The Kubernetes Current Blog

Top 7 Reasons Why a Centralized Management Platform is Key to Overcoming Day 2 Kubernetes Challenges

Your organization has committed to modernize its software efforts, you’ve successfully deployed Kubernetes, and you have applications in production. Perhaps you’ve even established a platform team with the goal of implementing a shared services model and improving operational efficiency.

While you may have achieved your Day 1 (software deployment) milestones, you still face major Day 2 (sustaining) challenges:

  • How can you efficiently manage, monitor, and troubleshoot production environments to maximize uptime and optimize resource usage?
  • How do you accommodate the rapid evolution of the Kubernetes ecosystem as well as the high rate of updates to production software?
  • How can you scale your operations successfully across more clusters and more clouds?

The answer is a centralized Kubernetes cluster management platform that enables you to operate and govern Kubernetes for multiple teams and multiple applications—across on-premises, cloud, and edge infrastructure.

Centralized Management and Day 2 Operations for Kubernetes

Successful Day 2 operations for Kubernetes require holistic monitoring and management. Centralized management tools are essential to rationalize rapidly growing operations and prevent your operations from sprawling unnecessarily, with too many clusters in too many clouds—including clusters you may not know about. Centralized management advantages include:

  • Further accelerate developer velocity with self-service
  • Reduce the risks associated with new technology and limited expertise
  • Control costs that can spiral out of control when standardization and governance are lacking

The right tools create guardrails around your operations, optimizing processes, reducing risk, and controlling costs—without unnecessarily hampering your platform team or your developers.

Here are the top 7 reasons why a centralized Kubernetes management platform is essential to meet day two challenges:

Reason 1: Standardize Cluster Configurations

Successful Kubernetes (K8s) cluster management treats K8s infrastructure like cattle, not pets. Once you begin operating more than a handful of clusters, you can’t afford to have each K8s cluster be hand built and uniquely configured. If you do, you’re committing your team to endless cycles of debugging and troubleshooting.

A centralized management platform can allow you to readily provision consistent, standardized clusters as needed, using an Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC) or GitOps methodology. Ideally, you want to be able to:

  • Standardize the hardware configuration for each cluster (on a per-cloud basis if you are operating in multiple clouds)
  • Standardize K8s deployment so it is deployed the same everywhere
  • Standardize software deployment, including K8s add-ons

See the Rafay Blog Choosing the Best Kubernetes Cluster and Application Deployment Strategies to learn more.

Reason 2: Centralize Add-on Management

Kubernetes provides a vast ecosystem of software that can allow you to fine tune your K8s deployments to meet your company’s specific requirements.
For instance, you may want all Kubernetes clusters to include a specific service mesh, ingress controller, or a monitoring tool such as Prometheus.

If you lack automated processes to ensure that your core set of “blessed” add-ons is properly installed on each cluster, you are exposing your business to risks due to missing add-ons and ongoing manual add-on lifecycle management. With the right centralized management tools, all add-ons can be consistently deployed and managed.

Reason 3: Simplify Cluster Lifecycle Management

As your K8s operations grow, lifecycle management operations—like adding new nodes or node-groups to a cluster, upgrading Kubernetes software, and provisioning new clusters—take a bigger and bigger bite out of your team’s available time. Centralized Kubernetes management tools are essential to automate and standardize these tasks—and free up time for projects that move the ball forward.

Infrastructure-as-Code is essential for lifecycle management. With IaC, configuration files automate the provisioning and management of infrastructure. This is especially useful for configuring infrastructure for cloud deployments. Once the “code” that specifies an infrastructure configuration is created, it can be applied again and again, producing the same result each time. The creation of production, development, and test environments becomes versionable, testable, and repeatable.

To learn more about Infrastructure-as-Code and GitOps, read the Rafay blog IaC vs GitOps: What’s the difference?

If you’re evaluating tools or services to address Kubernetes installation and lifecycle management needs, there are several guidelines to keep in mind. Make sure the solution:

  • Works in the environments you use (clouds, virtual, physical)
  • Enables you to specify uniform security policies
  • Lets you automatically install Kubernetes add-ons
  • Provides flexibility to accommodate unique requirements on a per-environment, per-location, or per-cluster basis
  • Offers compatibility with any automation tools you already use

Read the Rafay Blog 3 Steps to Streamline Kubernetes Multi-Cluster Management to learn more.

Reason 4: Rationalize Access

You may already have a large number of clusters spread across on-premises data centers, multiple public cloud providers, and edge locations—perhaps running different distributions with different management interfaces—and teams of developers, operators, contractors, and partners who need varying levels of access. You need to adopt zero trust security.

Zero trust is a security model that assumes all actors, systems, and services operating in and between networks cannot be trusted. It draws on technologies such as authentication, authorization, and encryption and is continuously validated for security configuration and posture to ensure trust.

