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Jack WallenMarch 18, 20236 min read

Which Kubernetes Management Approach is Right for You?

So your organization has decided to move to Kubernetes. Great! Enterprise businesses across the globe are adopting the technology at an astounding rate.


The results from the 2022 CNCF Annual Survey, clearly show that Kubernetes has established itself as a widely adopted and powerful platform for organizations. The versatility that Kubernetes brings, and the ability to accommodate a range of workloads has solidified its position as the operating system of the cloud.

This mass adoption of Kubernetes makes sense. Containerized applications make it much easier to scale as needed, enjoy high availability, and deploy those services to just about any platform.

Does your organization us Kubernetes

Image source: 2022 CNCF Annual Survey

Day 2 Kubernetes Operations – The Real Challenge

While many enterprises are jumping on board with containerization and Kubernetes, the real challenge is how to operate and manage your Kubernetes environment in a safe and secure way. Make no mistake – Kubernetes is complex.

The problem is, once a company starts investing in containerized applications, they soon realize how steep the learning curve is for the technology. Although your DevOps teams may have an easy time with Docker, once they dive into Kubernetes, things can take a challenging turn.

Some of the questions your organization needs to be asking are:

  • Does your team understand the concept of containerization?
  • How well does your team know the Linux operating system?
  • Does your team know how to create a proper YAML file?
  • Does your team understand the concept of namespaces?
  • How skilled is your team within the realm of security, such as RBAC?
  • How adept is your team running commands?
  • Does your team understand the basic skills required to deploy and manage a Kubernetes platform?

Kubernetes is a complex technology that requires specialized skills to operate successfully. If your team members don't have the skills, they are going to seriously struggle with Kubernetes, and in the end, what should have been a technology to save your company money, winds up costing more.

If the answers to the above questions raise some concerns, you have 3 options to consider:

  1. Hire new Kubernetes talent (can be expensive and hard to find).
  2. Invest in upskilling your existing team (depending on your IT training budget).
  3. Invest in a Kubernetes Management Platform.

What is a Kubernetes Management Platform?

A Kubernetes Management Platform helps organizations easily deploy, configure, monitor, secure, and manage multi-cluster Kubernetes environments. Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform (like Docker/Swarm, and Nomad). Organizations that seek to reduce the complexity associated with Kubernetes implement a Kubernetes Management Platform (like Portainer, Rancher, and OpenShift), to simplify and streamline Day 2 Kubernetes Operations. 

When youre ready to compare Kubernetes Management Platform features and functionality, head over to the blog post Portainer, Rancher, OpenShift – A Comparative Guide’ to view a detailed comparison table.

Why Choose a Kubernetes Management Platform?

Let's consider these management platforms and how they can greatly simplify Kubernetes. Let's say you want to deploy a full-stack application. If you're working with Kubernetes from the command line, you have to painstakingly create a manifest that might look something like this:

apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
metadata:
name: wordpress-mysql
labels:
   app: wordpress
spec:
ports:
   - port: 3306
selector:
   app: wordpress
   tier: mysql
clusterIP: None
---
apiVersion: v1
kind: PersistentVolumeClaim
metadata:
name: mysql-pv-claim
labels:
   app: wordpress
spec:
accessModes:
   - ReadWriteOnce
resources:
   requests:
     storage: 20Gi
---
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
name: wordpress-mysql
labels:
   app: wordpress
spec:
selector:
   matchLabels:
     app: wordpress
     tier: mysql
strategy:
   type: Recreate
template:
   metadata:
     labels:
       app: wordpress
       tier: mysql
   spec:
   containers:
     - image: mysql:5.6
       name: mysql
       env:
       - name: MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD
         valueFrom:
           secretKeyRef:
             name: mysql-pass
             key: password
       ports:
       - containerPort: 3306
         name: mysql
       volumeMounts:
       - name: mysql-persistent-storage
         mountPath: /var/lib/mysql
     volumes:
     - name: mysql-persistent-storage
       persistentVolumeClaim:
         claimName: mysql-pv-claim

The above manifest was taken directly from the Kubernetes official documentation and deploys a simple WordPress site. Remember, if a single indent is incorrect, the manifest will fail and the app will not deploy. On top of this, the manifest to deploy (even a simple full-stack app) can get very complicated.

There's another issue that tends to haunt Kubernetes. Your team might have crafted what they believe is the perfect manifest. When they go to deploy it, something doesn't work. Why? Kubernetes is a constantly evolving technology, so what works today might not tomorrow. A proper management platform, such as Portainer, can help with that issue by allowing your developers to use forms to craft their pods and services. Better yet, they can create the containers with the forms and then view the correct YAML manifest that Portainer creates to learn from it.

If you have to hire a new team with these specific skills, it can get very expensive. According to ZipRecruiter, the average Kubernetes salary is $152,188. Does your company have the budget to hire a team at that cost? An alternative could be to hire one such employee, while hiring lower-end developers to fill in the gaps. Those lower-end developers could then use the management platform not just as a means to successfully deploy containers to the cluster, but as a learning tool so that they could eventually work from the command line as well.

At the same time, your entire team might find using a management platform, such as Portainer, to be far more efficient and reliable than the command line.

Now, lets consider our simple WordPress site deployment using a management platform. What if you could deploy that same full-stack application, using a no-code GUI approach? Portainer offers such a feature by way of form deployment, where admins can deploy containerized applications by filling out a simple-to-use form (Figure 1). Give the application a name, select a namespace and a registry, add an image to be used, add variables, configure persistent storage, and more. Once the form is filled out, click Deploy Application and wait for the containers to spin up.

Figure 1 - Deploying WordPress using a Helm chart in Portainer

Helm Chart in Portainer

Instead of spending hours crafting the perfect YAML manifest for the full-stack application, let the management platform do the heavy lifting for you. And given nearly every member of every IT staff across the world knows how to use a GUI, the learning curve becomes considerably less. Your teams could be deploying Kubernetes containers with very little ramp-up time.

Stitching It All Together: The DIY Approach to Kubernetes Management

Another reason to consider a management platform such as Portainer is that they make integrating other services far simpler. When using Kubernetes alone, you’ll find integrating tools for security, CI/CD, GitOps, networking, and observability a considerable challenge. That’s not so with Portainer, where you’ll even find a built-in GitOps engine ready to serve.

Although the DIY approach is an option that can help you take your containerized deployments to new levels, the challenges presented by this method are considerable. Why waste such valuable time and resources, when you can opt for the point-and-click approach offered by Portainer.

The Easy Road to Kubernetes Success

If your company is looking to add containers and Kubernetes into the mix, you would be remiss if you didn't consider opting to go with a management platform out of the gate. By taking this path, your teams will have a much more efficient route to success. Instead of spending weeks or even months getting up to speed with the kubectl command, those same admins can be pointing and clicking their way to full-stack application deployments in no time.

 

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Jack Wallen

Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic, The New Stack, and Linux New Media. He's covered a variety of topics for over twenty years and is an avid promoter of open source. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website jackwallen.com

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