7 Essential Components of a Robust Kubernetes IDP

In today’s world of increasingly cloud-native software development, Kubernetes has emerged as an essential tool for managing containerized workloads and services. But it is completely customizable and with that customizability, standards can be hard to implement and enforce, making the establishment of an effective internal developer platform increasingly important. As businesses of diverse types and sizes increasingly deploy apps and services into production, these platforms are shaping the way teams collaborate and build software solutions.

Gartner expects that by 2026, 80% of software engineering organizations will establish platform teams as internal providers of reusable services, components and tools for application delivery.

Platform teams are building internal developer platforms (IDPs) for Kubernetes to enable developers. It creates a paved road for developers that reduces complexity, making it easier to build and deliver software without requiring the entire development team to be Kubernetes experts. Skills and knowledge about Kubernetes best practices can vary widely within teams, so an IDP makes it easy to implement automated Kubernetes governance.

As platform engineers build out an IDP for Kubernetes, there are basic components that must be included. While an IDP can and should provide many additional capabilities based on each organization’s individual needs, there are seven core building blocks that form the bedrock of such a platform.

1. Diverse Deployment Support

At the most basic level, you need to make sure that your IDP supports your deployment model. Developers may need to deploy applications in on–premises environments, in hybrid environments and across multiple cloud providers. A flexible IDP that enables you to choose the deployment model and cloud provider required (or best suited) for each application and business need is non-negotiable.

2. Infrastructure-as-Code (IaC)

Infrastructure-as-code (IaC) manages the underlying IT infrastructure as software. IaC enables developers and operations teams to manage, provision and monitor resources automatically. IaC is commonly used in modern software development environments; therefore, your IDP must support IaC tools, including Ansible, Terraform and AWS CloudFormation, to enable your developers to define and manage infrastructure using code. This increases efficiency and consistency while aligning with DevOps practices.

3. Continuous Integration and Deployment (CI/CD)

CI/CD pipelines are a must-have for platform teams trying to ensure that applications are developed and deployed rapidly. When building an IDP, platform teams need to support an organization’s CI/CD tools, such as CircleCI and GitLab. These solutions deliver an automated deployment/delivery process that is essential for building a usable IDP. Make sure your IDP supports the pipeline tools your developers are already familiar with.

4. Security

Security and compliance are essential components of the software development process. Kubernetes is not secure by default, providing many options for tweaking and tuning the platform to meet each organization’s unique needs. That flexibility is accompanied by complexity, which frequently surfaces blind spots for security teams.

The United States federal government released a Kubernetes Hardening Guide, which provides in-depth guidance on how to increase the security of Kubernetes environments. It’s important to run security validation checks automatically at every stage of the development life cycle to identify misconfigurations and vulnerabilities. Build your IDP such that it can help you prioritize security risks based on severity and category. Integrations with common tools that developers use, such as PagerDuty and Slack, can help ensure visibility across different Kubernetes environments and ensure follow-up by the appropriate team as necessary.

5. Observability

Observability refers to monitoring a system’s operation. In an IDP, that means analyzing system performance, debugging procedures and monitoring overall system health. Observability tools, including open source tools such as Prometheus (monitoring and alerting for cloud-native environments) and Grafana (which includes an interactive data visualization platform) enable developers to monitor and troubleshoot applications using real-time information. Solutions that provide a dashboard to understand their environment at scale can help platform teams ensure that everything is functioning efficiently—and preempt potential issues before they escalate, increasing overall reliability.

6. Developer Self-Service

When platform teams build an IDP, the goal is to provide developers with a self-service experience. The IDP must handle Kubernetes resource management, scheduling, upgrades and role-based access control. It should also make it easier to make decisions about Kubernetes, including how to:

  • Manage bug fixes
  • Make feature requests
  • Respond to security issues

To serve development teams effectively, the IDP must also include automated deployment workflows, pre-built templates and easy-to-use dashboards. Developers need to have visibility into how reliable, cost-efficient and secure their applications and services are so they can make improvements in each area as needed.

7. Governance

Kubernetes offers many configurations to enable widely diverse deployments, but for all organizations, it’s important to align to an agreed-upon set of best practices. Kubernetes governance is a set of policies, processes and procedures that are unique to each organization (though there is considerable overlap for many). In the IDP, governance enables the platform team to apply standardization to Kubernetes deployments that align with your organization’s business objectives. This increases compliance with relevant regulations and standards and reduces the demands on the platform team to assist with Kubernetes challenges.

Governance, also known as Kubernetes guardrails, enables platform teams to automate alignment to best practices, including resource allocation (for CPU requests and limits, memory requests and limits and storage), performance and availability, security and compliance and cost management.

Build a Robust IDP

A successful internal developer platform for Kubernetes requires a solid foundation. Platform engineers must collaborate with developer teams to ensure that the platform is flexible enough to meet the needs of a diverse workforce as they design, implement, and maintain the platform. These seven components serve as a solid foundation for your IDP, providing you with a reliable, scalable, efficient and secure environment that sets your organization up for success in delivering applications and services in an increasingly cloud-native world.

Danielle Cook

Danielle Cook is the vice president of marketing at Fairwinds, a Kubernetes governance and security company. She can be reached at [email protected]

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