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Kube Culture: How Kubernetes Drives Cultural Change

Much has been written about the technical features and benefits of Kubernetes. Technical advantages, however, are only part of the reason to migrate to Kubernetes.

Cultural change is an equally important selling point for Kubernetes. In several key ways, Kubernetes can help to optimize the culture around which IT teams and developers are organized, regardless of what their technology stacks look like or which types of companies they work for.

In turn, Kubernetes makes organizations leaner and meaner in a cultural sense, improving the ability of technical teams to collaborate with each other and respond to business needs.

Why Culture Matters

For technical personnel in particular, it’s easy to fixate on the technology your organization uses, without thinking much about the culture that shapes how you use it. But the reality is that technology and culture go hand-in-hand. The best technology stack won’t deliver much value if your teams lack the cultural values that allow them to make maximum use of it.

This lesson has not been lost on the most successful tech companies, many of which have invested significantly in building strong cultures. For Netflix, distributed, microservices-based architectures have enabled a culture where developers run what they write, leading to a stronger sense of responsibility. For Buffer, the transparent sharing of information drives a culture that prioritizes self-improvement, communication and positivity. Facebook’s culture emphasizes, among other values, the concept that “the quick shall inherit the earth,” tying the speed of development and IT operations to organizational success.

The Cultural Implications of Kubernetes

Kubernetes isn’t the only way to build successful cultures like these. However, it makes it easier than ever to unlock several types of positive cultural change at organizations of all types.

Automation

Perhaps most obvious, Kubernetes encourages a culture that prizes automation. Automation is, after all, part and parcel of what Kubernetes does: replacing workloads that once required significant manual effort (like application deployment or migration from one server to another) with a completely automated solution.

Chances are that your organization already values automation, at least in theory. But by making automation easy to implement for any application running on any infrastructure, Kubernetes empowers teams to act on automation, and thereby turn it into a living, breathing practice. When teams experience the power of automation that Kubernetes provides, it’s not difficult for them to put automation into practice in other contexts as well; even for workflows that run outside Kubernetes.

Scalability

Like automation, scalability is a principle that most organizations want to value, but may find difficult to put into practice. Most legacy technologies are not completely scalable. Cloud-based architectures may simplify the scalability of infrastructure resource allocation. But because those changes have to be managed manually, scalability is limited in practice when using traditional cloud solutions.

With Kubernetes, however, true scalability of both infrastructure and application deployment is possible. The same cluster could scale from a half-dozen nodes to hundreds, or from a handful of pods to many dozens, with minimal manual interventions required by your team.

Transparency

As noted above, the transparency of information helps drive cultural commitments to positivity, communication and self-improvement.

Kubernetes operationalizes transparency at several levels. Not only is the platform itself open source, but everything that runs on it is configured in a standardized way using YAML. This means that anyone who knows Kubernetes can readily view and understand any Kubernetes resource, even if it is “owned” by a different engineer or a different team.

In this way, Kubernetes breaks down the visibility barriers that have traditionally siloed teams. In the past, developers didn’t know much about the tools used by IT operations teams and vice versa. This leads to a lack of transparency and, by extension, poor communication and little positivity. But when your workloads all run on Kubernetes, Kubernetes (or, more specifically, YAML) becomes a single source of truth for all aspects of your operation, breeding transparency and openness.

Centralization and standardization

Along similar lines, Kubernetes enables teams to centralize and standardize all parts of their workloads. You can manage all of your Kubernetes resources via Git or another type of centralized repository. And because they are all configured and managed using the same technical conventions, they are standardized by default.

In these respects, Kubernetes helps organizations move beyond cultures that are hampered by scattered, decentralized pools of information, and by multiple approaches to formatting and storing technical data.

Collaboration

All of the preceding cultural benefits of Kubernetes encourage greater collaboration between stakeholders of all types.

This includes better collaboration not just between developers and IT operations teams (although Kubernetes does help to achieve that), but also between the entire IT organization and other parts of the business. Because of the flexibility and transparency that Kubernetes enables, IT teams can respond to business needs more rapidly.

Conclusion

When thinking about reasons to migrate to Kubernetes, you should consider more than just technical benefits – like the ability to deploy apps anywhere or scale without limit. Think, too, about the cultural values that Kubernetes promotes and helps organizations to act upon. From automation to transparency and beyond, Kubernetes empowers companies of all types to integrate critical values into their cultures, leading to teams that are able to get the very most out of the technology available to them.

Chris Tozzi

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