No one wants to manage Kubernetes anymore

Managing Kubernetes is hard, and many organizations are starting to realize they can better focus on other, as-yet unsolved engineering problems if they hand off a big chunk of their container orchestration responsibilities to managed service providers.

Today, the most popular managed Kubernetes options—sometimes referred to as Kubernetes as a service (KaaS)—are Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Each cloud provider offers more and more managed versions of these services—such as the highly opinionated GKE Autopilot and the serverless EKS Fargate—since first launching around 2018. There are other options, such as Rancher, Red Hat OpenShift, and VMware Tanzu, but the Big Three cloud vendors dominate this area.

Cloud vendors have strived to find the right balance between allowing customers to control and integrate the things they need and abstracting tricky autoscaling, upgrade, configuration, and cluster management tasks. The maturation of these managed services has led many organizations to the realization that managing their own Kubernetes clusters is taxing and nondifferentiating work that is increasingly unnecessary.

“Folks going all the way down to open source binaries and writing their own tooling is a pretty extreme example, and there are very few reasons to do that today, unless you are using Kubernetes in a way that is really unique,” said Joe Beda, Kubernetes’s cofounder and principal engineer at VMware Tanzu.

“There are always exceptions for organizations with strong engineering and operations chops to run Kubernetes themselves, but it became clear for most customers that became a daunting task,” said Deepak Singh, vice president of compute services at Amazon Web Services. “The challenge of scaling Kubernetes, the complexity of managing the control plane, the API layer, the database—that isn’t for the faint of heart.”

Brendan Burns, corporate vice president for Azure Compute and formerly a lead engineer on Kubernetes at Google, sees this newfound appetite for managed Kubernetes services as being driven by the dual factors of better enterprise functionality—specifically features such as private network support and consistent policy management capabilities—and the broader business drivers toward increased agility and velocity.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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