Skills and security continue to cloud the promise of cloud-native platforms

the KubeCon and CloudNativeCon events have just ended in Europe, and one thing has become clear: the opportunities are outstripping the ability of organizations to capitalize on their potential benefits. Keith Townsend, who attended the conference, observed in a Tweeter that “talent and education are the number one challenge. I currently don’t see a practical way to migrate thousands of applications without a lot of resources. There’s more work than people and money.”

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Photo: Joe McKendrick

In effect. Information technology is becoming more complex every day, and there is no shortage of demand for monitoring and automation capabilities for building and managing systems. Cloud-native platforms are seen as remedies not only for improving maintenance, monitoring, and automation, but also for modernizing infrastructure and accelerating time-to-market. At the same time, the skills and security of cloud-native systems remain paramount concerns.

These points were confirmed in a survey of more than 1,300 global respondents from Canonicalthe editor of Ubuntu. The survey finds that 83% use either hybrid cloud or multi-cloud, but nearly 50% say lack of internal skills and limited talent hinder migration to or use of Kubernetes and containers.

Benefits of cloud-native technologies mentioned include elasticity and agility, resource optimization, and reduced service costs.

Why become cloud native?

  • Improved maintenance, monitoring and automation (64%)
  • Modernization of infrastructure (44%)
  • Faster time to market (26%)
  • Reduced infrastructure total cost of ownership (18%)

Key benefits of cloud-native technologies for businesses

  • Elasticity and agility (50%)
  • Resource optimization (27%)
  • Reduced service costs (21%)
  • Faster time to market (21%)
  • Cloud portability (19%)
  • Developer productivity (19%)

The survey explored exactly where apps are running. At least 14% of respondents said they run everything on Kubernetes, over 20% said on bare metal and virtual machines, and over 29% said a combination of bare metal, virtual machines and Kubernetes. “This distro shows how the flexibility of Kubernetes allows organizations to run the same type of workloads everywhere,” the report authors state.

Security continues to be an issue for cloud and Kubernetes users, with 38% of respondents suggesting that security is the most important consideration, whether when operating Kubernetes, building images containers or defining an edge policy. Tellingly, only 14% say they have “mastered” security in the native cloud space.

Biggest challenges for Kubernetes and container deployments

  • Lack of internal skills/limited workforce (48%)
  • Company IT structure (38%)
  • Incompatibility with legacy systems (32%)
  • Difficulty training users (29%)
  • Security and compliance issues are not adequately addressed (25%)
  • Integrate cloud-native apps together (22%)
  • Poor or limited support from platform providers or partners (17%)
  • Networking requirements are not adequately addressed (17%)
  • Cost overruns (16%)
  • Storage/data requirements are not adequately addressed (16%)
  • Observability/monitoring requirements not addressed (15%)

Among the use cases cited for cloud-native environments, re-architecting proprietary solutions into microservices ranks as the top activity. However, one of the contributors to the report expressed caution about using microservices. “If you think of microservices as a panacea, you’re going to be disappointed,” says Tim Hockin, Principal Software Engineer for Google Cloud Platform and report contributor. “It’s a way of organizing teams. Microservices offer a good way to do that. But if you think it’s going to take a bad app and make it good, then you’re going to be disappointed. Or if your app doesn’t isn’t reliable, or it follows the mud architecture big ball, then you’re going to have a hard time too.”

Top Cloud Native Use Cases

  • Restructuring a proprietary solution into microservices (19%)
  • Deploy and test applications in a CI/CD pipeline (15%)
  • Moving to an open source solution (13%)
  • Managing or enabling a hybrid cloud setup (11%)
  • Deploying or managing Kubernetes-as-a-Service (10%)
  • Orchestrate workloads in a multicloud environment (10%)

Even with the relentless rise of cloud computing, there is still a back-and-forth between onsite and offsite approaches. “When people cite lack of skills as a barrier, the truth is that they are often already in an environment where they are ready to do the next thing but don’t have the infrastructural or organizational support to do it,” says Ken Sipe, a senior enterprise architect affiliated with the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and Edward Jones. “It’s also a matter of buying versus building: when purchasing a solution and associated service, an organization benefits from utilizing external resources and a skill set without having to develop the capability internally. When building internally, the organization can benefit from implementing its engineering discipline, which could be a useful differentiator.”