Common Kubernetes Challenges in 2022 and How to Solve Them

October 5, 2022 Cindy O'Brien

This year’s VMware Explore saw a great deal of excitement from the multi-cloud community. It’s evident that organizations are seeking reliable ways to transform their businesses and become digitally smart. It’s also becoming increasingly more apparent that organizations are looking towards Kubernetes to help them do so.

In fact, the State of Kubernetes 2022 report has shown us that not only is Kubernetes here to stay, but it’s growing at a rapid pace. As the CNCF survey has confirmed, Kubernetes has crossed the chasm. In fact, 99% of respondents say that they have realized significant benefits from deploying Kubernetes, including improved resource utilization (59%), as well as eased application upgrades and maintenance (49%).

In this blog, we’ll recap where the Kubernetes industry stands today, the direction it’s heading in, and how you can look to VMware for solutions for your digital transformation initiatives.

As with any other new and fast-changing technology, there are clear benefits from containers, and yet, challenges still remain. The issues that concern Kubernetes stakeholders are continuously evolving. Most organizations are grappling with rapid growth in the number of Kubernetes clusters and operations that are increasingly becoming hybrid and multi-cloud.

Hyper growth is creating a need for new tools and the ability to manage security and other policies across clusters and clouds. More than 97% of survey respondents say they are now willing to pay for services and support for important Kubernetes tools.

At VMware, we work with customers who face these Kubernetes challenges every day. We created VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations to provide the tools, automation, and data-driven insights that can help you succeed—especially as you operate more clusters in more locations.

Check out our latest blog post to learn how else Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations is helping customers.

Kubernetes is increasingly multi-cluster and multi-cloud 

One of the primary goals of the State of Kubernetes survey is to find out how Kubernetes is growing and where people are running it. Comparing the data collected from 2020 through 2022, it is clear that growth is accelerating.

Almost 30% of respondents are operating more than 50 clusters, and almost half expect the number of clusters they operate to increase dramatically (in fact, more than double) or increase substantially (50–100% more) over the next year. 

When it comes to cloud, 41% of respondents are hybrid (running clusters on-premises and in at least one public cloud), and 46% are multi-cloud (running Kubernetes in more than one public cloud, with or without on-premises clusters). 

 All of those clusters in various locations translates to significant challenges. When asked about management, it was reported that most challenges grew this year including: 

  • Difficulties in managing cluster lifecycle and upgrades (41% of respondents, up 5% from last year)
  • Difficulties with integration to current infrastructure (36%, up 6%)
  • Meeting security and compliance requirements (47%, up 4%)

How Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations addresses multi-cluster and multi-cloud challenges 

Challenges plaguing multi-cluster, multi-cloud Kubernetes include multiple distributions, different management interfaces in each cloud, and lack of visibility across environments. With more clusters being deployed in multiple locations, it's vital that Kubernetes operators can smooth over the variations between different clouds, Kubernetes services, and distributions, as much as possible. Operators want to standardize how developers interact with infrastructure.

Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations is designed to solve these problems. A multi-cloud, centralized Kubernetes management plane helps you simplify the operations and management of all your Kubernetes clusters, no matter where they are running, or which Kubernetes distribution(s) you are using. You can use this central hub to manage things like cluster lifecycles, identity and access, security, networking, quota policies, and data protection, eliminating many of the hassles of managing clusters across disparate environments and teams.

Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations offers an enterprise-ready Kubernetes runtime that can be deployed across on-premises, public cloud, and edge, or, you can continue to use your preferred distribution. Either way, it’s important to note that having the same Kubernetes distribution everywhere makes life a lot easier for operators, and especially developers. 

To learn how to smooth over your multi-cloud strategy, check out the IT Operator to Platform Operator: How to Bridge the Gap Between Dev and Ops session from VMware Explore 2022. 

Better tools to keep pace with growth 

Teams deploying Kubernetes must streamline operations and find solutions to cope with hiring challenges and operational complexity. Do-it-yourself approaches—like building Kubernetes from upstream code, rolling your own infrastructure, and developing tooling in-house—have become impractical for all but very large organizations and early adopters (who may have had no choice).

This year’s top two challenges for selecting a Kubernetes distribution are all about expertise: inadequate internal experience and expertise (noted by 51% of respondents) and hard to hire needed expertise (37%). With talent in short supply, many teams are seeking to fill the gaps with simpler Kubernetes solutions combined with support and services.

Teams need better tools to help them keep up with Kubernetes growth. The following figure shows the most important tools and capabilities necessary for Kubernetes expansion.

How Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations solves tooling challenges 

While there’s a tremendous ecosystem around Kubernetes, it can still be challenging to select the right tools for your needs, as well as deploy and configure all of those tools. In multi-cluster, multi-cloud environments it’s often difficult and time consuming to manage multiple tools, keep everything up to date, and maintain consistency. 

By bundling many of the capabilities needed to operate Kubernetes, Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations makes life much simpler for busy development and operations teams. Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations gives you the functionality you need, addressing the areas highlighted in this year’s survey, without sacrificing the flexibility to use your preferred tools. The following are the baseline capabilities that Tanzu provides:

  • Lifecycle management – Tanzu automates cluster lifecycle management tasks, reducing risk, but also  enabling your team to focus on tasks with greater value add. Tanzu is deeply involved in the creation and development of Cluster API, an open source, cross-vendor effort to simplify cluster lifecycle management.  
  • Monitoring – Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations gives you monitoring and observability tools that allow you to keep a close eye on application and infrastructure health and performance at massive scale, aggregating everything into a single data source. 
  • Automation – With many automations built into the platform—plus an easy-to-use UI, CLI, and declarative API—Tanzu can significantly reduce the complexity of multi-cluster, multi-cloud Kubernetes operations. 
  • Security – Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations addresses security across multiple layers, including: 
    • Image scanning via a built-in container registry 
    • Hardened node images included with the runtime 
    • Ability to apply consistent security, access, and network policies at scale 
    • Centralized back up and restore options for clusters and namespaces
    • Granular connectivity policies via our service mesh 

Security concerns are shifting 

Given the hyper growth in the number of Kubernetes clusters and multi-cloud deployments—combined with the continued increase in cyber threats—the security focus has shifted somewhat this year. While most security concerns decreased slightly or remained flat, applying policies consistently across clusters and teams saw a 9-point jump with 46% of respondents stating this as a main point of interest. Controlling access to clusters jumped 6%. These two capabilities are essential for ensuring the security of your Kubernetes fleet.

Graphical user interface, applicationDescription automatically generated

How Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations addresses multi-cluster, multi-cloud security 

When you’re forced to manage many clusters across multiple clouds independently, it becomes extremely challenging to ensure that you apply security and other policies consistently. Additionally, it’s difficult to prevent drift due to manual changes. One misconfiguration is all it takes to open the door to disasters that can take down your operations and tarnish your company’s reputation. 

Policy management is powerful because, for example, you can limit access to certain users or prohibit pulls from specific container registries. However, if you try to apply a particular policy to hundreds of Kubernetes clusters running on different clouds, you have a management nightmare.

Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations includes fleet-wide, policy-based management, and Tanzu’s role-based access control (RBAC) makes it simple to grant developers, operators, and application owners the right level of access and control, enabling you to meet the strictest security and compliance requirements with consistent security and networking policies (e.g., mutual transport layer security encryption, API protection,  layer 4–layer 7 load balancing and ingress). 

The service mesh included with Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations enables a zero-trust model with dynamic, behavior-based security to protect microservices, APIs, and data—including attribute-based access control (ABAC), API threat detection and protection, and full audit history, with an operational model that promotes collaboration between developers, operations, and security.  

Find out more 

Kubernetes has been on a wild ride, moving from science projects to mainstream IT in the span of just a few years. Almost a third of stakeholders surveyed in our 2022 report operate 50 or more clusters. Cluster growth and multi-cloud deployment are changing the nature of Kubernetes operations. Read the full State of Kubernetes 2022 report to learn more about this rapid evolution and what it means. 

If your team is struggling to keep up with lifecycle management and other tasks, spending too much time trying to pull together toolsets, or worried that your security practices aren’t keeping up with rapid growth, Tanzu can help. 

VMware Tanzu for Kubernetes Operations brings together everything you need to: 

  • Stand up and operate an enterprise-grade Kubernetes-based container infrastructure 
  • Secure applications and data running on Kubernetes infrastructure 
  • Optimize application and infrastructure performance across all your clouds

VMware Tanzu Application Platform offers an integrated set of tools and frameworks that enables developers to spend more time coding, and less time configuring and caring for Kubernetes.  

If you’re eager to learn more about the state of Kubernetes today, you’re in luck! On October 6 we are hosting a webinar with industry experts from VMware to discuss the common challenges many organizations face today, as well as solutions to support you with your digital transformation. 

Click here to register!


About the Author

Cindy O'Brien

Cindy O’Brien is a senior product marketing manager on the VMware Tanzu team, supporting Tanzu Kubernetes Grid and Tanzu Kubernetes Grid Integrated version. She has a degree in international business and economics as well as marketing. She’s passionate about community building, self-development, and traveling.

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