Platform9 Blog

5 Pillars for Building Kubernetes into Your Organizational Culture

As we’ve explained previously on this blog, Kubernetes offers a number of benefits for building stronger organizational culture. But leveraging those benefits is not as simple as deploying Kubernetes and then sitting back while your culture is automagically transformed.

Instead, organizations seeking to improve their cultures with the help of Kubernetes must take deliberate steps to ensure that they integrate Kubernetes successfully – not just from a technical angle, but also a cultural one. Keep reading for key considerations on achieving this.

Get Buy-In to Kubernetes Culture

It’s one thing to get buy-in for Kubernetes as a technical solution. You explain how Kubernetes solves the technical pain-points that your organization faces, like orchestrating applications at scale.

But you should also explain to stakeholders across the organization how Kubernetes can improve your culture. Point out that it encourages a commitment to automation and transparency, and that it helps enable collaboration between disparate groups or departments. You might explain, too, how Kubernetes empowers technical teams to understand and respond more quickly to business needs.

Decide How to Integrate Kubernetes with Existing Tools

Most organizations that adopt Kubernetes don’t start with a blank slate. They have complex technology stacks already in place, and they need to decide how to integrate Kubernetes into them.

Deciding exactly how to go about this integration is important not just because of the technical dimensions associated with deploying Kubernetes alongside existing tools, but also because there are cultural factors at play. Ideally, the way you integrate Kubernetes into your existing stack should reflect your cultural goals.

For example, if you currently have tools or infrastructure that are “owned” by certain departments or engineers, treat your Kubernetes adoption as an opportunity for breaking down that paradigm and replacing it with one of shared responsibility. Likewise, perhaps you currently use a scattered, inconsistent set of processes for managing your infrastructure. By replacing existing systems with Kubernetes, you can centralize and standardize those processes using Kubernetes-native tools.

This all said, bear in mind that your migration to Kubernetes will take time. Don’t expect to replace all of your existing technology stacks with Kubernetes in one go. Instead, start small by launching a Kubernetes “lighthouse” project using an easy-to-deploy and free Kubernetes service (like Platform9 Managed Kubernetes Free Tier). Once you have demonstrated the success of that project, you can scale your cluster up and begin migrating some tools to it, such as build automation or test automation workloads. From there, you can continue adding automation and migrating more tooling to Kubernetes, until you reach the point that it can become a replacement for legacy stacks.

Future-Proof Your Kubernetes Strategy

A good way to kill the cultural advantages you gain from Kubernetes is to fail to set your Kubernetes strategy up for long-term success. If your organization ends up abandoning Kubernetes in a few years because it didn’t deliver the promised value, the cultural changes that Kubernetes enables will probably be lost, too.

Avoid this risk by planning a future-proofed Kubernetes strategy. Make sure you can easily update to new versions of Kubernetes, in order to reinforce the cultural commitment to flexibility and agility that Kubernetes offers. Be sure, too, that managing Kubernetes is smooth and simple for anyone on your team – a key consideration if you want to leverage Kubernetes as a paradigm of collective responsibility.

And as noted below, avoid a strategy that locks you into a particular Kubernetes platform (such as a specific public cloud Kubernetes service). Doing so could lead to a failure in the future because you find that the platform you chose doesn’t deliver the promised value, doesn’t keep pace with innovation in the open source space or is simply discontinued.

Share Your Cluster

Part of the beauty of Kubernetes is that it makes it very easy to run multiple workloads on the same infrastructure, while still keeping them isolated via namespaces.

Alternatively, you could choose to set up multiple clusters, each devoted to a different workload (or set of workloads). Running more clusters adds complexity to your overall Kubernetes strategy, but it is worth the effort in cases where you need strict isolation between workloads, or you need to run clusters in different geographic locations (which could be advantageous by lowering latency for users close to each cluster). And the extra complexity can be managed, especially if you build centralized RBAC and governance policies into your Kubernetes strategy from the start, ensuring a consistent Kubernetes experience for all of your teams.

Don’t Lock Yourself into a Particular Kubernetes Setup

There are lots of ways to run Kubernetes these days. You have multiple distributions to choose from. You can run it in your own data center or in various public clouds.

Whichever approach you take, be wary of relying on vendors, tools or services that are not compliant with open cloud-native standards. If you do, you risk making it hard to modify your Kubernetes architecture. In turn, you undercut the value of Kubernetes as a way to breed cultural agility. You should instead embrace Kubernetes as a tool to help encourage more openness to change within your organization, and avoid letting it become another anchor that hinders your ability to improve continuously.

Conclusion

Kubernetes is a powerful agent of cultural change, but only if you leverage it in the right way. The technical dimensions of your Kubernetes strategy should reflect the cultural goals you aim to achieve. You must also keep your overall Kubernetes strategy and tooling as nimble as possible if you hope to enable an agile culture through the platform.

Platform9 can help. By offering managed Kubernetes services that make it easy to build a flexible Kubernetes strategy using any infrastructure, and by eliminating the need for extensive in-house Kubernetes expertise within your team, Platform9 enables organizations of any type to leverage Kubernetes as a way to improve their cultures as well as their technology.

Chris Tozzi

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