Shared Kubernetes Clusters for Hybrid and Multi-Cloud

This article outlines the different hybrid/multi-cloud approaches and the different kinds of workloads across clouds and data center environments.

Now more than ever, hybrid and multi-cloud deployments are quickly becoming key enterprise requirements. As Kubernetes adoption in an enterprise grows, effectively managing multicluster deployments becomes increasingly critical to application delivery. To bring Kubernetes usage and hybrid/multi-cloud infrastructure together, IT organizations need a modern operating model for shared K8s clusters in hybrid and multi-cloud architectures.

The impetus for choosing enterprise hybrid and multi-cloud deployment varies, but the challenges and opportunities remain regardless of an organization’s infrastructure journey. Whether purposefully undertaken as an IT strategy or as the result of prior infrastructure investment, many IT leaders are discovering the benefits of using more than one infrastructure approach simultaneously. Container orchestration, in many respects, is the next logical step. Managing Kubernetes in a hybrid and multi-cloud context, however, comes with unique challenges.

This article outlines the different hybrid/multi-cloud approaches and the different kinds of workloads across clouds and data center environments. It explains how K8s are used for hybrid and multi-cloud environments, enabling operations across private and public clouds, and the challenges to consider when managing single-tenant environments.

Realities of the Hybrid and Multi-Cloud Approaches

Often, enterprise Kubernetes environments expand over time as new workloads and clusters are added, typically with different cloud services and Kubernetes distributions. On-premises workloads may already be running to maintain full compliance and regulatory control, while some customers may leverage past infrastructure in order to realize the financial benefits of depreciation. Managed Kubernetes services, such as Microsoft AKS and Amazon EKS, could be used to extend computing resources or take advantage of deeper integration with public cloud services.

These requirements come together into a hybrid situation, where you may be using Kubernetes both on-premises and in the cloud. To provision and manage clusters in different environments, many IT teams balance siloed environments, multiple consoles, and the promise of agility behind cloud adoption.

Shared K8s Clusters in the Enterprise

Enterprise Kubernetes environments need a multicluster management strategy that can grow and scale while also addressing the challenges posed by hybrid and multi-cloud infrastructure. A shared services platform (SSP) is an old concept but one that can be applied to Kubernetes. Doing so provides your organization with practical benefits — notably, a single management console that gives the IT organization greater visibility of the clusters. The enterprise platform team can pretest, blueprint, and standardize platform services, security, and policies, ensuring consistent configuration and reducing inconsistencies. This, in turn, improves developer productivity throughout the organization and enables faster go-to-market through self-service and by reducing time lost to errors, extra troubleshooting, and downtime.

In bringing Kubernetes into a hybrid cloud environment through an SSP for Kubernetes model, platform teams should consider these best practices.

Centralize Control Over Kubernetes Clusters and Workload Configurations

Manage your clusters and workloads all in one place. Centralized deployment and management empower IT admins and standardize configurations across the platform. A central location is also helpful for regaining control over shadow IT by returning management, security, and governance back to the IT organization.

With full visibility, the platform team can govern, isolate and monitor usage at any time from one console.

Provide Kubernetes Self-Service Clusters and Workload Configurations

Enable self-service access with preapproved configurations so developers can scale Kubernetes deployments. With downstream access to pipelines and defined workloads, DevOps can readily use self-service infrastructure and tooling for cluster and app deployment. This accelerates delivery and optimizes access to resources.

Make Ongoing Security and Compliance Challenges Easy to Manage

With a secured Kubernetes environment, IT organizations monitor and control identity and access with ease from a centralized location. Additionally, implementing zero-trust security simplifies access control.

Taking the right approach to K8s management empowers DevOps and the IT organization to get the most out of bringing Kubernetes and hybrid/multi-cloud together. Over time, this strategy delivers greater business value through reduced operational overhead, centralized governance and policy management, and greater developer productivity.

How to Bring Shared K8s Clusters Together With Hybrid and Multi-Cloud

Managing and operating Kubernetes in a hybrid environment can shift attention away from applications unless a robust shared services platform strategy is in place. To build this platform, IT leaders should focus on self-service, unified cluster lifecycle management, repeatable workflows, and centralized, automated cluster and application provisioning.

To realize the benefits of this transition:

Leverage Team Expertise

Many organizations experience a Kubernetes skills gap, but what expertise the organization does have in building and maintaining custom software supply chains should be leveraged to shape the broader Kubernetes environment internally. The team should be equipped to effectively roll out unified management across multiple clusters, clouds, and infrastructures.

Establish Flexibility and Control

For scalable operations, flexibility and control are a must — centralizing the delivery of Kubernetes-related services makes standardized workflows, increased automation, and optimized application delivery and support for multiple teams more feasible.

Enable Developer Self-Service

Increasing development and operations team collaboration through efficient and repeatable DevOps workflows enables developers to focus on their code, not on the underlying infrastructure. Multicluster, continuous deployment capabilities make it possible to increase efficiencies, implement best practices and protect against cluster inconsistencies.

To do so, organizations are adopting a GitOps methodology — using Git tooling and workflows through ArgoCD, Flux, or another tool or service. This reduces human error and allows developers to manage more clusters at scale.

Maintain Centralized Security, Networking, Compliance, and Cost Control

Unless organizations can protect against shadow Kubernetes admins making divergent management, policy, and operational decisions, IT teams will lose the benefits of a single platform. The platform team should maintain visibility and use centralization best practices like these to strengthen the SSP:

  • Simplified identity and access control: Use a zero-trust environment with role-based access control (RBAC) to streamline secure access.

  • Centralized monitoring and aggregation of metrics: Review cluster and app health, usage and metrics via a unified platform.

  • Governance and fleet-wide policy management: Apply the same policies across clusters, workloads, and resources.

Though a Kubernetes and hybrid/multi-cloud approach bring unique challenges from an operational and security perspective, centralized management and deployment can mitigate much of the risk this presents for your organization. An SSP for Kubernetes is an essential component of IT strategy, allowing platform teams to manage clusters and applications across all cloud and data center environments.

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Relevant Blogs:

Serverless Reference Architecture 

AWS CDK Project Blueprint - Modeling and Organizing 

AWS CDK Project Blueprint - Modeling and Organizing (Part 2/2) 

Monitoring Blind Spots in the Cloud and What to Do About Them

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