The open-source and Cloud-native container management platform, Kubernetes, is a game-changer for businesses looking to make their development, testing, and production phases more consistent across platforms.
While nowhere near as existential, the same questions being asked around AI and machine learning are already being asked of Kubernetes. Will they threaten and replace the roles of IT teams given their ability to ‘orchestrate’ and ‘automate’ the management of containerised environments? And as always, the reality is that new technologies create opportunity rather than remove them.
Developers already have significant freedom, independence and influence over purchasing decisions – with between 70-79% feeling they have either significant or complete influence over these kinds of investments, according to IDC. When you consider 2.7 million of the 6.5 million total cloud native developers thought to exist around the globe are using Kubernetes, according to the CNCF, that’s a significant chunk of the talent base that IT teams must consult and support.. With the cloud-native developer base also growing, it shows that these next-generation technologies are actually bringing more people into the IT management and software development industry than they are taking away.
All of these increasingly fast and automated development cycles and spinning up containers left, right, and centre creates two things: cost and data. Who manages and limits the cost of these platforms, and who manages and protects the huge volumes of data being created? The answer will always be highly skilled human beings.
As with any disruptive technology, Kubernetes cannot be deployed and managed without a period of education and experimentation. Businesses are in that exciting, but sometimes frustrating, phase of deploying Kubernetes where they are trying new things. One of the core capabilities IT teams are already seeing is the value Kubernetes bring when grouping together the containers that make up an application into logical units. This application-centric approach to Kubernetes gives IT teams the ability to accelerate and scale application delivery without the risk of human error. This means the business can deliver applications faster, at greater scale, and with greater accuracy.
What’s arguably more exciting to talk about though is not just what Kubernetes can do, but what they might be able to achieve at a broader level. Fundamentally, Kubernetes is democratising and commoditising infrastructure for software developers, serving as the core for modern, Cloud-native applications. This takes us towards what comes next for the technology. Kubernetes can run on almost any platform, but the same applications can almost run freely between them.
This flexibility could mean that IT teams start to manage their entire infrastructure using Kubernetes rather than using separate management layers for containers, virtual machines, cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS (News - Alert)). Such a powerful management capability would have all sorts of implications for IT teams in terms of the level of control they truly have over their infrastructure. For example, this could change how businesses manage costs and ensure they are complying to relevant data regulations. However, it could also mean so much more in terms of what is possible and the speed of software and application development cycles. This is just one way that Kubernetes could seriously drive up the value of an organisation’s IT function, as well as the value of IT skills.
Industries such as financial services, retail, and manufacturing just to name a few are already a matter of not who can do what, but who can do it first when it comes to application development? Who can innovate fastest and respond to changing market demand and customer expectations in days rather than months? This scenario takes IT out of the data centre and into the boardroom – with a strategic seat in the future of every business.
Back to school for IT
With great power comes responsibility. To seize this opportunity with both hands, IT teams need to feel empowered with the authority, tools and skills to maximise the opportunity Kubernetes presents. This requires a leap of faith into the unknown. This stuff can make us infrastructure folk a little nervous. But many have already made the leap – we recently found in our Cloud Protection Trends Report 2021 that as many as 61% of organizations globally are either already using containers in production, actively testing them, or are intending to use them within the next year. My response to the concern from some is let’s do what we do best and ask the same questions we do of any platform. What does it sit on and how do we enable the correct and required architecture? When you view it from a platform or infrastructure level, it doesn’t matter if we are dealing with individual applications or specific challenges around physical, virtual, cloud, Kubernetes, and the wider Cloud-Native ecosystem. They all have advantages and disadvantages but that doesn’t stop people moving their most critical workloads to the optimum platform. This is a scenario where the old adage “just because you can it doesn’t mean you should” could not apply more.
As well as understanding the opportunities that Kubernetes are already bringing and could bring in future, we must be mindful that no platform is risk-free. Data loss scenarios still take place in Kubernetes which are not addressed by availability or replication. So, organisations still need a backup solution that works against a wide range of Kubernetes application stacks and deployment methods. For example, Kasten K10 by Veeam has been built to focus on the application, is Kubernetes-native, can run in multiple cloud and on-premises clusters, and is data services aware. As more “stateful” container applications are brought into production, the need to protect the data holistically – meaning native within the container, instead of “just” the storage repository – is likely to grow. In turn, so will the requirement for third-party native backups.
Taking a balanced and pragmatic view, Kubernetes and Cloud-native are unlikely to be the solution to everything today or won't be in the future. However, IT teams need to understand what they are capable of and their comparative benefits to make informed decisions. They aren’t scary or any more difficult to understand than the platforms we’ve been using for years. Just like them, they are capable of great things – perhaps more so, they thrive in certain scenarios and are less suitable for others, and all data still needs to be backed up and protected in the event that it goes missing. The teams who are able to really get to grips with the maximising the potential of Kubernetes stand to win big when it comes to increasing the speed and quality of application development cycles, bringing new features, services and products to market to surprise and delight customers. Imagine this, a scenario where Kubernetes does not just enable application development to be fast and efficient but that same platform is used to orchestrate other areas of the business, virtual machines or cloud-based IaaS and other workloads all benefiting from the same orchestration engine.