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When Should You Bring in a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service Provider?

In the ever-evolving landscape of cloud computing, Kubernetes is a cornerstone technology for container orchestration. As organizations increasingly use Kubernetes, assessing K8s maturity in this complex ecosystem is a critical way to understand where your organization is now and how (and why) to move to the next stage. Understanding your Kubernetes maturity can help determine whether or when it makes sense to consider a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider

Understanding Kubernetes Maturity

Kubernetes maturity refers to your organization’s ability to efficiently and effectively manage Kubernetes environments. This includes the deployment, operation, scaling, and optimization of Kubernetes clusters. A maturity assessment can help your organization understand your current capabilities, identify gaps, and plan for improvements or external support. Here are five key areas to consider when assessing Kubernetes maturity:

  1. Infrastructure Automation: Automation is pivotal in managing Kubernetes clusters. Assess the degree to which deployment, scaling, and management processes are automated. High maturity in this area typically involves infrastructure as code (IaC), automated provisioning, and auto-scaling capabilities.

  2. CI/CD Integration: Continuous integration and continuous deployment (CI/CD) are essential for agile development and operations. Kubernetes can and ideally should be well integrated with your CI/CD pipelines. Mature integration enables seamless development, testing, and deployment workflows.

  3. Monitoring and Logging: Effective monitoring and logging practices are important for achieving operational excellence. Assess the tools and processes you have in place for monitoring cluster performance, resource usage, and application health. Mature practices should offer comprehensive visibility into both your infrastructure and applications.

  4. Security and Compliance: Kubernetes environments must adhere to security best practices and regulatory compliance requirements. Evaluate your security posture, paying particular attention to network policies, access controls, secret management, and compliance auditing.

  5. Skillset and Culture: Kubernetes requires expertise. While managed Kubernetes services from cloud providers, such as AKS, EKS, and GKE, make it simple to get started with Kubernetes, cluster deployments alone are not enough. In-house teams need to become Kubernetes experts, but often lack the resources and expertise to do so effectively. Does your team possess the necessary skills and want to do this in-house, or do you want your developers to focus on delivering your apps and services? 

Stages of Kubernetes Maturity

  1. Prepare: Understand how cloud native and Kubernetes can help drive business and technical objectives, understand costs, and agree on goals.

  2. Transform: Learn how to set up K8s infrastructure and shift workloads, becoming familiar with Kubernetes terminology and map existing technologies to cloud native contexts.

  3. Deploy: Determine what processes need to be implemented from CI/CD through production. At this stage, you’re building a solid foundation for K8s workloads, are ready to deploy Kubernetes across your org, are implementing the build and deployment processes via CI/CD, and are implementing some monitoring and observability. 

  4. Build Confidence: You’re building confidence through experience, establishing core standards around IaC and configuration, selecting K8s add-ons, and using monitoring tools more broadly to help understand and identify service challenges.

  5. Improve Operations & Control: Focus on improving security, efficiency, and reliability by adjusting cluster configurations. Maintaining Kubernetes may become easier, but you may also have more complex requirements and need outside K8s expertise.

  6. Optimize & Automate: Increase your monitoring and alerting to better understand your workloads. You’ll also want to enforce policies to improve reliability, security, and efficiency. This final phase never really ends as you’ll want to continue optimizing your workloads.

When to Consider a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service Provider

Fairwinds defined the Kubernetes Maturity model as a tool to help you understand where you need to focus attention, or when you require help, during your journey to cloud native. After assessing your Kubernetes maturity, you may find areas where you want to bring in additional resources or expertise. Here are a few scenarios when partnering with a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider might be beneficial:

  1. Kubernetes Consistency: The ability to easily spin up clusters is great — until infrastructure teams need to manage them. If you need help consolidating and standardizing your Kubernetes environment, Managed Kubernetes-as-a-service can make that easy. 

  2. Kubernetes Adoption or Migration: When you need help managing your migration and adoption of Kubernetes without needing to hire a team of in-house experts. 

  3. K8s Lifecycle Management: Spend time turning your Kubernetes platform into the developer platform your organization requires. Leave upgrades of K8s and third-party add-ons to your Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider. Then you can spend time building unique benefits, leaving the time-consuming upgrade process to them.

  4. Support K8s for Third- Party Applications: Some tools are built on EKS, AKS, or GCP, which means using them may require you to adopt Kubernetes. If Kubernetes isn’t your core competency, an outside provider can manage these third party applications so you don't need to become K8s experts.

  5. Multi-cloud transition: If you’re operating primarily in one Kubernetes cloud provider, you may need help replicating one Kubernetes cloud environment across other providers. Each provider is different, and a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider knows each one inside and out.

Where Are You in Your K8s Journey?

Self-assessing your Kubernetes maturity is an important way for any organization using this technology to understand current capabilities, identify gaps, and decide whether to invest in internal training on K8s, hiring Kube experts, or partner with a Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider. If your assessment reveals significant gaps, you may want to bring in a people-led Kubernetes-as-a-Service provider. By choosing a partner that provides hands-on management of the Kubernetes platform, including tooling, automation, and lifecycle management, your organization can not only address any current limitations and strategically position itself for future growth and innovation in the cloud-native ecosystem.

Fairwinds provides Managed Kubernetes-as-a-Service. Let us get you production grade clusters so you can focus on your core business, not infrastructure.