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Now that the Kubernetes platform upon which most cloud-native applications are being built has turned five, the level of Kubernetes adoption within organizations is starting to spike. However, Kubernetes still represents a significant challenge to provision and maintain. Kubernetes may be one of the most flexible and powerful IT platforms ever devised, but it was also built by engineers for engineers.

As a result, most internal IT teams still don’t have the skills required to manage Kubernetes. That helps explain why, despite the fact that Kubernetes and containers is so widely adopted, the percentage of so-called cloud native workloads running on the platform remains relatively thin compared to traditional monolithic applications running deployed on virtual machines.

Nevertheless, as organizations embrace containers to build and deploy applications based on microservices that will one day supplant those monolithic applications, the opportunity for managed service providers (MSPs) to wrap a range of services around Kubernetes is substantial. MSPs will need to be prepared for all the places Kubernetes is likely to be deployed. 

Distribution challenges

There are now more than 75 distributions of Kubernetes that have been certified by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), an arm of the Linux Foundation that oversees the development of Kubernetes in much the same way Linux is developed. Each of those distributions tends to be optimized for different use cases. For example, Red Hat has a distribution optimized for the enterprise, while Amazon Web Services (AWS) has a distribution optimized for its cloud environment.

A provider of a Kubernetes distribution optimized for IT services providers is Jelastic. Company CEO Ruslan Synytsky says one of the main differences between Jelastic and other providers of Kubernetes distributions is that Jelastic’s implementation is built around a pay-per-use business model and comes with a set of tools designed to automate the provisioning of Kubernetes clusters at scale. Synytsky also notes the Jelastic implementation of Kubernetes is designed to run more efficiently, which has significant implications for MSPs in terms of both performance and cost.

Synytsky estimates that there are already more than 60 MSPs relying on the company’s Kubernetes distribution to deliver managed Kubernetes services spanning multiple clouds and on-premises IT environment. As Kubernetes becomes the foundation for hybrid cloud computing, MSPs need an approach to Kubernetes that doesn’t inadvertently make them dependent on any single platform, advises Synytsky.

All the major vendors already offer some form of managed Kubernetes services, including AWS, Microsoft, Google, VMware, and Red Hat. However, each of those services is optimized for a specific environment, at a time when customers are making it clear they want to be able to take advantage of multiple cloud computing platforms. Savvy MSPs will position their multiplatform Kubernetes practice as a means of achieving that goal.

Kubernetes remains a work in progress. Kubernetes is on a quarterly release cadence, with the latest release just announced this week. Even after five years of development, Kubernetes is not easy to master for anyone. However, MSPs that do tame Kubernetes will find themselves on a cusp of a major new platform that is quickly turning into one of the fastest growing segments in all of IT.

Photo: Xato / Shutterstock

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Mike Vizard

Posted by Mike Vizard

Mike Vizard has covered IT for more than 25 years, and has edited or contributed to a number of tech publications including InfoWorld, eWeek, CRN, Baseline, ComputerWorld, TMCNet, and Digital Review. He currently blogs for IT Business Edge and contributes to CIOinsight, The Channel Insider, Programmableweb and Slashdot. Mike blogs about emerging cloud technology for Smarter MSP.

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