Navigating open standards for Kubernetes

Among organisations that have adopted cloud-native infrastructure, 78% of them run their container clusters on Kubernetes. Given the ubiquitous nature of Kubernetes, most DevOps teams aren’t worried about whether the platform should be adopted in the first place. Rather, their main concern lies in ensuring the implementation of Kubernetes is aligned with industry best practice, allowing for easy integrations and reliable delivery. That is where publicly available definitions of the best practices for IT teams come into play – open standards.

These standards, through providing a common blueprint for DevOps teams to work from, allow organisations to avoid unanticipated hurdles when implementing Kubernetes. Committing to open standards also helps team members experience the smoothest possible learning curve for Kubernetes and the nuances of an organisation’s own deployment. Open standards are optimal for integrations among multiple clusters and help avoid vendor lock-in, owing to the fact that decisions are made by the whole open source Kubernetes community rather than a specific vendor.

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There are three important elements for organisations to consider when approaching open standards for Kubernetes: appraising and maintaining open standards, as well as understanding the importance of working with the open source community.

Appraising open standards

Most vendors and developers are familiar with the organisations responsible for setting the two main sets of open standards regarding the use of Kubernetes. The first is the Open Container Initiative, which develops container runtime and image requirements that standardise the packaging and launching of containers. The OCI’s specs serve as a vital prerequisite for running any container cluster.

The second is the Cloud Native Computing Foundation. The CNCF is responsible for operating the Certified Kubernetes Conformance Program. The program appraises vendor solutions to ensure their distribution of Kubernetes meets key delivery requirements – those that meet these requirements receive certification from the CNCF.

Guaranteeing that every product in your stack follows these guidelines is the best way to ensure that you have viable options for building cloud native applications, and that everything in your Kubernetes deployment can easily be integrated with other solutions.

Maintaining consistency in your standards

To ensure that your Kubernetes implementation follows the above standards, you need to build a common vision among your DevOps team about what the deployment should look like. Many organisations fail to do this, and instead end up deploying several Kubernetes stacks which are incompatible with one-another, typically leading to lapses in standards and lack of overall governance.

Multiple Kubernetes implementations typically result in diminished organisational standards, owing to the fact that the knowledge between DevOps teams operating on different stacks is dispersed or siloed. This could mean that a lapse in one stack might not be spotted by another team. Even if your organisation deploys a dedicated team to monitor standards across various stacks, they can still miss seemingly minor but ultimately crucial details that can add up to make a stack being substandard.

In the long run, much less risk and technical debt is likely if your organisation agrees a universal blueprint from the outset, defining what your Kubernetes implementations should look like.

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Work with the open source

The most crucial fact about Kubernetes is that it is open source, which means that its existence has come about due to the efforts of a large and collaborative community. The OCI and CNCF guidelines have not been set in a vacuum, but have been derived from conversations held among the community for many years. The ongoing conversations among the open source community are what will drive further development of these standards. All of this means that any organisation wanting to understand the issues and directions facing the specifications for Kubernetes and its ecosystem should try to understand and participate in the open source community.

In addition, community involvement helps teams get a better sense of what other teams are currently doing. This is a great way for team members to collaborate and learn about the tools and practices other teams are trying, and to use this as a springboard to improve what is going on within their own organisation.

The open standards for Kubernetes are pretty straightforward to pick up. The challenge is ensuring that they are maintained. This requires you to be aware of the direction your own Kubernetes implementation is heading, while also understanding how those standards are set to further develop and mature with the open source community.

Written by Erica Langhi, senior solution architect EMEA at Red Hat

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