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Build a Custom Kubernetes Platform? Or Try the Insights Free Tier?

As businesses grow and scale, the deployment of applications and services on production Kubernetes environments becomes increasingly prevalent. Platform engineering and development teams often grapple with ensuring these applications run securely, reliably, and cost effectively. While establishing Kubernetes policies for consistency and standardization is essential, the real debate often revolves around the development and maintenance of tooling: build custom internal tools, adopt open-source solutions, or tap into the potential of a commercial platform?

Develop Internal Tools

For many platform engineering and development teams, building your own tools internally may initially appear to be an attractive option. Solutions can be developed and customized to the particular challenges being faced within your organization. If you have the time, a large budget, and existing internal resources, internal tools allow you to build exactly what you need and modify them as your company’s needs change.

Unfortunately, most organizations find that they don’t have the necessary resources or scale to make this strategy effective — it's simply not worth the time and effort required. Building internal solutions typically results in lost productivity on other, business critical, projects. In addition, if the developers who built the internal tool leave the organization, it may be very difficult to find other internal resources with the knowledge and skills to update and maintain the custom solution.

Frequently, but not always, internal tools provide less robust functionality than established commercial solutions. Before you decide to develop and maintain a home-grown tool, consider the time, money, and resources it will take — and whether it makes sense for your organization to direct them towards that instead of activities that contribute to larger business goals.

The Appeal of Open Source Tools

The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) is a testament to the power of the collaborative efforts of the cloud native community, consistently delivering valuable open source tools tailored for scalable applications across diverse cloud environments. Fairwinds, as part of this ecosystem, has offered the Kubernetes community a suite of open source solutions that focus on security, reliability, and efficiency:

  • Polaris: Pinpoints Kubernetes deployment configuration errors.
  • Goldilocks: Assists in setting the appropriate resource requests and limits.
  • Pluto: Finds deprecated Kubernetes apiVersions in code repositories and Helm releases.
  • Base Image Finder: Identifies base images and reports vulnerabilities.
  • And more open source solutions that solve pain points and empower the community.

Furthermore, the larger CNCF community provides tools such as Trivy, a vulnerability scanner for containers and other artifacts, and the Open Policy Agent (OPA), a policy engine to enforce consistency across infrastructure and applications. While these tools offer extensive capabilities, they come with the caveat of needing deployment across clusters, integration with other DevOps tooling, standardized reporting, regular updates, and support.

The Transition to a Comprehensive Kubernetes Platform

Open source is undeniably an excellent starting point for organizations shifting to cloud native deployments. However, as organizations evolve, so do their needs. Here, solutions such as Fairwinds Insights come into play. The Insights free tier, suitable for environments of up to twenty nodes, two clusters, and a single repo, serves as an excellent introductory platform. It encapsulates the essence of various open-source tools in a fully integrated platform, providing a consolidated, hassle-free experience.

Benefits of Transitioning to Fairwinds Insights

  1. Policy Enforcement: The platform can quickly spot and rectify inconsistencies, enabling automatic policy enforcement throughout the CI/CD pipeline, from code check-in through deployment. With Fairwinds Insights, hundreds of built-in policies provide teams with immediate value by helping enforce best practices automatically. As needs evolve over time, teams can also leverage custom policies to tune the solution to their specific requirements.
  1. Seamless Integrations: Fairwinds Insights integrates multiple open source tools together into a comprehensive platform that provides unified reporting across development and deployment pipelines. It makes information actionable through integrations and automations with all of the leading DevOps tools, including Github, CI/CD, JIRA, Slack, PagerDuty, and more.

As Don Scott, VP of New Product Development at Hitachi Solutions, notes, “Fairwinds has wrapped open-source tooling into something easy to integrate with, which is a big, big win for Hitachi Solutions. Forget about the cost per node, the cost to integrate products can be huge. We know since this is our core value proposition with our own products… We get to tap into this investment rather than spend tens of weeks of engineering time to build out a compelling integration.”

  1. Security: Leveraging open source tools such as Polaris, Trivy, and Falco, Insights helps teams ensure the security of their application containers and Kubernetes infrastructure with capabilities ranging from IaC scanning to container scanning for vulnerabilities and misconfigurations to security scanning of the runtime environment.
  1. Reliability and Cost Efficiency: Earned from extensive experience as a managed services provider, Fairwinds' expertise is reflected in a number of Insights features that help companies ensure their deployments are reliable and scalable. In addition, companies gain visibility into workload resource allocation along with automated tools to help them optimize their resource usage to lower cloud spend (typically by 25-30% or more).

The Verdict

While creating custom tools or using disparate open source solutions may initially seem appealing, they come with inherent challenges. Open source is an excellent starting point, providing vital resources and community-driven solutions. However, as businesses scale and requirements become more complex, a solution such as Fairwinds Insights, which amalgamates the best of open source, becomes invaluable.

Interested in experiencing a holistic Kubernetes governance platform? Dive into Fairwinds Insights for free today and harness the power of a unified solution designed for the cloud-native world.