Companies today are increasingly using container technology to accelerate application development and deployment, while ensuring the portability of apps across different clouds.

However, containers require a higher level of orchestration and management skills, as well as resources, than many companies have on hand. That’s why there is increasing interest in and use of Kubernetes, an open-source system for automating the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It orchestrates a multitude of container tasks, such as managing virtual machine clusters, load balancing, network traffic distribution, and more.

Kubernetes is gaining momentum: 20% of companies are using it either in test/development or production environments, and 34% are researching or experimenting with it, according to the 2020 IDG Cloud Computing survey.

So what are the most important attributes of a container orchestration system such as Kubernetes? That’s the question we posed to members of the IDG Influencer Network, a community of journalists, industry analysts, and IT professionals who contribute their knowledge and expertise to IDG clients.

“When companies are utilizing enterprise grade applications, the practicality of managing containers can become a daunting challenge,” says Scott Schober (@ScottBVS), CEO of Berkeley Varitronics Systems. “A key advantage of Kubernetes is that it leverages the power of containers while simplifying overall management of services and machines in a cluster.”

Optimizing IT resources

Manageability is a critical benefit in today’s digital world, where resources are often fragmented across multiple containers, says Linda Grasso (@LindaGrass0), Chief Operating Officer at Digital Business Innovation SRL.

“The need for integration stimulates organizations towards the adoption of an orchestration platform such as Kubernetes,” she says, “in order to create a cluster where containers can be managed together, optimizing workloads and security in an efficient way.”

And today, any way to gain efficiencies is worth a look. Kubernetes has built-in capabilities that empower IT teams to “spend the least time on your container orchestration system and the most time on your core differentiators,” says Charity Majors (@mipsytipsy), Chief Technology Officer at Honeycomb.

The efficient way to modernize

Many CIOs and IT managers feel the pressure of the business pushing their IT organizations for agility and faster time to market, while ensuring that both employees and customers have seamless experiences. That means developing and deploying apps as quickly as possible, and it’s a core reason for adopting containers in the first place.

Kubernetes takes it a step further. It modernizes and streamlines the application pipeline, enabling IT to go at the speed of cloud.

“To a certain extent, container orchestrators are the operative systems of the cloud: They abstract the underlying infrastructure and provide standard primitives to run workloads at scale in the same way that an operating system abstracts the underlying hardware it runs on,” explains Daniele Polencic (@danielepolencic), Instructor at Learnk8s.

Specifically, Kubernetes provides key advantages to DevOps processes, says Mike Gail (@mdkail), Chief Technology Officer at Everest. “Kubernetes improves deployment pipelines with rich automation, including canary deployments and automated rollbacks,” he says.

Wayne Anderson (@Wayne Anderson) agrees. He’s the Senior Security and Compliance Architect, M365 Center of Excellence at Microsoft. “Kubernetes provides that middle between ‘true serverless,’ script-only execution and the hypervisor many-operating-systems virtualization models of yore. In today’s enterprise, these container images can then be verified, encrypted, stored, managed, and then tied to many-origin, many-deployment globally scalable models.”

Words of advice

To be sure, Kubernetes deployment is not without challenges.

“Heavy lifting on the learning side and accessibility — due to environment setup requirements and architectural complexity — seem to be a hurdle for most developers,” says Sarbjeet Johal (@sarbjeetjohal), a cloud consultant. For example, he adds, “Kubernetes code base as of early March 2020 has more than 580,000 lines of Go code.”

That’s why it’s important for developers to have access to a container orchestration solution that offers a vibrant community and a proven technology foundation, says Polencic at Learnk8s. “Choosing a boring orchestrator is often the right choice. It’s a predictable investment, and you can be confident that it just works.”

Enterprises should also consider a Kubernetes solution with built-in ease of use.

“Flexibility and usability are huge,” says Reginald Davis (@coolblknerd), Founder of Tech for the Culture. “Operators should have the ability to mold their cluster to best fit the needs of the business without much hassle, while developers should be able to seamlessly integrate their app into their infrastructure without having to know much about what’s underneath. An orchestration system shouldn’t be rigid or too difficult to understand because, at the end of the day, it’s there to facilitate in solving business problems, not create unnecessary overhead.”

Another best practice: Seek a solution that can be applied to multiple types of workloads.

“What I think is very important is the extensibility and that Kubernetes is open source,” says Felix Lebsky (@_Lebsky), a software engineer at Diconium. “This makes it easier for companies to build software which works alongside or on top of the platform.”

That extensibility ensures that “your infrastructure can support not just your current but also your future needs,” adds Josh Berkus (@fuzzychef), Kubernetes Community Manager at Red Hat. “A full Kubernetes stack includes storage and networking plug-ins, application operators, CI/CD workflow tools, and management interfaces. Choose one that gives you a wide array of options so that you can pick the stack components that are exactly right for your organization.”

The Bottom Line

At the end of the day, Kubernetes should provide benefits for both the businesses that adopt it and the individuals who use it.

“The open-source and open governance foundation of Kubernetes enabled cross-vendor collaboration to create probably one of the widest adopted locking-free technology of its kind,” says Bilgin Ibryam (@bibryam), Product Manager at RedHat. “That is a heaven for companies adopting Kubernetes and for IT professionals who can use one ecosystem to grow and reuse their skills everywhere. There is nothing more to ask from Kubernetes.”

Learn more about Kubernetes, its use cases, and how to get started by visiting: https://www.redhat.com/en/topics/containers/what-is-kubernetes