Everyone knows Kubernetes (K8s) is named after the Greek word for a seafaring ‘helmsman’ or ‘pilot,’ but organizations soon realize they need extra seasoned hands on deck.

Supporting K8s requires experienced, industry-tested K8s navigators with good ‘sea legs’ to safely chart the challenges of successfully operating and maintaining Kubernetes at scale.

That shouldn’t be a surprise (especially if you’ve spent any time on Indeed researching the average cloud-native engineer salary), as Kubernetes achieves something incredibly complex even if it tries to hide most of that complexity behind a wizard’s curtain. 

Full Sail Ahead with Kubernetes

K8s took Docker’s breakthrough in app containerization and automated the management of hundreds of thousands of containerized applications. 

Through declarative configuration, K8s delivered an ‘auto-magical’ way of deploying K8s clusters, achieving demand-responsive clusters that scale up and down, self-healing apps, load-balancing, and so much more. 

Understandably, the rise of Kubernetes was meteoric and paved the path to our current cloud-native ecosystem. 

Additionally, K8s achieved this while supporting multi-environments and tapping into a rich and growing ecosystem, making it highly extensible and highly in demand, with no plans to disappear soon. 

According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s 2022 annual survey, Kubernetes is now used in production by 64% of end users, while 24% are piloting or evaluating the platform. Suppose those figures weren’t impressive enough or skewed in your mind by the advanced users who tend to answer CNCF surveys. In that case, Gartner predicts that more than 90% of global organizations will be running containerized applications in production by 2027.

We can argue over the accuracy of various statistics, but it’s a fact that Kubernetes has become the world’s most widely used container orchestration platform. 
For some founders, that status alone might justify joining the cloud-native ship, forming a company, and offering various enterprise Kubernetes support deals to beleaguered platform teams. 

But, as the ancient sea maps say, ‘Here be Dragons.’ 

Seasoned Sailors: Why 360 Cloud Platforms Exists

Kubernetes demands respect. Yes, it’s an exciting platform for developers gleefully throwing up a few clusters in dev for a project, but when Kubernetes hits production at scale, it becomes a long-haul voyage that no developer wants or seeks; this is why enterprise is seeing growth in platform engineering. Infrastructure is not the core job of developers; they want to be writing applications. Once enough dev teams use Kubernetes in an organization, it becomes a commodity and centralized by a platform team where the scale of the infrastructure magnifies any issues they experience.

That is why we are announcing 360 Cloud Platforms, a company formed by seasoned enterprise cloud-native experts who have tackled the day-to-day challenges of Platform as a Service (PaaS) for a decade and maintained Kubernetes for many enterprise customers since it was open-sourced in 2016. 

We know the issues; for example, how to handle regular upgrades for your double-digit number of tools, keep self-service platforms functional, and avoid night sweats contemplating drift management. 

We know, and are told regularly by clients, that operational innovation takes a back seat as platform teams try to avoid drowning in the complexity of Kubernetes. They spend days managing open-source components, navigating a rapidly expanding ecosystem, and delivering support where their cloud provider’s API ends.

360 Cloud Platforms not only recognizes the pain points platform teams see daily, but we have discovered the best routes for successfully navigating Kubernetes support & maintenance and know how to unlock its full potential.

Do you want your platform engineers to focus on growth and innovation rather than maintaining Kubernetes? Let’s connect and show you how we can support your teams.

Brace for impact: Unpacking Kubernetes’ Challenges 

Kubernetes is frequently called ‘the operating system of the cloud,’ but unpacking the challenges as its scope grows, we have found they remain largely the same. The K8s and cloud-native ecosystem combine three interrelated areas with the potential to create a ‘perfect storm,’ they are:

  1. The inherent complexity of Kubernetes
  2. The challenges of Open-Source technologies
  3. The vastness of the CNCF landscape of tools, services, projects, and products
The Pea Souper: The Inherent Complexity of Kubernetes

All three areas have substantial benefits, contributing to Kubernetes’ success, but the complexity and flexibility each area creates can also lead to many issues. Kubernetes abstracts much of what it achieves behind a new set of ideas. However, these are K8s core issues:

  1. Steep Learning Curve: Kubernetes is a sophisticated container orchestration platform that requires a deep understanding of its architecture, concepts, and components. K8s introduces new paradigms and terminology, which can be challenging for organizations new to cloud-native technologies or, in fact, on their journey with Kubernetes or a new PaaS. The learning curve associated with Kubernetes can be time-consuming, and the assumption that every platform team will have the same boilerplate skills for the job is false. Climbing that steep learning curve requires dedicated resources and mentors for training and upskilling whole teams.

  2. Operational Challenges: Managing and operating a Kubernetes cluster involves various tasks, such as infrastructure provisioning, networking configuration, storage management, workload scheduling, scaling, monitoring, and troubleshooting. Each of these areas requires specialized knowledge. Setting up and maintaining a production-ready Kubernetes environment demands expertise in security, high availability, and resource optimization. The intricate nature of these operational challenges can strain in-house teams, particularly, as we’ve mentioned, if each team does not have the same experience with containerization or cloud-native architectures.

