The evolving powerful capabilities of Kubernetes bring enormous complexity for businesses. Kubernetes is only one part of a much more complicated infrastructure puzzle: integrating additional software to create an enterprise-grade container platform. Kubernetes itself is easy to outsource by embracing a managed Kubernetes service, but this only solves a small part of the equation. You’re still left with the difficulty of choosing, integrating, operating, and updating all of the other pieces of the container platform.
Getting started with a container platform is a daunting task, and there are many options to choose from, from do-it-yourself (DIY) to fully managed services. Let’s look at the DIY Kubernetes-based platform building approach.
What is DIY platform building?
In the DIY approach, an organization designs, builds, and operates the entire enterprise container platform themselves, including lifecycle management, integration of the different components in the enterprise container platform, support, break/fix. This is the most flexible option with the freedom to design a solution exactly to spec, but with the highest operational burden and cognitive load, as well as the highest complexity.
You are entirely responsible for keeping the lights on, fixing issues, supporting the platform’s users, and changing the architecture and design as requirements evolve. As DIY platforms often have only a single, internal customer (albeit consisting of multiple teams or business units), the economies of scale are not great. Support and quality of features probably lag behind what commercial enterprise container platform vendors can offer in terms of turn-key experience.
The biggest challenge when choosing DIY
The biggest challenge when going down the DIY path may not be the initial set up, but likely is the effort that needs to be put into maintaining the integrations between all of the tools in the platform, which are fragile and full of custom ’glue’ code, unique to your organization. These integrations tend to break during system upgrades and configuration changes and are likely to cause outages on production, as well as disrupting developer workflows. As the value in enterprise container platform is in using it to create and run modern applications, not in the platform itself, any issue with the platform will impact business value directly.
This challenge translates well into the cost of the DIY approach. While you may save on licensing cost initially, the meter starts running when you factor in the hours of highly-paid experts for the initial deployment, upgrades, creation, and maintenance of glue code and integrations for security, authentication, single sign-on, monitoring and metrics, distributed tracing, the service mesh, load balancers, et cetera. You get the picture. And none of these costs scale particularly well, as the platform team only has a single internal customer and there are no economies of scale to benefit from.
When choosing the DIY approach, the operational complexity will drive up personnel costs for SRE and Cloud Ops experts and will never reach the break-even point compared to the cloud infrastructure growth.
What about a turn-key solution?
Does the current state of Kubernetes as an enterprise container platform leave us with either DIY (resulting in a bespoke, hard-to-manage, and expensive but tailored solution) or a one-size-fits-all managed and hosted service that’s nowhere near complete but still locks you into a cloud?
No. A third option is that of a product, platform, or distribution. These options package up the complexity into an engineered solution and balances the freedom and flexibility of DIY with the simplicity of using a service. It is the best of both worlds, so to speak.
Otomi Container Platform is a good example of this approach. It is a complete enterprise container platform, packaged up as a ‘distribution’ for self-hosted deployment. Its core value is in the pre-integration of all the open-source components that make up an Enterprise Container Platform, removing the downside of DIY and cloud lock-in, while keeping the upsides.
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