Delivering real-world benefits

Practical Implications for Adopting a Multi-Cluster, Multi-Cloud Kubernetes Strategy

Peter Smails
© Shutterstock / Marie Maerz

Containerization and Kubernetes enable organizations to drive computing everywhere and digital transformation at scale. This article by Peter Smails, CMO of Rancher Labs, examines practical challenges and real-world benefits.


The adoption of Kubernetes continues to accelerate. However, the consensus is that approaching the deployment of Kubernetes shouldn’t be done recklessly and needs to follow a calculated process. We recently hosted a session with customers where we asked Forrester Principal Analyst and Vice President, David Bartoletti, to walk the audience through the reasons he believes Kubernetes has exploded. Simply put, he says it is all about the cloud and the pressure enterprises are under to capitalize on the scalability, flexibility, and efficiency a well-architected cloud-first infrastructure can deliver. The current economic mood is challenging and complicated – those organizations that can leverage cloud, insights, and agility will be best placed to survive the turbulence of the next two years.

Cloud powers the new, connected economy, and organizations are rethinking how they design apps and business processes with operational consistency. So, where does Kubernetes factor in this? Kubernetes allows faster innovation on core open source platforms at a lower cost. Its ability to deliver speed, consistency, and scale across multiple use cases are fundamental in its success.

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Why Kubernetes?

If we look at the numbers, according to Forrester, there’s been an increase in Kubernetes and containerization developer inquiries of 130 percent from 2018 to 2019. This includes 61 percent of enterprises that are already using containerization in their pipelines, with a further 52 percent using a container service in the public cloud. The numbers themselves have doubled since 2016 – yet there is a general feeling that Kubernetes has just left the starting blocks.

In an enterprise context, Kubernetes has become a top-six infrastructure priority, with 32 percent of companies placing it on their “high priority” list and nine of out ten companies listing it on their “moderate priority” list. Most organizations that use container platforms do so to develop and deploy new apps and to modernize existing apps, building their own container infrastructure.

But, in action Kubernetes is exceptionally powerful. Today Kubernetes’s primary use is to build mostly stateless cloud-native apps to support the customer need to deliver at speed and scale. Most companies, particularly in the finance and insurance sectors, consider containerization for three reasons: rehosting infrastructure efficiency, virtualization substrate management and repacking existing monoliths.

We are seeing several emerging use cases, which include a mashup of containers for artificial intelligence and machine learning on bare metal, distributed edge computing, and modernizing core business apps with APIs and microservices. To paraphrase David Bartoletti – companies are using container networks to modernize even their oldest and crustiest core business apps.

Practical challenges and real-world benefits

The clincher is Kubernetes and containerization allows companies to flexibly design and deploy more software components against distributed edge locations. Edge is another primary growth area for Kubernetes adoption, not just because of its connection with cloud, but because of how organizations leverage intelligent edge devices to gain richer information about their business.

Speed and innovation are critical success factors for modern businesses, putting pressure on testing, development, and business thinking. These businesses ask the right questions – namely, how can they provide developers with the cloud-native development experience?

The most common challenges containerization needs to answer are the necessity to create a consistent developer experience and provide a robust developer tooling and Platform-as-a-Service experience. It also must deliver on a strategy that clearly outlines the deployment of clusters within an organization’s mix of cloud or on-prem. Multi- and hybrid cloud are a priority for those organizations keen to compete but need a solid grasp of the challenges that impact on consistent deployment at scale.

A great example is ABAX. The company’s IT Infrastructure Engineer Thomas Ornell found that the challenges outlined by Forrester resonated with his experience when it moved all its on-prem deployments to Google Cloud. There was a lack of clear ownership between IT and developers, and no real strategy for cloud, or which cloud to use. The team needed a provider that could simplify deployment on clusters and provide cohesive support across its Kubernetes deployments. As one of the fastest-growing technology companies in the telematics and IoT industry, ABAX develops sophisticated fleet tracking, electronic mileage logs, and equipment and vehicle control systems. The company deployed Kubernetes because it needed to modernize at scale and required the potential capabilities offered by the technology to manage expanding customer bases and growth.

SEE ALSO: Adopting a multi-cloud strategy? 5 reasons why your enterprise should

ABAX was sitting with three application VMs with Windows, two with Linux, two DB servers, and more than 49 services, and app deployment took around 14-20 days with a team of two. When a virus struck, 50 percent of the company’s DevOps team were locked down for up to five weeks trying to fix the environment. ABAX called on us to assist. They invested in a second staging environment and automated everything. Today they can provide an estimated time of delivery for a complete development environment in 10-15 minutes.

What does this all boil down to? Business wants flexibility and freedom. They also want it at an affordable price point. It is this that has piqued interest in heterogenous, multi-cluster, multi-cloud Kubernetes management solutions. When deployed, they offer a consistent Kubernetes experience regardless of the distribution and ensure that Kubernetes can be delivered at scale to support cloud-native, the move to the edge, and the rise of the connected application.


Peter Smails

Peter Smails is CMO at Rancher Labs, creators of the industry’s most widely adopted Kubernetes management platform. He joined the company in June 2019 and oversees all aspects of marketing strategy and execution including branding, messaging, go-to-market, product marketing, AR/PR, and corporate programs. A respected marketing strategist and hands-on team builder, Smails has a successful track record of evolving emerging technology vendors into mainstream enterprise technology leaders. Before joining Rancher Labs, he was CMO at Imanis Data, a machine learning data management company, acquired by Cohesity. Prior to Imanis Data, Smails was CMO at Datos IO, where he established the company’s reputation as the de facto standard in cloud data management for NoSQL, leading to their acquisition by Rubrik. He has also held marketing leadership roles at technology giants including Dell EMC and Hitachi Data Systems. Smails received his bachelor’s degree in computer science from New York University

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