Kubernetes as a service (kaas)

Kubernetes as a service (kaas)

Kubernetes as a service (KaaS) is a model in which hyperscalers like AWS, GCP, and Azure allow you to quickly and easily start a Kubernetes cluster and begin deploying workloads on it instantly. In this article, we’ll explore different providers and discuss the pros and cons of leveraging KaaS.

What is Kubernetes as a service?

Kubernetes as a Service (KaaS) is a managed service offering that provides organizations with a simplified and streamlined way to deploy, manage, and scale Kubernetes clusters without having to deal with the underlying infrastructure complexities. In essence, KaaS abstracts away the operational tasks associated with setting up and maintaining Kubernetes clusters, allowing teams to focus more on developing and deploying applications.

Advantages of Kubernetes as a service

With KaaS, you spawn a Kubernetes cluster and start deploying your workload instantly. By handing over the responsibility of managing major components of Kubernetes, you save a lot of engineering time and effort that can be spent on product development instead. This is a massive benefit: After all, products are the crux of your business.

Faster time to production

Setting up a Kubernetes cluster from scratch can be a daunting task, and it can take a lot of time to install different components. After installation, you have to make sure that all the components are available and reliable, your data and configurations are backed up, and you also need to continuously scan the whole cluster to make sure it’s secure (which we’ll discuss below). On top of that, you have to take special precautions when dealing with etcd because that’s where all the data is stored. On the other hand, with Kubernetes as a service, you’re able to bring up and run Kubernetes clusters in a few hours without worrying about all of the complexity.

Better security and access control

With so many components, you have to work hard to make sure a self-managed Kubernetes cluster is secure. Tasks like ensuring that only the API server can talk to etcd, making the API server private, keeping all the cluster nodes private, and continuously patching the servers for security risks and access control all take time and energy that are better spent elsewhere.

Offloading these tasks to a cloud provider makes a lot of sense, especially for small teams. For the cloud provider, these practices are standard, and you’ll get a lot of security features out of the box. With KaaS,

Scalability

With the power of the cloud, you can scale Kubernetes clusters just by adding new nodes and virtual machines. Yet there are few things that you have to consider: Is your API server and etcd getting more requests than they can handle? In most cases, the answer is yes, and your cloud provider will scale them automatically. Without KaaS, you would need to scale them up manually. Another scalability problem involves the DNS. With a lot of services, you can end up overloading kube-dns.

Faster upgrades

The Kubernetes community is very active and releases new versions about every four months. There are two types of version upgrades in Kubernetes: a minor release and a major release. With minor releases, there are no changes to the APIs, which means that minor releases are fairly easy for application owners to implement.

That’s not the case when it comes to major upgrades. With major upgrades, Kubernetes APIs can change, meaning app owners have to spend time and energy on implementation—whether you are using Kubernetes as a service or not. Before triggering any major update, make sure your applications are ready for the upgraded Kubernetes APIs.

To prepare for major upgrades, back up the whole etcd, upgrade the controllers first, and then upgrade the API servers. Finally, update the node components and the underlying VMs. (In some cases, you may also have to update the CNI plugin, the kubelet, and kube-proxy.)

With managed Kubernetes, the responsibility of testing the release and taking care of the control plane when you trigger the upgrade lies with the vendor, saving a lot of engineering effort. Simply put, the upgrade process with Kubernetes as a service is far simpler. With KaaS, you don’t have to worry about backups and availability when upgrading.

Lower cost of ownership and predictable cost

With most of the responsibility offloaded to vendors, the total cost of ownership decreases, and the cost of running the Kubernetes cluster is predictable with managed offerings, considering you don’t have to deal with surprises like hardware failures.

Disadvantages of Kubernetes as a service

With KaaS, you have less control over components like API servers, etcd, and controllers. This means you can’t make changes to these components when you want to fine-tune them for performance or scalability—or when you want to patch them for better security.

