured software shows. Adopting Kubernetes technology may well be the right way forward for your company – just like incorporating kale into your diet may be better for your health. Kubernetes puts in place one way to design and run software, removing waste for you to focus on the actual software, getting rid of the hassle of managing it whilst worrying about ever-extending timelines.
Written by James Orme Tue 17 Nov 2020