3 Ways Cluster Sprawl is Hurting Your Business
September 02, 2020

Jie Yu

When developer teams first started to use and adapt Kubernetes to their operational environments, applications were more simple and limited. Developers knew physically where application resources were being deployed and how they were performing because everything was housed in a monolithic, on-site system.

As companies look to further harness the power of cloud native, however, they are adopting open source technologies at rapid speed, increasing the number of clusters and workloads. This added volume makes it difficult to know where clusters exist and how they are performing. Architecting applications is no longer a simple task and requires DevOps teams to have a deep understanding of the required governance.

The lack of maturity in the Kubernetes space means many organizations are not aware of the governance requirements or how to manage cluster sprawl. As more and more instances are deployed to multiple clouds, it can be tough to monitor sprawling and disparate Kubernetes clusters, and for DevOps teams to keep pace with the rapid adoption.

Understanding how to manage cluster sprawl and the challenges this is creating for your organization is critical to keep in mind when scaling a cloud native infrastructure. Here are the 3 ways that cluster sprawl is detrimental to your business:

1. Lack of centralized control and visibility

When adopting Kubernetes, many organizations will face regulatory, intellectual property, or security concerns based on where services and other critical resources are running. A lack of centralized governance and visibility over how and where resources are provisioned can lead to organizational risk, as clusters may have inconsistent software builds or versions, making them difficult to support.

Today's developers are introducing a multitude of new stacks while enterprises find themselves with 10-15 different methods for provisioning Kubernetes clusters. Most commonly, the teams that are in charge of governance aren't even aware of these new clusters, which can lead to inconsistent security controls, as well as compliance, regulatory, and IP challenges along the way.

2. Duplication of effort and work

The modern-day cloud isn't confined to the singular stack. Enterprises are deploying even more clusters across multiple clouds, making it exponentially more difficult to manage. With each newly added cluster comes new overhead to manage a different set of policies, roles, and configurations.

As the number of Kubernetes deployments and clusters grow, this is creating duplicate work for DevOps teams. When it comes to patching security issues or upgrading versions, teams are doing five times the amount of work, deploying services and applications repeatedly within and across clusters.

In addition, all configuration and policy management, such as roles and secrets, are repeated, wasting time and creating the opportunity for mistakes. Without an easy way to centrally manage multiple clusters and workloads, organizations create more work for their DevOps teams.

3. No clear division of labor

When time-to-market is a business imperative, developers need to kick into high-gear to rapidly deploy code at scale. Kubernetes is popular among developers because it enables them to spin up their own environments with ease and agility. However, they tend to lose that flexibility when their platforms are brought into IT operations, where consistent administering, standardized user interfaces, as well as managing and obtaining insights about their infrastructure is required.

The challenge then becomes finding the right balance between that flexibility and enforcing governance. When organizations are unable to find the right balance between developer flexibility and enforcing IT control, they can expect challenges that last for some time, and leave residual effects on their stacks.

Every few months, new open source projects, databases and developer tools are advancing and empowering innovation like never before. While Kubernetes clusters are bringing key benefits to businesses, they are also introducing complexities that need to be properly managed. As complexity within cloud native environments and container strategies increases, so does the need for continuous oversight, organization, and streamlined management. Organizations must ensure their DevOps teams are ready to adapt and excel in the new Kubernetes landscape.

Jie Yu is Chief Architect at D2iQ
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