Guest post by Danielle Cook, Content Marketing Director at Fairwinds

When you move to Kubernetes, you must show clear business advantages. The business outcomes expected will include cost savings over time as you have better infrastructure utilizations, improved performance through reduced points of failure and increased security. 

Efficiency, reliability and security benefits can be realized in many different ways. Consider efficiency: your team may ship features faster or you’ll stop wasting money on over provisioned resources. Your reliability may improve as you can scale more easily — so when your app sees strong demand, there is no downtime. This of course all comes at the price of visibility into your cluster configuration

A few months ago we published the Kubernetes Maturity Model. Comprising seven phases, each looks at what engineers should expect as they journey from Kubernetes preparation through to optimization. 

Here we talk specifically about what business outcomes you should expect. While it may be repetitive in a few phases, it’s important that you spend enough time in phase one outlining the goals and benefits of cloud native, container and Kubernetes adoption. 

Phase 1: Prepare

Deciding to adopt a cloud native approach to your application or services is usually driven by business reasons. In phase 1, your business outcomes will be limited, but absolutely must include setting the trial or migration for success. That means you should have documentation as to what your business goals are and how Kubernetes helps you achieve those. Some examples may include: 

Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
Scale to 1 million usersProvide flexible, scalable infrastructure based on users at any given time equipped with fast failover in the event of a problem. 
Deliver exceptional customer experienceEnsure the app is reliable as to not frustrate users
Get features to market fasterEnable a microservices approach to building apps. Smaller teams are more agile because each team has a focused function. APIs minimize the amount of cross-team communication required to build and deploy.

Phase 2: Transform

The second phase of Kubernetes Maturity focuses mostly on the technical transformation. However, in this phase, your technology team should have completed a successful POC. Based on that trial, you should have some initial findings on how Kubernetes will help improve your app. In a dev environment, you could, for example, have seen that:

  • An app is using less resources (cost savings)
  • A new feature shipped faster (faster time to market and thus increased revenue)
  • There was no downtime (improved reliability for customers) 
Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
POCYou should have some initial findings on how Kubernetes helps

Phase 3: Deploy

Once your dev team deploys one application to production, the business outcomes should start to come into view. You should use your documented business goals to track Kubernetes progress, but remember it won’t be immediate on day 1. Business outcomes may include: 

  • Reduced spend on app infrastructure
  • Reduced team focus on app infrastructure (note: this will happen over time in this phase as the team gets more confident in their skills)
  • Increased security for the application
  • Improve compliance as you can restrict and track access to the application
  • Accelerated development life cycles as you implement CI/CD pipelines and thus get features to customers faster

In this phase, it’s important that the business outcomes are examined and explained to business stakeholders. It should be a discussion with engineering leadership, the application owner (finance, marketing, etc), the CEO, and even the board. Without these discussions and alignment, maturing to the next phases will come with little appreciation and possibly even skepticism. 

Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
Reduced spend on app infrastructureImproved resource utilization
Reduced team focus on app infrastructureFast failover
Increased securityReduce DDoS impact with limits, RBAC, Kubernetes secrets and encryption 
Improved complianceAccess controls
Ship features faster (Accelerated development lifecycles)Rolling updates

Phase 4: Build Confidence

Building confidence in Kubernetes requires experience. In this stage, your business outcomes are dependent on your team’s experience. They will be trying new add-ons to improve security, efficiency and reliability. All of these will impact your services and applications as the team improves. 

Your team may have to revisit some decisions made earlier as Kubernetes was rolled out. That could set you back slightly, but the goal is to ensure there is no missing functionality, no single point of failure or disappointing performance. 

In stage four, monitoring will be implemented. This will help the business get reports on what’s working and what isn’t working. While the monitoring may be very specific, it will also provide insights into: 

  • Resource utilization to control costs
  • Performance to ensure availability 

Gaining confidence that your Kubernetes infrastructure is production-grade is essential. If you are uncertain about your progress, a Kubernetes audit is a great way to check your achievements against your business goals so you can improve.

Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
Goal check-inImplement monitoring against business goals

Phase 5: Improve Operations

The fifth phase of the Kubernetes Maturity Model is where you should expect to make huge gains in security, efficiency and reliability. Up to this point, your teams have been focusing on learning Kubernetes. Now it’s time to take that knowledge and apply it more thoroughly to your business goals. 

  • Security – if your main goal was to increase security, here you will spend time on access controls. 
  • Efficiency – if cost reduction was your main goal, here you will put in place tools to measure CPU and memory usage, and document how cloud usage is increasing or decreasing. Here you should be able to demonstrate to finance your baseline measurement.
  • Reliability – if improved performance/reducing downtime was the main goal, here you will check that all Kubernetes features are implemented. You will spend time with cluster configurations to work on this. 
Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
SecurityImplement controls around container configuration (root), privileges
EfficiencyMeasure CPU and memory usage
ReliabilityLiveness/readiness probes, replication

Phase 6: Measure & Control

Moving to stage six will see more measurement of what you’ve put in place. This is important as it will be used to demonstrate business outcomes. The business should expect to see:

  • Established protocols and procedures in Kubernetes
  • Policy enforcement of compliance standards
  • Comparison of apps built on Kubernetes vs. not 

The business should expect more reporting in this phase. Reporting should cover compliance, security, performance and cost. A single dashboard view into your clusters can help both technical and business leadership see progress. These should be easily aligned to the business goals established in phase one. 

Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
Increased reporting against metricsYou will likely need third party tools in this stage
Comparison on apps built on K8S vs. notComparison will help demonstrate value, show if all or what apps should be migrated

Phase 7: Optimize & Automate

By the final phase of the Kubernetes Maturity Model you should have achieved your business outcomes. You should have measurable results to show your leadership teams from the CEO to the CFO and the board.

At the same time, phase seven will see you make further improvements. That includes optimizing your Kubernetes workloads against further/more advanced cost and performance metrics. You will never stop optimizing your Kubernetes clusters. Here the expected business outcome is the ability to track how optimization continues to move the bar against established goals. 

You may also revisit your goals at this point, adjusting them to what has been achieved and what you want to achieve in future. For some, at this point, you may start to migrate your other applications and have a better understanding of what you want to achieve. 

Also in phase 7, you’ll automate as much as possible according to Kubernetes best practices to remove human error as to avoid security and performance problems. This automation will include implementing policy enforcement against your cluster configurations. Policy enforcement should be considered at every stage of maturity, but definitely at phase 7. Mature Kubernetes users know that misconfigurations can cause organizations to completely miss their business goals – putting them at risk for security breaches, scaling issues cost overruns. 

Business GoalHow Kubernetes Helps
Achieved business goalsDemonstrable results from achieving Kubernetes maturity 
AutomationReduce human error
OptimizationYou will tweak Kubernetes to continue to achieve business goals

Kubernete Maturity Model

The Maturity Model should be used to check in against both your technical and business outcomes. If you are not certain if you are making progress against each phase, or do not know exactly where you sit, get in touch. We are happy to discuss Kubernetes at your organization.