As containers have taken hold as the standard method of developing and deploying cloud-native applications, many organizations are adopting Kubernetes as the solution they use for container orchestration. A recent Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) survey showed that 96% of respondents were using or evaluating Kubernetes and 93% of respondents are using containers in production environments. In other words, containers and Kubernetes are becoming prevalent, particularly in emerging technology hubs such as Africa where 73% are using Kubernetes in production. And it’s not only emerging companies adopting these technologies, but large companies as well – frequently even more than smaller ones. But does that mean that these companies are following the basics of Kubernetes best practices? Sometimes…
All too often, organizations rush Kubernetes adoption without fully understanding the complexities inherent in deploying it successfully. Whether you’re still considering when and how to implement Kubernetes or you already have K8s in place, it’s never too late to apply best practices by creating processes, clarifying tasks, and setting your priorities. So, let’s take a step back and look at the top five Kubernetes practices that you need to focus on today to help you maximize the long-term value K8s can provide.
Security is always a critical component of technology, and Kubernetes is no exception. One common misunderstanding people have is in thinking that K8s is secure by default. That sounds great, but it simply isn’t true. Kubernetes manages how stateless microservices run in a cluster by balancing velocity and resilience, which can enable developers more flexibility in how they deploy software. However, those benefits don’t come without security risks if you don’t have the right governance and risk controls in place.
When your K8s deployment is running smoothly, you may think that everything is also configured correctly. Unfortunately, over-permissioning is an easy way to get something you’re struggling with to work. Giving root access can solve a lot of challenges, while also exposing your organization to a denial-of-service (DoS) attack or security breach. In fact, misconfigurations are one of the most challenging concepts in Kubernetes environments. Even minor misconfigurations, particularly containers running with root-level access, are increasingly becoming a vulnerability that cyberattackers look for. These security configurations are not set by default in Kubernetes, they are settings that your security team must establish and then enforce through automation and policies.
Most organizations adopt containers and container orchestration solutions because they are inherently efficient in terms of infrastructure utilization. Containerized environments, quite simply, allow you to run multiple applications per host — each within its own container. That helps you reduce the overall number of compute instances you need and therefore also reduce your infrastructure costs.
Kubernetes dynamically adapts to your workload’s resource utilization and allows automatic scaling (using a Horizontal Pod Autoscaler or HPA) and cluster scaling (using Cluster Autoscaler). Kubernetes allows you to set resource requests and limits on your workloads so you can maximize infrastructure utilization but also ensure that your application performance is smooth. Sounds great, right? Only if you set your Kubernetes resource limits and requests correctly. If your memory limits are too low, K8s will kill your application for violating its limits, but if you set your limits too high, you’ll over-allocate resources — in other words, you’ll pay more than you need to. Figuring out the right resource limits and requests is challenging, both for new adopters of Kubernetes and organizations that have been using Kubernetes for years.
Reliability is always going to be the goal, but achieving Kubernetes reliability is a complex undertaking. It takes skill to optimize Kubernetes, particularly when using technology that predates cloud-native applications and configuration management tools, which don’t always offer the most reliable cloud-native experience. Many organizations continue to use older solutions and layer Kubernetes on top of that, but this makes optimization and reliability even harder to achieve, particularly as your business scales. An excellent way to ensure the reliability of your clusters is to shift to using Infrastructure as Code (IaC), which helps you to reduce human error, increase consistency and repeatability, improve auditability, and make disaster recovery easier.
One common approach to adopting Kubernetes is to pilot it with a single application, which is an excellent way to get started. But once your organization commits to using Kubernetes across multiple applications, development teams, and operation teams, it becomes challenging to manage cluster configuration for workloads that are inconsistently deployed. When your teams don’t have guardrails on how to deploy, you’ll quickly find that you have discrepancies in configurations across your containers and clusters. These discrepancies can be challenging to identify, correct, and keep consistent. It’s also difficult to manually identify these misconfigurations.
To manage multi-cluster environments, you need to establish Kubernetes policies to enforce consistent security, efficiency, and reliability configurations. While policies can enable best practices across the board, some may be specific to your organization or environment. A best practices document seems like a good way to manage these policies, but it’s likely to fall by the wayside fast. Adopting Kubernetes policy enforcement tools can help you prevent common misconfigurations from being released, enable IT compliance, and empower your teams to ship with confidence — because they know that guardrails are in place to enforce your policies.
Monitoring configurations are frequently an afterthought — many organizations don’t think about setting up until something goes wrong. But optimizing monitoring and alerting in Kubernetes can help you ensure that your infrastructure and applications are up and running, which requires you to use the right tools to optimize your monitoring capabilities. For most teams, that means you need to think about what needs to be monitored and why. Understanding which configurations are risky or wasting resources, identifying security and compliance risks early, and uncovering misconfigurations before deployment can help you resolve issues early and prevent many possible issues.
Kubernetes security, cost optimization, reliability, policy enforcement, and monitoring and alerting are complicated. While Kubernetes offers many capabilities that organizations are increasingly adopting and taking advantage of, they also require your deployments to work well at the deployment level and the cluster level alike. It can be hard for many teams adopting Kubernetes, or even those that already have it in place, to know where to start when it comes to implementing these Kubernetes best practices.
Kubernetes can enable your organizations to increase the utility and productivity of your containers and build cloud-native applications that can run anywhere. To maximize your Kubernetes implementation, it’s essential to ensure that you’re following these five Kubernetes best practices. With the right technology and Kubernetes guardrails in place, you’ll be able to deliver on the promise of building scalable, efficient cloud-native applications that can run anywhere, independent of cloud-specific requirements reliably and securely.
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