Efficiency and cost

When you are running Kubernetes as a service on the cloud, and your worker nodes are also on the cloud, you’re not utilizing the underlying machine to its full capacity because there can be other customers’ virtual machines running on the same hardware. Furthermore, to abstract the underlying hardware and provide you (and other customers) with a view of the VMs, there will be a hypervisor running on top of the machine. All of this requires a lot of resources. That’s why you’ll never be able to get the same performance as you can get from a bare-metal server. With the extra performance efficiency of bare metal, you will be able to save money on infrastructure.

Bare-metal machines can be customized to boost performance, and they can deliver performance that seems exponentially faster when compared to a cloud VM. Still, the performance tradeoff might be worth it for you when compared to the management overhead. Running bare-metal hypervisors as worker nodes is not a straightforward task, so you have to decide how to balance speed, performance, and cost.

Vendor lock-in

It’s always an option to switch to another cloud provider because containers can run anywhere. However, one problem is the cost of migration. When leveraging a cloud provider, it’s normal to use tools and services native to that cloud provider. If you have to spend a lot of engineering effort migrating from one vendor to another, the process becomes much less appealing, and you might get stuck with one vendor.

Understanding Kubernetes as a Service (KaaS)

KaaS brings the power of Kubernetes without the complexities of managing infrastructure and cluster operations. It abstracts away the underlying infrastructure concerns, allowing teams to focus on application development and deployment strategies. Here are some key aspects of KaaS:

  1. Managed Kubernetes Clusters: KaaS providers offer fully managed Kubernetes clusters, handling tasks like cluster provisioning, upgrades, monitoring, and maintenance. This relieves teams from the operational overhead of managing clusters, ensuring high availability and reliability.
  2. Scalability and Elasticity: With KaaS, scaling Kubernetes clusters based on workload demands becomes seamless. Automated scaling mechanisms enable clusters to expand or shrink dynamically, optimizing resource utilization and cost-efficiency.
  3. Security and Compliance: KaaS platforms integrate robust security features such as role-based access control (RBAC), network policies, and encryption mechanisms. They also facilitate compliance with industry standards and regulatory requirements, enhancing data protection and governance.
  4. Monitoring and Observability: KaaS solutions come with built-in monitoring and observability tools, providing insights into cluster performance, resource utilization, and application health. This visibility enables proactive troubleshooting and optimization of Kubernetes environments.

Benefits of Kubernetes as a Service

Implementing KaaS offers several benefits that contribute to streamlined development workflows, enhanced operational efficiency, and accelerated time-to-market:

  1. Accelerated Deployment: KaaS accelerates Kubernetes adoption by eliminating setup complexities and offering pre-configured environments. Developers can quickly deploy applications on managed clusters, fostering rapid iteration and innovation.
  2. Cost Optimization: By leveraging KaaS, organizations can optimize cloud resource usage, dynamically scaling clusters as needed. This leads to cost savings by avoiding over-provisioning and inefficient resource allocation.
  3. Focus on Innovation: With KaaS handling infrastructure management tasks, teams can focus more on innovation and feature development. This promotes agility and enables organizations to respond swiftly to market demands.
  4. Reliability and Availability: Managed Kubernetes clusters ensure high availability and reliability through automated failover mechanisms, proactive monitoring, and rapid issue resolution. This translates to improved uptime and enhanced user experience.
  5. Ecosystem Integration: KaaS solutions integrate seamlessly with the Kubernetes ecosystem, including CI/CD pipelines, logging frameworks, and service meshes. This enables a cohesive DevOps toolchain and promotes collaboration across development and operations teams.

Kubernetes as a service is a boon for organizations with small DevOps teams because KaaS allows you to run a lot of Kubernetes clusters with minimal management overhead. At the same time, it can be a disaster if you are running huge Kubernetes clusters because of costs and performance slow-downs. If performance and customization is your concern and you have a good-size team, you should go for self-managed deployments. In all other cases, rely on KaaS providers for easy and secure Kubernetes deployments.

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