Guest post originally published on the Fairwinds blog by Danielle Cook

Traditional approaches to governance, such as Information Technology Infrastructure Library (ITIL) approaches that created a set of detailed practices for IT service and asset management, were overly restrictive and ultimately slowed development teams down. This model is counterproductive in cloud native environments, and platform engineers and developers alike are understandably cautious about adopting new governance models that they believe could slow down delivery in a fast-paced development and delivery environment. 

As organizations increasingly adopt Kubernetes to build and deliver cloud-native applications fast, they understand both the strategic importance of the technology they’re deploying as well as the need to manage costs and align to overall business needs. So how can they adopt guardrails to keep everything running smoothly without putting roadblocks in front of their development teams? What if cloud native governance actually worked more like the guardrails we have on curvy mountain roads. You may never need them, but they’re right there to stop you from hurtling off the cliff — or in software development, deploying code with security vulnerabilities and misconfigurations, compliance violations, and likely to result in excessive cloud costs.

Governance guardrails that are native to the Kubernetes ecosystem enable organizations to create, manage, deploy, and enforce policies across the cloud native infrastructure landscape as well as the applications and services deployed on it. By putting declarative and automated governance in place, platform engineers can enable developers to self-service and more easily meet business initiatives. Here’s how:

1. Agile, integrated software development and deployment

Everyone has seen how agile approaches have accelerated software development and deployment. Cloud native guardrails that are integrated with Kubernetes deploy across the Kubernetes application lifecycle, from day 0 (planning) to day 1 (deployment) to day 2 (full production). Different policies apply and are enforced during each of these periods, therefore any governance solution adopted must integrate with CI/CD tooling. 

The integration between Kubernetes and a governance solution provides platform engineering and DevOps teams with the ability to maintain policy compliance throughout the software development lifecycle (SDLC) without manual intervention and frequent code review. Policies can also apply to infrastructure configurations and application-specific issues that impact application developers directly. 

2. Regulatory compliance

Regulation can be an ongoing challenge as developers work to ensure that the applications and services they deploy handle data appropriately and deploy securely. Regardless of whether an organization must meet financial regulations, such as Sarbanes Oxley or PCI DSS, healthcare regulations (HIPAA), or data privacy regulations (GDPR), there are always requirements to meet. Cloud native guardrails include numerous declarative policy languages that support compliance and cloud configuration policies. These guardrails can also automatically track policy compliance, making it far simpler for teams to both comply with changing regulations and track that compliance for regulatory bodies. 

3. Visibility across threat surfaces: Cloud, SaaS, PaaS, & (?)aaS 

Platform and DevOps teams can identify vulnerabilities and misconfigurations across the Kubernetes landscape automatically using cloud native guardrails, both in the cloud and on premises as appropriate. These tools can also provide remediation advice to developers as needed and identify the criticality level of any issues identified. This information gives developers the ability to self-service without worry, knowing that guardrails are in place. 

Cloud native guardrails can also automate many security tasks by monitoring all clusters for security misconfigurations from day 0 through to day 2. A cloud-native governance platform can continuously configure Kubernetes as it scales to multiple clusters and teams. This enables platform teams to automatically identify misconfigurations across the Kubernetes lifecycle, simplifying the process of finding and fixing vulnerabilities and misconfigurations even as their K8s environment becomes more complex.

4. Cost efficiency

Managing cloud and Kubernetes costs is a challenge for most organizations. The CNCF’s FinOps for Kubernetes report, “Insufficient – or Nonexistent – Kubernetes Cost Monitoring is Causing Overspend” shows that Kubernetes costs increased for 68% of respondents over the past year, and half of those saw the costs rise by more than 20%. These rising costs are compounded by teams having difficulties monitoring and predicting Kubernetes spend. Cloud native guardrails can monitor Kube cluster efficiency on an ongoing basis, helping teams set appropriate requests and limits to ensure that teams can achieve maximum reliability for the lowest spend. It can also configure Kubernetes automatically and apply policies consistently to ensure that even as teams scale, cost efficiency and optimization continue to be governed appropriately.

5. Consistency and reliability

The guardrails approach to governance relies on the ability to represent policies as declarative metadata. When platform engineers build internal development platforms using tools and systems that communicate in a common language, it simplifies both the representation and enforcement of such policies. Modern declarative policy languages are integral to enabling software developers to self-service because they are working within a framework of underlying systems and tools that enforce the organization’s policies. 

Cloud native guardrails help platform engineers and developers rightsize applications so that cloud resources requests and limits are tuned appropriately based on usage. The right solution can help teams gain visibility into Kubernetes not only to allocate resources but also to attribute costs to workloads and teams. This information helps teams meet the availability standards of an application by optimizing workloads for reliability and scalability.

Adopt cloud native guardrails

While the governance models of the past hampered speed and agility, new approaches to software development and technologies require solutions that integrate into Kubernetes environments without slowing delivery down. Cloud native guardrails that keep security, compliance, and costs in line without burdening software developers with the need to become Kubernetes experts or requiring platform engineers to act as a Kubernetes help desk can deliver on these goals. Fairwinds Insights provides cloud native guardrails for today’s platform engineering and software development teams. Try the free tier (available for environments up to 20 nodes, two clusters, and one repo) to see how its built-in and customized Kubernetes best practices improves the developer experience while reducing risk.