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7 Things to Look for in a Kubernetes Managed Services (KMS) Provider

Many organizations are looking at microservices architecture, rather than building large monolithic applications, and then towards hosting and scaling these containers running the microservices. Forrester predicted for 2018 that Kubernetes is becoming the container orchestration war and will become the heart of the microservices plan, and we saw this actually happening in subsequent years.

Companies are widely adopting microservices and containerization as a part of their Digital Transformation and reaping rich rewards, especially in the areas of rapid and continuous integration and faster deployment for getting the features quickly to the customers.

Why is KMS a better fit for your organization than in-house Kubernetes?

Organizations that have started or are on the verge of starting their microservices journey have a lot of questions in their minds: how to break up the applications into microservices, and from there on how to host and manage the container clusters. It is better to leverage the expertise available in the market rather than trying to do everything on your own and failing miserably or looking at endless deadlines.

Once the application has been broken up, they find challenges in hosting and managing container clusters, creating deployment mechanism as well as scaling the infrastructure along with reaping cost benefits. This is where it helps to tie-up with a Kubernetes Managed Services provider – the men and women who know Kubernetes and can build, manage, monitor, deploy, and customize it. So that you can focus on business outcomes rather than on this mundane day-to-day but highly skilled tasks.

A Kubernetes Managed Services Provider typically offers the following services:

  • Selecting or Managing Cloud Environment (AWS/Azure/GCP, etc.)
  • Architecting the Kubernetes Clusters
  • Building and Monitoring Kubernetes Clusters
  • Building Cluster High Availability
  • Horizontal and Vertical AutoScaling to manage dynamic workloads
  • Creating Deployment Mechanism, handling deployments.
  • Extract maximum cost efficiency from the infrastructure
  • Cluster and OS Hardening, Patching and redundancy

 

The Kubernetes Managed Services provider should be able to help you throughout the journey and get started and take you all the way to production. Here are seven key things you must look for when selecting a KMS provider:

1. Available, Friendly, and Talented Professional Staff

Using Kubernetes to manage containers need much work and requires strong domain expertise. You should ensure their availability as you don’t work 24 hours a day, but your application has to. Hence while selecting the service provider, you should also make sure that the provider is available to you as and when required, and there is transparency across the internal teams and the service provider.

Ideally, the service provider should have staff who have the CKA (Certified Kubernetes Administrator) or CKAD (Certified Kubernetes Application Developer) certification along with good hands-on experience of over three years. The team should have strong experience in migrating applications to Kubernetes/Microservices. This will give you the confidence that the team can handle your specific requirements and help you with the Kubernetes journey.

2. Service Level Agreements

The key to successful Kubernetes deployment is that the provider keeps their promises to deliver services on time. Clearly define SLAs with measurable KPIs- highly available, security, maximum uptime, etc. are essential to measure the effectiveness of your engagement. You must ensure that the provider takes the whole and sole responsibility for the performance of your application and agrees to keep your container applications up and running all the time.

It is better to get a contractual assurance from the service provider to the services they are going to provide during and after the deployment.

3. Strong Service Availability

Another critical factor that you should consider while selecting the service provider is their strong service capabilities specifically in the Kubernetes deployment space. The service provider must be capable of ensuring that the application, as well as the infrastructure, don’t fail by performing regular health checks, load balancing, and traffic routing to balance the resources quickly during incidental traffic or batch processing.

The vendor should also have a good understanding of the plethora of monitoring tools like Grafana, Prometheus, and AppDynamics etc. which need to be tailored for your specific KPIs. Monitoring and altering are crucial to ensure robust service availability in your KMS.

4. Shared Service Options

Initially, you may go for a dedicated team, but later on, when the application is up and running, you may want to shift to shared services to better optimize your operational costs. Hence keep in mind that the service provider offers you shared services plans so that you are not bound to a specific service plan. Ideally, the MSP should engage with you for a long term duration and change from a dedicated to a shared serviced model as the engagement becomes matured.

5. Maintenance, Patch Updates, Upgrades, and Rollback

Kubernetes as a software solution is continuously evolving, new features are getting added by CNCF (Cloud Native Computing Foundation) and this means that you should be updated with the new features. While you want new features, you also want to retain the stability of the existing version. Your KMS should be keeping you updated and taking responsibility for Maintenance, Patch Updates, Upgrades, and Rollback.

As your microservices architecture becomes more and more refined, additional components will get installed in your Kubernetes clusters, the inter-operability of these components in your clusters should also be managed by your KMS. So do ensure ownership of these services by your KMS while getting into a relationship with them.

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6. Cloud Infrastructure Capabilities

The beauty of Kubernetes is that the clusters can be built within the datacentre and on the cloud, giving you true cloud mobility. For Kubernetes deployment, the service provider has to play a critical role in ensuring the delivery and operation of cloud services they are going to provide. They should monitor cloud services to ensure that the performance of servers, networks, and virtualized images is tuned to satisfy all business requirements and service levels.

Since the Kubernetes clusters will be running on the datacentre or the cloud server, your KMS should have staff with cloud capabilities. They should have a good understanding of cloud-specific Kubernetes environment, Elastic Kubernetes Service (AWS), Azure Kubernetes Service, Google Kubernetes Service etc. It possible that one microservice can be running in one cloud environment and interacting with another microservice in the other cloud environment. A KMS with cloud capability will be able to better design, maintain and optimize your microservices across cloud services.

7. Demonstrated Security Best Practices

If you want to make a more reliable, highly available infrastructure, you can not compromise with the security practices. The service provider should employ industry best practices and align with security compliance. The access sensitive data should be kept confidential, and there should be a provision that you can see the activity log of the users and allow or block their access.

Also, consider that the provider has a robust, secure network, connecting the data centers, so that there is no data breach and cyber-attacks. Since the administrator of the cluster may be able to access your data, you need to segregate data access from administrator access. (Admin should not be able to access customer data). In scenarios where this is not possible, the KMS should have proper security controls to restrict, monitor, audit, and approve such access on a needed basis.

Ensure that the servicer provide is securing the Kubernetes by employing following best practises:

1. Controlling access to the Kubernetes API

  • Use Transport Layer Security (TLS) for all API traffic
  • API Authentication
  • API Authorization

2. Controlling access to the Kubelet

3. Controlling the capabilities of a workload or user at runtime

  • Limiting resource usage on a cluster
  • Controlling what privileges containers run with
  • Preventing containers from loading unwanted kernel modules
  • Restricting network access

4. Protecting cluster components from compromise

  • Restrict access to etcd
  • Enable audit logging
  • Rotate infrastructure credentials frequently

Conclusion

When choosing a Kubernetes Managed Service Provider you should consider these seven essential factors that can help you get a right partner for your Kubernetes deployment journey. eInfochips has certified CKA as well as proficiency in AWS and Azure that can help you to get started and mature your Kubernetes environment from datacentre to cloud. We can also help you quickly deploy Kubernetes clusters based on your requirements, monitor application performance, perform optimization to meet SLA promises and secure your application to satisfy your customers. Connect us today for starting your Kubernetes deployment.

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