Knowing a tool is key to making good use of it, and this concept doesn’t just apply to your weekend hobby projects. This is just as true for DevOps essentials like Kubernetes as it is for an artist’s favorite brushes or a carpenter’s trick. Cultivating a deep understanding of your systems improves the work you produce.
Luca is a product manager at Humanitec. He regularly speaks to dozens of engineering teams each month. He summarizes his learnings and insights from examining hundreds of DevOps setups into clear and insightful reading for everyone in the industry, from beginners to cloud experts.
…Or at least it should. Many developers barely have time to learn the basics of their favorite toolkits, let alone delve into the intricacies that make them enterprise-worthy. The reality is that mastering Kubernetes is no small task. While its complexity isn’t out of place for such a powerful tool, it tends to hurt those trying to find their footing.
That’s exactly why we’re publishing the content from our Kubernetes 2022 benchmarking study. With adoption growing at a rapid pace, more and more teams are taking advantage of cloud-native workflows, but not always with the results expected. they might expect.
Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve discovered about the state of K8 migrations and how to get the most out of containerization in 2022.
We’ve spent months working with over 1,160 development teams from all industries to compare their K8 setups and practices. During the process, we explored questions such as:
- What sets the use of K8s apart in high-performing organizations?
- How can a team’s structure, culture, and approach affect its success with Kubernetes?
- Is there a viable path from an underperforming K8 novice to a successful container master?
- Is there a right way to create a future-proof K8s setup?
Our study incorporated a custom Kubernetes Performance Score, or KPS. Based on their responses to our questions and a wide range of data points, we assigned organizations KPSs ranging from 0 (low performance) to 100 (high performance).
Next, we cleaned up the responses to only consider teams that provided complete information. While this significantly narrowed the number of respondents, we felt it provided a more unbiased picture of usage in the current K8 ecosystem.
Success takes more than good intentions
Our work revealed many clear distinctions between the lowest and highest performing students. One of the most poignant is in the area of implementation: over 66% of top performers have containerized all of their services, while just over 22% of underperformers have followed suit.
The same trends were seen for Kubernetes adoption, implying that familiarizing yourself with containerization is key to getting the most out of K8s. This makes perfect sense because K8s is a container orchestration system, but we’ve also heard a few other common refrains when it comes to pushing successful K8s migrations forward:
- Underestimating the complexity of K8s: The highest and lowest performing students experienced this one, with minimal differences between the two groups. It can be beneficial to do some in-depth training before you start creating clusters or researching cloud providers.
- Having unrealistic or inaccurate expectations before adoption: Many would-be adopters have encountered issues like finding out that the K8s were difficult to use – or at least harder than they thought. Others found they saved less money than they expected or ran into cloud service incompatibilities along the way.
In short, you’ll probably be better off if you stay firmly grounded. K8s can solve many problems, but only with proper planning and, most importantly, a willingness to engage in containerization writ large.
Barriers: security, team management, self-service
One interesting thing we discovered is that a few common technical hurdles cropped up repeatedly during K8 migrations. Your mileage may vary, but you should keep these potential challenges in mind when considering adoption:
Implementing Proper Security Is Harder Than It Seems
K8 security was an important topic for over 70% of respondents, but that didn’t mean they all handled it well. Although all leaders used secrets management tools, a significant portion of underperformers made serious missteps. For example, many secrets stored in plain text in their repositories, applied changes manually, or failed to separate environment-specific and environment-independent configurations. Some simply did not have a clear view of what constituted best practices.
Organizational Culture Could Halt Kubernetes Migrations
Migrating to K8s can be a huge cultural shift. As with most of these changes, these transitions seemed to flow best when happening from top to bottom.
In contrast, low performers typically make the mistake of disseminating K8 knowledge on a need-to-know basis, introducing key individual dependencies that may later become major weaknesses. Compared to the top performers, the bottom performers also failed to document and visualize their setups accurately. They also spent less time onboarding developers on K8s.
Self-service should serve developers better
Self-service was another important delimiting factor. Although nearly 90% of top performers said their developers could deploy independently or on demand, only 39% of bottom performers said the same.
Worryingly, over 31% of low performers felt that most of their team members were too scared to deploy into K8 clusters for fear of breaking something! This doesn’t bode well from an organizational standpoint, but it poses even more potential problems with containerized operations than in other areas. Centralized workflows that depend on human resource bottlenecks negate some of the key benefits of containerization, such as the ability to work autonomously and quickly provision infrastructure.
Overcome pain points
So how do teams go about improving the performance of their K8s? We have found that the majority of successful deployments exist as part of large in-house development platforms (IDPs). In other words, top performers build the tools, support systems, and infrastructure that enable their developers to self-service effectively.
This should come as no surprise. Our 2022 benchmark was not the first study to correlate DevOps skills with self-service capable internal platforms.
At the same time, we would be remiss not to point out that effective developer ecosystems must strive for holistic ideals. Efficient IDPs apply standardization and best practices by default. In the process, they let developers interact with K8s while avoiding the pitfalls of its undeniable complexities. This way, they minimize the cognitive load on your development teams, freeing them up to focus on the important stuff.
Put yourself on the best footing by getting more information
Kubernetes is a complex but powerful system that could improve the functioning of your teams. The question is whether you’re ready to put in the effort to master it – and build the framework for a successful migration journey before taking those crucial first steps.
In the larger scheme of things, Kubernetes is just a starting point. It can’t serve as a complete development platform on its own, but it can be a solid foundation for creating something awesome. Learn more about using K8s in the most impactful way by downloading your copy of the full Humanitec Kubernetes Benchmarking Study 2022.
Feature image via Pixabay.