According to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), Kubernetes is the “operating system for the cloud,” increasingly used for critical workloads in production environments. K8s offers compelling benefits, including better scalability, increased agility and improved resource utilization. It’s important to remember, though, that moving to Kubernetes is a major infrastructure change; it’s a complicated environment that presents new challenges. It can be difficult to get security, resource management, compliance, operational consistency and cost efficiency right. When you’re undertaking a Kubernetes migration, there are several ways for platform engineers to minimize potential risks and enable development teams from the beginning.
Kubernetes offers great flexibility, which enables you to configure it to meet the unique business and development needs of your organization. The tricky bit is that it also means it can be easy to misconfigure. To address security risks in Kubernetes, you need to consider encryption settings, role-based access control (RBAC), network policies and more. The federal government continues to issue guidance around the safe use of cloud solutions, including Kubernetes. For example, the National Security Agency (NSA) and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) recently updated the Kubernetes hardening guide recommending a defense-in-depth approach. If you don’t consider security risks, you may expose your organization to a multitude of threats such as unauthorized data access and data breaches.
Kubernetes provides opportunities for autoscaling, but that doesn’t happen efficiently out of the box. It’s easy to overprovision resources, driving up costs. It’s important to put automated checks and standardized policies in place, otherwise, you may see unreliable day-to-day operations due to improperly set CPU and memory resource requests and limits.
Complying with Regulations
Across nearly every industry, there are regulations or guidelines that need to be complied with. In financial services, health care, the public sector and other highly regulated industries, compliance with industry-specific regulations is a critical consideration. For example, the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS) is required for handling financial data, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data privacy and security law that applies to all European citizens and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Privacy Rule applies to the protection of health care data in the United States. Kubernetes configurations must also meet these compliance standards, which increases complexity for many organizations.
As any deployment becomes more complex, the risk of configuration drift increases. Kubernetes is no exception. It’s easy for configuration drift to occur, frequently due to manual changes and updates in individual clusters. When you increase the number of clusters you’re deploying, it becomes even harder to minimize the risk of configuration drift. Identifying inconsistencies and correcting them manually is incredibly hard, and it can lead to negative consequences, including security vulnerabilities, efficiency issues and reliability risks. It’s important to maintain consistent configurations across your K8s environments to minimize those risks.
As migration to K8s increases and more organizations start to deploy production workloads at scale, your infrastructure will inevitably become more complex. The Kubernetes Policy Working Group recently released a whitepaper on Kubernetes governance, risk and compliance, highlighting the importance of policies for Kubernetes.
As organizations add more teams, containers, clusters and clouds, the challenge of managing the resulting complexity increases. Kubernetes governance is an approach that enables platform teams to gain greater control over this complexity. K8s governance is primarily focused on managing the infrastructure to align with your organization’s business goals as well as the needs of the platform engineering and development teams.
By establishing Kubernetes governance from the outset of a migration process, organizations can establish policies at the beginning to minimize risks. These policies should be based on Kubernetes best practices and the unique needs of your organization. Regardless, everyone in your organization should follow these policies when deploying to Kubernetes infrastructure. Using consistent policies and enforcing them makes it easier for dev teams to feel comfortable using the new infrastructure because they know they are configuring and deploying apps and services correctly.
Migrate Faster With Kubernetes Guardrails
During a Kubernetes migration, you can set up guardrails to provide dev teams that help you stay on track. This helps you avoid potential risks, naturally, but guardrails can also accelerate the migration process. Guardrails can enable you to:
- Enforce policies automatically: If you set clear rules and constraints, it’s easy to prevent inconsistent configurations that may result in errors or conflicts. This minimizes the time required to troubleshoot and fix any issues.
- Check and validate automatically: Look for a Kubernetes governance solution that provides automated checks. This helps you ensure compliance with the defined policies.
- Increase collaboration: Clear policies that are enforced automatically help individual teams understand what is expected of them and how they will get feedback on issues.
- Grow confidence: Guardrails help development and platform teams work collaboratively without fear of causing harm to the Kubernetes infrastructure or your organization’s apps and services.
Setting Kubernetes policies and enforcing them automatically can help you accelerate your Kubernetes migration. By adopting Kubernetes governance and guardrails, you can prevent the creation of misconfigurations and risks that can result in security, performance, cost and compliance problems. Without a plan in place for your Kubernetes migration, it can easily become chaotic. Guardrails help you migrate to Kubernetes in an organized and efficient manner.
Managing Risk During Kubernetes Migration
Migrating to Kubernetes has the potential to deliver many significant benefits to your organization, but it is accompanied by potential risks. Kubernetes guardrails can help you minimize risk and accelerate the migration process by leveraging a framework that reduces complexity in your K8s environment and helps your dev teams align to best practices. Using guardrails, you can make sure that your migration addresses cost optimization, security hardening, configuration standardization and compliance management. This approach sets your organization up for long-term operational excellence.