Kubernetes wasn’t designed as a change management tool, and you perhaps have never thought about it as being one. Yet in several ways, Kubernetes helps to smooth over the biggest pain-points that IT organizations face when managing change.
IT Change Management Challenges
To understand how Kubernetes can improve change management, you must first understand the common challenges that IT organizations face when attempting to manage changes to their technologies, processes and people.
Without getting too deep in the weeds, suffice it to say that IT change management requests at the typical organization are hampered by several issues:
- Slow response: In many instances, a requested change to an IT system should happen immediately or in the near future. But backlogged ticketing systems, limited personnel resources, lack of documentation about how to implement a change, and other problems often lead to slow responses.
- Lack of centralization: Chances are that your organization lacks a central change management system where all requests for change can be managed and processed. Instead, you probably maintain different systems for each team or platform that you support. The change request process may also vary depending on where requests originate: within your IT organization, from non-technical employees of your company or from external stakeholders.
- Reactive nature: Change requests tend to happen only when something breaks or is no longer performing adequately. They are, in other words, reactive in nature. When you have a reactive approach, the best you can hope to achieve is to keep your head above water, not to move the needle by creating new efficiencies.
- Manual interventions: Implementing changes often requires significant manual effort. This not only contributes to delays, but also limits the IT organization’s ability to offer self-service change management.
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Improving Change Management with Kubernetes
Kubernetes may not be able to solve all of these challenges completely. But it goes a long way toward reducing the barriers to fast, efficient change management. This is true for several reasons.
Central, standardized information management
In Kubernetes, everything is managed declaratively as code. This means not only that configurations are standardized, but also that they are easy to manage through a central repository. When everything – from the layout of your infrastructure to the deployment details for an application – is defined in YAML, the information needed to make changes can be stored centrally and consistently. Then, it can be managed systematically, using a tool such as Git.
The result: No longer having to scramble to find the right documentation or configuration file when responding to a change; or waiting for help from an engineer who knows how to work with the particular tool required to implement a change. Instead, anyone and everyone can manage changes through a central, standard information repository.
Automatic change implementation
That brings us to the second change-management benefit of Kubernetes, which is that changes can be pushed out through a simple, consistent and automated process. Need to change the way an application is configured or add nodes to your server? Just write or modify the YAML you need and apply it. Even better, write scripts to automate the process fully so that your users can self-service.
What if you respond to a change request and something goes wrong? With traditional change management strategies, you would need to fix the issue manually. But because Kubernetes automatically stores revision history data for deployments, you can quickly revert to an earlier version by using Kubernetes’s rollback feature. There’s no need to try to piece your previous configuration back together by hand, or make and restore to external backups of the system.
There are a variety of tools on the market that specialize in facilitating change management. Many of them are useful for handling change requests, visualizing workflows and so on.
However, many of these tools are also proprietary, and it’s anyone’s guess as to whether they will exist a year or ten from now. In contrast, given that Kubernetes is an open source project with a tremendous amount of backing from across the IT ecosystem, it seems a safer bet that it will exist for the long haul.
Thus, when you use Kubernetes as a single source of truth for configuring all of your workloads, you have an information repository whose longevity you can count on.
This is not to say that other change management tools aren’t helpful with ancillary tasks, such as workflow planning. But as an information system, Kubernetes delivers the core resource that you need for consistent change management over the long term.
Bridging all teams
Kubernetes is a platform that can be shared by multiple teams, even if they fill different roles within your organization. Developers can use it for testing new builds and hosting development tools. IT operations can use it for production applications of all types, whether they are internal line-of-business apps or public-facing resources.
In this way, Kubernetes helps to bridge all teams together. From a change management perspective, this means that implementing changes that require collaboration between teams is much simpler. If developers and IT Ops need to work together to improve an application, they don’t have to do their work on disparate systems and then try to connect it together. They could simply create a namespace for the project, develop and test it there, and then move it into production when ready.
Kubernetes’s first and foremost purpose is application orchestration. But an ancillary benefit of Kubernetes is easier change management.
If change management remains a challenge for your organization, consider embracing Kubernetes as a way to make change requests easier to handle. You just may find that Kubernetes solves as many problems in this respect as it does for application deployment and management.