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Kubernetes technology: Long-term understanding for long-lasting benefits

July 20, 2021
Out with the virtual, in with Kubernetes.

By Rick Veague, Chief Technology Officer, North America, IFS

Kubernetes technology is rapidly climbing the agenda for many C-suite execs—the open-source technology can help businesses pilot the foggy areas of cloud computing and exploit the value of containerized applications while reaping the benefits of improved security and resilience. Given its newfound lead in enterprise-software development and its ability to drive containerization, the multitude of benefits on offer scream that Kubernetes-enabled software is indeed worth the time and effort. 

Containerization is becoming the requisite software approach for organizations providing easily configured systems, improved automated deployment and reliability, and an efficient use of compute resources. 70% of global organizations—up 20% from 2019—will be operating with more than two containerized applications by 2023, according to Gartner. The provisioning software, when coherent with the enterprise technology stack, makes advances in productivity and profit margins more achievable.

Kubernetes technology makes this all possible. 

Kubernetes-enabled software capabilities have been widely recognized by technology experts, with its benefits being recognized by 95% of participants in a recent VMware study. Given its ability to add value to cloud-based software systems, tighten security and quicken scalability, it’s little surprise that 56% of participants saw resource utilization rise. More C-Suite execs should take note. 

Out with the virtual, in with Kubernetes

Kubernetes-enabled software helps businesses manage information reliably, quicker and more cost effectively. With resource utilization, enhanced by Kubernetes technology, businesses can benefit from reduced expenditure on cloud compute resources—an advantage experienced by 33% of respondents in the VMware study.  

Virtual machines are one of the most popular types of provisioning software, but shifting between on-premise servers, private or public clouds can make them difficult to manage. Each virtual machine can lead to a vast consumption of system resources as each machine contains a copy of the software it provisions, a guest operating system, and a hypervisor to allocate computing resources across different operating systems and applications. 

However, with the use of an external operating system, containerized software applications can, in many instances, enable the running of multiple containerized applications on server resources that could not formerly house more than one. Central tools within the container also oversee how applications impact resource usage. 

Faster development cycles mean early business benefits

While all this can reduce administrative overheads, the real crowning achievement comes with speed—a startup time that is reduced to milliseconds rather than minutes, making this a significant enhancement in time efficiency and user engagement.  

According to the VMware study, 53% of respondents said Kubernetes enabled faster software-development cycles. If Kubernetes is embedded in an enterprise-software platform, providers can quicken the pace of bringing new software features and capabilities to market and into the hands of customers. In turn, businesses can themselves quickly adapt to changes in the market and regulatory environment, and even transform that agility into a competitive advantage, beating rivals to market or course-correcting faster.

Preparing for the unexpected is becoming the norm

But flexibility is a valued asset for any business and one that has been particularly sought-after by enterprise-IT experts throughout disruption in previous years. Restricted compute resources from enterprise architecture have often left businesses falling short, as unpredictable demands for products and services have affected software ability to keep pace with scalability needs.

But now more than ever, businesses must constantly change or reset processes and requirements to keep up with changing customer demands and dynamic go-to-market strategies. Gone are the days when a company could roll out ERP or other enterprise technology and “set it and forget it” for years—the introduction of disruptive technologies such as the IoT, artificial intelligence (AI) and augmented/virtual reality (AR/VR), all mean the enterprise stack must be updated on an increasingly regular basis. 

With Kubernetes technology, the rapid scaling of a network is well within reach, reducing the risk of loss or failure of business and a poor customer experience. 

The flexibility continues—make arrangements best suited for the business 

Kubernetes can help facilitate containerization in a number of environments, including hosting software on a vendor’s cloud, self-hosting by a business, or in a hybrid environment where the core application stack is self-hosted, but several of the application services are accessed as cloud services run by the software vendor. The hybrid option allows businesses to offload some of the deployment complexity. 

The open-endedness of this function leaves CIOs free to decide on the best, practical location of their supporting software. For example, those that might be better held closed, rather than placed in a public or even private cloud due to regulatory or practical considerations, can be run on-premises or wherever is most suitable for the customer. That instance of software can be augmented by services from the software vendor ranging from reporting, optimization engines, cognitive services and more. Courtesy of Kubernetes, different parts of the application can be run from separate servers—on-premises, private cloud, public cloud—all depending on what makes sense to the end-user.

Introducing the cloud: an inevitable business transition, made easier 

Research carried out by IFS in 2019 explored cloud-migration practices by 600 business decision-makers, in a bid to gauge the volume of headway organizations had made or were making toward the cloud.  

When compared with data from a similar IFS study in 2012, the percentage of companies now relying on various forms of cloud enterprise software provisioning almost doubled, while the percentage of companies with on-premises solutions almost halved. 

But in a cloud-first environment, executives still recognize that certain scenarios favor on-premises deployment or even need to be moved back and forth between public cloud, private cloud or on-premises—a difficult move if using stagnant virtual machines. Or, an on-premises or private-cloud application may need to seamlessly make use of compute resources in a public cloud to handle peak or hockey-stick demand. 

Applications built with Kubernetes just make this easier.

Security is where it should be—embedded into the stack 

Ensuring security provisions are upheld during times of change is essential, so by using Kubernetes in the software stack as a container-orchestration tool, issues can be addressed early within the software-development process, which means there are security benefits if Kubernetes and containerization are delivered as part of a packaged software application.  

Why? Because one benefit of containerization is the ability to quickly move new software into production, enabling rapid change and digital transformation. But as every CIO knows, each new deployment brings new security issues with it. Which external device or system is authorized to access the software? Which users are enabled to view and interact with which data? Which roles in the organization have which access permissions? All these rules and policies must be enforced as the application changes.

Enterprise-software applications that are ahead of the game will increasingly own the Kubernetes container-orchestration process in ways that automatically respect the security and permissions reflected in the application as a whole. By delivering the software services in the form of Docker containers, which are orchestrated by Kubernetes, the scaling benefits will be the same as having regional Kubernetes clusters serve multiple customers. The software vendor will ensure the application retains full separation and privacy of customers’ solutions through use of customer-specific Kubernetes namespaces, network separation, encryption, and database instances. Enterprise-software vendors not intent on selling their own proprietary technology can make use of packaged Kubernetes environments such as Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service in their technology stack.

Calling all C-suite execs! Get ahead of the inevitable—go Kubernetes now  

Members of the C-suite should take note of Kubernetes-technology capabilities and align how the benefits can match and enhance their business operations. With cloud quickly becoming more and more prevalent and with businesses now constantly changing their methods and resources, having flexible and adaptable enterprise software has never been so important. Kubernetes-enabled software has the ability to future-proof operations, with rapid scalability, improved security and versatile attributes that enable organizations to adapt to any changes in the market, meet new demands and get ahead of the competition.