Kubernetes: Benefits and Challenges

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By Zbigniew Trzeciak

Containerization is gaining increasing popularity because it allows developers to develop and deploy their applications much faster than they could previously with typical deployments or virtual machines. 

During the journey with containerization, you could encounter a few typical challenges: containers need to be started up when necessary, monitored and updated. It looks simple at the beginning but it can get complex. 

This is where Kubernetes comes in. It shortens the release cycle for applications substantially, makes developers’ workflow more efficient, and allows developers to create quality software from development to production. 

In this post, we’ll look at some of its benefits as well as the challenges many development teams face when implementing it.

What is Kubernetes?

Before looking at these benefits and challenges of implementing Kubernetes, it’s vital to recap what Kubernetes is. In simple terms, Kubernetes is an open-source orchestration platform that helps developers automate the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. 

It can, for example:

  • Automate a variety of manual deployment processes.
  • Interact with several groups of containers.
  • Manage containers and provide security, networking, and storage services.
  • Automate rollouts and rollbacks in the case of something going wrong.
  • Scale resources both vertically and horizontally easily and quickly. 
  • Orchestrate the storage system of applications.
  • Check the health of nodes and containers constantly.

Now, let’s look at some benefits of using Kubernetes and the challenges in implementing it in more detail.

Kubernetes Benefits

Considering all the features of the Kubernetes platform, let’s look at some advantages of using it. 

The benefits include:

  • Productivity improvement. When Kubernetes is properly implemented into a development team’s workflows, it can bring about significant productivity increases. Moreover, its huge ecosystem allows developers to rely on tools that were specifically designed for use with it. This, ultimately, makes it easier to use and eliminates its general complexity while giving developers access to solutions they could not build themselves. 
  • Attracts top talent. Many software engineers want to work for companies that use modern technologies and tools. Being ranked as the third most wanted platform in the 2019 Stack Overflow Developer Survey means that Kubernetes can attract top talent to a company. This is simply because its efficient workflow combined with a company’s technology stack and processes will be very attractive for potential job applicants. But it goes further than this, for existing developers it could also be very motivating to work with new technology. This, in turn, improves their job satisfaction and reduces employee turnover.
  • It’s future-proof. When companies implement Kubernetes in their workflow, they can be sure that their solution will be feasible well into the future, especially if their application will scale, grow, and become more complex. Apart from being designed to handle large systems, this is also because its competitors are so far behind in terms of adoption and support. As a result of this, all major cloud vendors now support Kubernetes out of the box. Last but not least is the fact that the Kubernetes ecosystem is growing at a staggering pace with new products being launched constantly. 
  • Stability. Because Kubernetes allows companies to have rolling updates to update their software without downtime, it allows them to have their applications up and running reliably. 
  • Affordability. Kubernetes can sometimes be more affordable than other alternative solutions. Because it’s able to scale resources automatically depending on the needs of a specific application and its incoming traffic and load, it can scale resources up or down as these circumstances require. As a result, companies pay less when the application’s demands are less.  Because of this, utilization, and spend are perfectly optimized. 

Kubernetes Challenges

Unfortunately, there are some challenges for companies that want to implement Kubernetes into their application development workflow. 

Let’s look at some of these challenges in more detail: 

  • Complexity. For developers not used to the Kubernetes development workflow, it can be very complex. As a result, it can take some time for a development team to adapt to its processes. This, in turn, can lead to a reduction in productivity and an increase in the time it takes to release a product or updates, at least in the short term. In addition, when companies transition to using Kubernetes, it requires that their existing software will need to be adapted to run smoothly with Kubernetes. Now, depending on the software, there is no exact timeline, and it’s difficult to see how long this will take. One thing is certain, though, and that is that it will take some time and effort. 
  • Doesn’t suit all use cases. Kubernetes is a powerful yet complex tool. It works well with complex architectures, but it requires resources to manage it. That means in smaller apps using Kubernetes could be more like a nice-to-have toy and generate more costs than savings. You could simplify management with Managed Kubernetes Services provide by cloud vendors like Azure, AWS, or Google Cloud but still, you need to do your assessments of the pros and cons of investing in Kubernetes will bring significant value in your case.  
  • Lack of skills. A recent survey showed that the lack of experience and expertise was one of the main challenges companies faced in implementing Kubernetes. As a result, many companies still face a steep learning curve to build, deploy, and manage their containerized workflows efficiently with Kubernetes.
  • Lack of internal alignment. In the same survey mentioned above, many companies reported that a lack of internal alignment is a challenge when selecting an appropriate Kubernetes distribution. As a result, they are unable to make decisions in the context of the company’s strategic goals, which, in turn, hampers Kubernetes implementation.
  • Security. As Kubernetes has grown in popularity for managing containerized workflows, so too has the sophistication of the attacks that cybercriminals use to breach these systems. As a result, security is one of the main challenges companies face when using Kubernetes. Because of this many vendors have now started offering managed solutions and services to companies to secure the Kubernetes platform. 
  • Visibility and Monitoring. For companies that want all the benefits that Kubernetes offers, they must be able to visualize their entire Kubernetes environment, all of its entities, its dependencies, and how all these components interact with one another. Yet, despite this many companies still struggle with this. 

The Bottom Line

Kubernetes offers companies a wide array of benefits when they use it to manage their containerized workflows. This includes everything from improving their productivity to increased stability and affordability. To enjoy these benefits, though, there are some challenges that companies need to overcome when implementing Kubernetes. 

Hopefully, this post helped illustrate all these benefits and challenges in more detail.

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