While Kubernetes provides all the hooks necessary to enable zero trust, you need centralized management tools that can help you apply the same access policies everywhere to get the full benefit of a zero trust model.

To learn more about zero trust, read the Rafay blog, Securing Kubernetes: Applying Zero-Trust Principles to Your Kubernetes Environment.

Reason 5: Centralize Monitoring, Alerting and Auditing

The ability to centrally manage monitoring for all clusters—across data center and cloud environments—is a must-have. Without this capability, your platform teams will spend considerable time creating infrastructure for monitoring in order to reduce MTTR (mean time to recovery).

Ideally, a single console should enable you to centrally receive alerts from across your Kubernetes fleet, provide an audit trail of all developer and platform team activity, and also include deep information into cluster, node and resource health.

Since you’re probably not operating Kubernetes in a vacuum, integration is also an important consideration. The tool(s) you choose should integrate with your existing SIEM tools.

To learn more, read the Rafay blog Best Practices Tools, and Approaches for Kubernetes Monitoring.

Reason 6: Automate Everything

Kubernetes cluster management using only kubectl commands and scripts simply doesn’t scale. By automating and standardizing K8s cluster operations and application deployment lifecycle management, you can manage more clusters with less effort while avoiding misconfigurations due to human errors.

Many organizations are adopting GitOps, bringing the familiar capabilities of Git tools to infrastructure management and continuous deployment (CD). GitOps builds on the concept of IaC, incorporating the functionality of Git repositories, merge requests (MRs) and CI/CD to further unify software development and infrastructure operations.

With GitOps, when changes are made to a Git repository, code is pushed to (or rolled back from) the production infrastructure, thus automating deployments quickly and reliably.

GitOps was the subject of the recent Rafay Blog, GitOps Principles and Workflows Every Team Should Know.

Some Kubernetes management tools also utilize Gatekeeper, an Open Policy Agent (OPA) admission controller for K8s. OPA is a general-purpose policy engine that can be used to enforce policies in microservices, Kubernetes, CI/CD pipelines, API gateways, and more. OPA Gatekeeper can be used to enable policy-based management across your entire K8s fleet.

See Managing Policies on Kubernetes using OPA Gatekeeper.

Reason 7: Access to Support

The most successful platform teams recognize that they can’t keep up with every aspect of Kubernetes and modern software delivery on their own. While Kubernetes and many of the add-ons and tools in the K8s ecosystem are available as open source, for most organizations it simply doesn’t make sense to select, deploy, integrate and manage open-source software.

A smarter strategy is to get your Kubernetes distribution(s) and core management tools from a partner who will stand behind their offerings with 24×7 support and expert advice.

Centralized Kubernetes Management at Rafay

Rafay has made a significant commitment to streamline Day 2 Kubernetes operations and increase the efficiency of busy Kubernetes platform management teams. Our industry-leading Kubernetes management platform delivers all of the capabilities described in this blog, and includes:

  • Templates and blueprints: Easily define reusable cluster specs that can be checked into your favorite git repo. Create reusable blueprints for on-premises and cloud-based clusters that can be applied to your entire cluster fleet.
  • Simplified add-on management: Update add-ons across your fleet by making changes to a single YAML file. Optionally leverage Rafay’s integrated add-ons for Ingress, Networking & Storage, OPA/Gatekeeper Policy Management, Backup/Restore, Chargebacks, and more.
  • Terraform- and GitOps-based Cluster Lifecycle Management: Add nodes or node-groups, upgrade the Kubernetes version, or provision entirely new Kubernetes clusters using Rafay’s Terraform provider or via Rafay’s GitOps-for-infrastructure capabilities.
  • Centralized control for Kubernetes access: Use your enterprise IdP as the source of truth for all developer and SRE access to Kubernetes infrastructure, with complete AAA (Authentication, Authorization, Auditing) support and packaged workflows for break-glass developer access to production environments.
  • Fleetwide auditing: Audit all developer and platform team activity. Gain visibility into cluster, node and resource health. Receive alerts covering the wide variety of problems that can occur across a Kubernetes fleet.
  • Flexible deployment options: Manage any K8s distro running on any infrastructure (on-prem, cloud, and edge). Choose between deployment options including SaaS, self-hosted, or fully-managed.
  • 24×7 support: Rafay’s customer success, solutions architecture, and solutions engineering teams are available 24×7 to support you. Our professional services can help you assess, implement, and scale confidently.

Rafay’s Kubernetes Operations Platform centralizes management and unifies lifecycle operations for your clusters and containerized applications, incorporating Kubernetes best practices to ensure success.

Ready to find out why so many enterprises and platform teams have partnered with Rafay to centralize Kubernetes fleet management? Sign up for a free trial.

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