Technologies3 min read

3 Kubernetes Secrets from Early Adopters

Ashley Speagle
Early adopters share their experience and advice for deploying Kubernetes in the real world.

Kubernetes is no longer just an exploratory or experimental technology. It’s becoming the most popular open-source software for container orchestration in the world. Today, businesses put Kubernetes-based applications out into the real world.

For some, the transition to Kubernetes is just beginning. For others, the journey started years ago. Below, some of these early adopters offer advice and reveal their ups and downs with the rapidly maturing enterprise technology.

3 Kubernetes Secrets from Early Adopters

1. Start Small and Smart

“Start small,” says Stephan Massalt, vice president of Cloud Labs at Swisscom. He suggests first taking non-mission-critical apps to Kubernetes-orchestrated containers. “It’s a big change in how they do apps. Give people time to adjust.”

Besides, Kubernetes isn’t the best fit for everything, he adds. IT should first consider the benefits for each app and the business needs.

When Kubernetes is the best option, it’s time to reevaluate IT operations. “If you’re still trying to do what you did the last 10 years on Kubernetes, your company loses,” he cautions. “Don’t do everything yourself. Focus on relentless automation.”

The Kubernetes Journey at Swisscom

Swisscom is the largest telecommunications provider in Switzerland and one of the top enterprise IT services providers in the country. They help organizations move to cloud models, including containerized workloads orchestrated by Kubernetes. Their customers want to develop or move apps into containers without the hassle of full lifecycle management.

“The big stones we have to overcome are day two operations. It is not a big deal to deploy Kubernetes clusters. The trouble starts when you want to start updating, upgrading, adding nodes, all that kind of stuff,” Massalt says. “We have this tool that allows you to scale out and scale in, and you don’t need to care about it. You just make the APIs available.”

Swisscom offers Kubernetes management as a service, one of the first to do so in the Swiss market. Built-in multitenancy and security help Swiss customers meet strict regulatory standards.

“The laws in Switzerland around privacy are very strict, up to the level that data should not leave the country,” Massalt says. “We’re offering that service to them, that they are fully compliant and still can use all these cloud-native technologies.”

Most of the software Swisscom builds itself, like its own customer-facing apps, has moved to these platforms. The next step: getting the middleware there, which comes from Swisscom’s suppliers.

2. Partner Up

It’s important for IT operators to closely partner with developers on Kubernetes deployments, says Sharat Nellutla, associate director at Verizon. Today, developers are uprooted from previous environments and need to understand the value of the other.

Additionally, a strategic technology partner can accelerate the full transition to Kubernetes. “They understand the problems you’re working through,” Nellutla says.

The Kubernetes Journey at Verizon

Verizon wants to be among the first telecommunications providers to connect people and businesses with the fifth generation of wireless technology (5G). Swift, sweeping innovations like this cannot wait on IT to evolve, scale and deliver supporting applications. It’s why most of the company’s hyper-agile apps run in the public cloud. And some of these apps are made up of containerized microservices.

Verizon’s apps span across multiple public clouds in multiple regions, helping IT expand resources when, for example, customers flock to the latest smartphone. Due to sensitivity, some of Verizon’s container-based apps run on premise.

Regardless of where the app goes, it’s effortless for developers to write and deploy code and for operators to run containers. Verizon uses a customized platform and technology partner support to automate everything with Kubernetes.

The next challenge for Verizon to solve: managing and monitoring multiple Kubernetes clusters from a single location.

3. Commit to Embracing New Possibilities

“Don’t be scared of the possibilities. Open yourself up to a different way of doing things. Embrace it,” says John Paice, platform reliability engineer for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Leaders’ resolute support accelerated the company’s transition to this modern, cloud-native approach.

The Kubernetes Journey at Dick's Sporting Goods

When holiday shoppers arrive, Dick’s Sporting Goods puts its game face on to make sure customers receive a flawless experience in stores, online or both. That means rapidly getting new products and features in front of customers, as well as expanding resources to handle the crowds.

One way the company embraces new possibilities is by developing its own software. Dick’s Technology leaders realize that by steering its e-commerce platforms and inventory tracking, they can quickly adjust to customer needs.

Over a year ago, Dick’s Sporting Goods began a major move from heavy, monolithic applications to applications based on lightweight microservices. It’s a new way for developers to write and deploy code. Developers package microservices into portable containers, and then deploy and manage these from a cloud platform as a service. This is helpful for scaling out applications on demand around holidays and major sporting events that drive sales, explains Paice.

Dick’s also added a Kubernetes-based solution for containers, so developers can choose the best way to run an app. The combination “empowers developers to solve problems faster and better serve customers,” Paice says. “It’s really good for the developers to be the master of their own destiny when it comes to the applications and services they’re supporting.”

Currently, Dick’s product teams segment their work among several small Kubernetes clusters. (This is defined by the Kubernetes community as “a set of machines, called nodes, that run containerized applications managed by Kubernetes.”) Next, Paice says the company’s goal is to consolidate monitoring into a single place.