  3. High Configuration and Customization Capabilities: While having many configuration and customization options makes K8s flexible, it also introduces potential errors. Organizations must make critical decisions about cluster sizing, networking models, storage options, authentication mechanisms, etc. Making good and informed choices and configuring Kubernetes to align with specific use cases requires a deep understanding of the available options and their implications. Misconfiguration or suboptimal decisions can lead to performance issues, security vulnerabilities (as we have seen recently, where hundreds of K8s clusters were found with open ports and exploited to install malware), or compatibility problems with other components in the ecosystem.

  4. Continuous Updates and Upgrades: Staying current with the latest versions and applying upgrades requires careful planning, testing, and coordination. Upgrading Kubernetes clusters involves ensuring compatibility with existing workloads, managing API version changes, and addressing potential issues arising from changes in the platform.
Loose Cannons: The Challenges of Open-Source Technologies 

After the Linux Kernel, Kubernetes is the biggest Open Source project in the world, with contributions logged from over 7,800 organizations. The core projects, hosted by the CNCF, have excellent documentation and efficient processes for progressing tickets, but enterprise has specific demands:

  1. Lack of Enterprise-Level Support:  If an enterprise implements open-source technologies without establishing that it can obtain an appropriate Service Level Commitment, it will likely be the subject of the next embarrassing security story. The Kubernetes open-source ecosystem can be daunting and, in equal measure, frustrating to the uninitiated, as many projects are volunteer-run with competing priorities and day jobs. The level of support can vary significantly, depending on the governance of an open-source project or technology. This framework can create severe challenges for companies that require timely assistance, version support, bug fixes, security updates, and reliable technical support.

  2. Integration Complexity: The open-source ecosystem surrounding Kubernetes is vast and continuously evolving. Numerous tools, frameworks, and plugins are available, each with features, dependencies, and compatibility requirements. Ensuring seamless interoperability and avoiding conflicts between different open-source components can pose challenges during deployment and implementation.

  3. Learning Curve and Skill Requirements: In the same way that Kubernetes demands prior knowledge or a steep learning curve, learning the nuances of different open-source components, understanding their configuration options, and effectively leveraging their capabilities can be time-consuming and require additional training for platform teams.

  4. Maintenance and Upgrades: With the open-source ecosystem constantly evolving, organizations must stay updated with the latest releases, security patches, and bug fixes for the various open-source tools integrated into their Kubernetes environment. Managing the maintenance and upgrades of multiple open-source components can be a complex task, requiring careful planning, testing, and coordination to avoid compatibility issues or disruptions in the production environment. This ongoing maintenance effort can be challenging for organizations with limited resources or competing priorities.
A cargo ship sailing on a smooth sea.
Smooth sailing with Kubernetes, 360 Cloud Platforms can take the load off your teams so you can focus on driving your core business value forward.
Endless Blue: The Vastness of the CNCF Landscape

The sheer size of the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) landscape presents a challenge for companies as there are over 1,800 projects listed. Here are some of the CNCF challenges:

  1. Overwhelming Number of Choices: The CNCF landscape encompasses many open-source projects, tools, and technologies related to cloud-native computing. Choosing the right tools from this extensive catalog can be daunting, requiring careful evaluation and consideration of each tool’s features, maturity, community support, and alignment with specific business requirements.

  2. Complexity in Integration and Compatibility: Integrating multiple CNCF projects and ensuring their compatibility within a Kubernetes environment can be complex. Ensuring seamless interoperability between CNCF projects and avoiding conflicts or compatibility issues can be time-consuming and technically demanding. Customers may need help architecting a cohesive and scalable ecosystem from the vast range of available CNCF tools, mainly when there is a need for standardized best practices or clear guidance.

  3. Lack of Maturity and Stability: While CNCF hosts many promising and innovative projects, not all have reached the same level of maturity and stability. Some projects are in their early stages of development, needing more extensive testing, production deployment experiences, or a robust community support base. These conditions can introduce risks and uncertainties for customers who rely on these emerging technologies for critical business operations. It requires careful consideration and due diligence to assess the stability, scalability, and long-term viability of the CNCF projects selected for deployment.

  4. Skills and Expertise Gap: Navigating the CNCF landscape requires expertise and knowledge about the various projects, their capabilities, and their integration patterns. Organizations may need help finding skilled professionals with the necessary experience and understanding of the CNCF ecosystem.
Smooth sailing with the Kubernetes 

The choppy waters facing organizations and platform teams can be daunting. Maintaining and supporting Internal Developer Platforms and Kubernetes takes experience and skill. At 360 Cloud Platforms, our mission is to provide end-to-end Kubernetes and Platform Engineering expertise and take the load off your teams so you can focus on driving your core business value forward. 

Want to break down the complexities of Kubernetes, open-source technologies, and the vast CNCF landscape? We can answer your Kubernetes strategy questions, so reach out today, and let's start the conversation. 

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