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5 challenges that can put your Kubernetes deployments at risk


As companies choose Kubernetes as a core component of their cloud computing strategy, IT leaders are faced with unexpected challenges - challenges that, if left untreated, can completely undermine the promise of their Kubernetes implementations. These potential roadblocks both limit the success of deployments and hamper the overall adoption of Kubernetes within an organization, causing many companies to question why they adopted K8s in the first place.

But don’t worry: this won’t be you. You’re reading this article because you want to avoid Kubernetes challenges and roadblocks, and we’re going to tell you exactly what you need to do to keep your Kubernetes efforts afloat.

Here are the top five challenges that IT leaders will need to address in order to gain the most value from their Kubernetes investments.

1. Inefficient Kubernetes operations

The complexities of Kubernetes can lead to ineffective container and cluster operations at many organizations. Containers and Kubernetes are powerful technologies, but are often far too difficult for most IT teams to efficiently manage and scale, especially for organizations that want to keep a cloud agnostic stance and deploy to multiple providers.

Whether you deploy in public clouds, on premises or in a hybrid cloud, inefficient Kubernetes operations often result from generic CI/CD workflows that aren’t optimized for your specific applications and development processes.

Misconfiguration or overprovisioning of clusters can lead to bottlenecks, performance problems, and monetary losses. Many organizations face issues with resource conflicts and auto-scaling, and lack good mechanisms for managing cluster expenses. Additionally, upgrades are particularly painful and often cause costly downtime for enterprises.

2. Lack of DevOps and Kubernetes expertise

The complexity of Kubernetes can be a major obstacle, for even the most sophisticated teams. In recent years, thousands of teams have started dabbling with containers and Kubernetes, and as their deployments mature, many lack the expertise to execute faster and scale. This leads to goals that can’t be met, and projects that are doomed from the start. And unfortunately, at many long-standing enterprises in traditional industries, IT teams often start adopting containers and Kubernetes without a true understanding or appreciation of DevOps, limiting the potential success of their implementation.

Especially critical is the lack of expertise for customizing CI/CD workflows or deploying valuable GitOps automations, such as for auto-pushing applications to production when changes are made to the app repository. Without sufficient knowledge and hands-on experience, the depth of operational insights and speed of incident remediation also suffer, potentially leading to lost productivity, outages, or worse. Application resilience can also degrade without the necessary health checks, resource constraints, and other best practices in place.

Unfortunately for organizations trying to hire, we’re currently in the midst of a global shortage of Kubernetes and DevOps expertise, and companies have struggled for years to hire and retain technical staff with these skill sets.

3. Security vulnerabilities

Security is always top of mind for IT leaders, as breaches can devastate a business with reputational damage, lost clientele, costly lawsuits and fines. With Kubernetes, properly securing CI/CD pipelines, clusters, and networks at scale quickly becomes overwhelming without the right tooling, resources, and expertise.

Production Kubernetes deployments should have continuous proactive security, including container vulnerability reporting, container image scanning, namespace monitoring, and conformance and security audits. An easy-to-use RBAC model should be in place that is optimized for your organization’s structure and use case. When security issues arise, continuous remediation systems should be ready to quickly identify issues, determine their root cause, and provide timely fixes. All too often, these security measures are not in place, which leaves companies open to threatening vulnerabilities, which can take down even the most promising Kubernetes initiative.

4. Reduced developer focus

One of the inherent challenges of Kubernetes adoption is the time it takes away from developers for building applications. And developers aren’t the biggest fans of this conundrum, either. They would rather be coding.

With Kubernetes, application developers need to contend with a different development process, learn how to work with YAML manifest and config files, and support their applications in production. Provisioning, managing, and monitoring infrastructure become part of application developers’ domain, when most would really rather focus on just building applications that deliver customer value. Kubernetes can be extremely time-consuming to run and manage, and when your developers aren’t creating code, they’re not providing value in the best way they can.

The cost of not devoting developer time and energy to code and applications? Slower innovations and time to market, and limited production for your organization.

5. Developer burnout

Snoop around any popular Kubernetes discussion board, and you’ll find one conversation topic, guaranteed: Developers venting about overwork and burnout. Many application developers are overwhelmed with needing to learn Kubernetes and use it in their daily work… along with managing their daily tasks.

Being responsible for operational tasks in addition to building applications is leading to developer burnout and turnover at many organizations… because developers weren’t meant to be operations experts. They want to code and create applications. If they’re doing this less often, it’s likely they’re going to be unhappy. Some developers are choosing to leave the field entirely, which could lead to a worldwide slowdown in technology innovation and growth.

In order to support your developers and protect your company’s ability to innovate, IT leaders need to find a way to remove the burden of infrastructure deployment and operations from application developers. Otherwise, developers are on a one-way downhill slope towards inevitable burnout. And the risks of that are simply too great to ignore.

Improve your Kubernetes projects

In light of these challenges, many organizations are ramping up their internal expertise. Some are investing more in their workforce talent, by attempting to hire more site reliability engineers, DevOps engineers, and sys admins and/or providing technical training to existing staff.

However, many companies don’t want to skew their technical workforce so much towards infrastructure and operations, preferring to optimize their organizational structure for customer-focused innovation. (It’s also time-consuming and costly to continue hiring new employees every time you want a new skill.) For these companies, it makes sense to strategically partner with third-party vendors who specialize in Kubernetes and DevOps-related services - for access to the skills your team needs, without adding a significant headcount.

One effective model that IT leaders should consider is DevOps-as-a-Service, which can provide organizations with Kubernetes and DevOps expertise to optimize security and operations, while also relieving developers of infrastructure related tasks. This “as-a-Service” model infuses your team with the exact skill sets and expertise you’re looking for, as-needed, at a much lower price point than a full-time employee.

Mirantis Professional Services can provide DevOps-as-a-Service -- a comprehensive, collaborative process whereby any validated Kubernetes platform running on any infrastructure (bare metal, private cloud, public cloud) can be adapted to customer requirements, enhanced, tested, readied for dev and production, and then remotely managed. This frees your organization from the burden of doing platform engineering and the day-to-day hassles of Kubernetes operations. Mirantis Professional Services offers a-la-carte platform engineering and comprehensive Devops-as-a-Service with compelling guaranteed outcomes: adhering to short timetables for solution integration, build, test, and training, and to strict operational SLAs to ensure ROI, hit cost targets, and maximize your developers' productivity and strategic focus.

To learn more about how DevOps-as-a-Service can help overcome critical Kubernetes challenges and improve your deployment outcomes, please read our Platform Engineering Service Brief.

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