In this blog post we speak with Mark Bevelander, account manager for SaaS companies. The topic of our conversation is selecting and implementing a Kubernetes platform. The article covers features, the most important questions, and practical tips and guidelines to help you on your way.
“Customers within the vertical SaaS are in full swing. Many of our existing customers end up transitioning to Cloud-native technology. Not only existing but also new clients and start-ups reach out to us for this proposition. Many of these clients have already set up an application, and are looking to optimize their development and deployment process or grow towards the ultimate setup for scaling. As soon as clients start moving towards Cloud-native technology, you know they have already taken on several challenges” says Bevelander.
Some customers have a monolithic application. “These customers have yet to take a big step to move towards Cloud-native technology. Many adjustments are necessary for a monolithic application to become suitable for Cloud-native technology, this is a complex process requiring lots of expertise”.
Cloud-native requires a different approach
“For example, a Cloud-native application requires a completely different structure than a monolithic application. A monolithic application is developed as one integrated solution, but a Cloud-native application is microservices oriented. A microservice often includes a specific functionality and runs as an individual service.”
But True also helps customers who work with a Cloud-native approach on their own. Bevelander: “Often they already develop based on Cloud-native technology, while working with Docker as well. However, such customers run into issues when taking their applications into production. The process for which they turn to us.”
Prepare business requirements
Writing good business requirements is often a stage causing gridlock. “One of the concerns is safeguarding continuity, which is not just about availability and uptime. When setting such requirements, apart from the fairly regular aspects and starting points, it is the impact on and risk to the business which we pay special attention to. Consider downtime or potential security risks. An example would be one of our customers, who is in the business of COVID-19 rapid tests. If this party is temporarily unreachable to book an appointment, the impact on the business will be enormous. At first sight, a 99.5% uptime guarantee may seem to offer a sufficient degree of certainty. However, such a website being unexpectedly unreachable for an hour results in enormous damages”.
Costs are another aspect to take into account when drawing up business requirements. “It can also be the case that downtime of a few minutes doesn’t really have that much of an impact on the business. Examples are internal business applications, an intranet or a data collector that can also retrieve data at a later time. Guarantees of continuity come at a price, thus determining the requirements is highly relevant.
Security is of the essence
Security is another point of focus when drawing up business requirements for SaaS customers. Just in the Netherlands alone, serious data breaches and security incidents have been occurring on weekly. “You might think of notorious data breaches such as the ‘Allekabels webshop’, but there are many more small(er) data breaches not making it to the news. Determining the business requirements in this area is even more difficult,” Bevelander explains.
Yes, security is always important, yet security levels also need to be tailored to the specific situation. “You always strive to prevent any data breach. However, not all cases are the same. Are you working with highly sensitive personal data? If so, the implications of a data breach are even greater. The reputation of the company could be seriously harmed. Therefore, extra efforts need to be made in terms of security. We also have a team of ethical hackers who target customer applications. They expose security vulnerabilities before malicious parties are able to find and exploit them. We do this for instance by performing security audits, instructions and phishing tests.”
A wide variety of options
Parties opting for Cloud-native technology are often encountered by a wide variety of options: “Developments in the field of Cloud-native technology and microservices are moving very fast. The Kubernetes orchestration platform is a good example of this. Kubernetes has become a global standard and entails a very broad ecosystem of wide-ranging initiatives. This in turn has resulted in dozens of certifications available for building a Kubernetes cluster. As you can imagine it is no wonder companies are overwhelmed. It has become increasingly difficult for companies to keep up with all the developments and knowledge.”
Many clients, who have already started their Cloud-native journey knock on our door. “They might have started themselves but have reached a point from which they can no longer move forward.” We think along with them, help them and support them.
Asking critical questions
True has always been focused on innovative technologies, Cloud-native technology being one of them. “We are good at asking critical questions. As soon as a customer starts working with us, we do not simply start to rollout. First we map out how the business works. What are the business requirements and what does the customer’s development process look like? What is the structure of the desired application and what are the dependencies of the application?”
“After the bigger picture has been formed, we can start filling out all the important criteria. And only then we can start making the right choices in the field of infrastructure. Subsequently we set up a mature and secure Kubernetes environment and determine which guarantees are key,” Bevelander explains. During knowledge sessions and workshops with clients developers get to ask all these questions.
What is managed Kubernetes?
True offers managed Kubernetes. This means we continue thinking along after the roll-out of the Cloud-native environment. “We do not simply hand over the keys, no, we ensure that developers are actually empowered to work with the platform. One key aspect to ensure this, is by knowledge sharing. Knowledge sessions and workshops are not only about collecting information for setting up the platform, but they are just as much about sharing knowledge with the client’s developers. As a result, customers can extract the maximum value of knowledge for their team.
“Many of our customers transitioning to Cloud-native technology and Kubernetes previously ran their SaaS application on a traditional monolithic architecture. In these cases developers have been mainly focused on developing the software and have had little control over issues such as middleware and runtime. With Cloud-native technology the situation is different. Developers decide for themselves what they include in a container. They no longer have to worry about the underlying infrastructure and configuration, but suddenly do become (jointly) responsible for the middleware. This is where it gets tricky as it involves the field of security. This is where True Managed Kubernetes offers True value. In addition to advising and unburdening customers with the use of our Kubernetes, we continue to guide and help them with their configuration.”
Relieving the burden of configuration
Those who host a Cloud-native application in the public cloud, such as with Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS), have to set up a lot of infrastructure and middleware themselves. Bevelander: “This requires experienced professionals, who are currently in short supply. For a very large part we relieve clients of this configuration. For the matters of which the client remains responsible, we provide support and assistance.”
After the rollout, the optimization phase is very important. “In this phase we critically look at the end result and monitor the application. Is everything running properly? Did you make the right choices during the development process? Is there room for improvement?”
What is different about True?
For most providers, managed Kubernetes mainly means they supply all the infrastructure components. Customers themselves are responsible for the configuration of these components. “We also started this way at True. This lead to our service desk receiving a lot of questions from customers about the configuration and usage in practice. Are you for example running into performance problems? It’s not always about the underlying infrastructure.”
Getting started right away: Managed Kubernetes from True
“In practice, we noticed that many of our customers haven’t reached the level that allows them to make the most of Kubernetes. This is mainly due to the sheer size of the Kubernetes- and Docker landscape. Developments come at such a rapid pace, resulting in so many options. Yet another reason why we offer additional support, and help our clients with tasks such as choosing the right tools for managing Kubernetes”.
What distinguishes customers who are successful with Cloud-native?
An important characteristic of customers who successfully use Cloud-native technology is the ability to examine their own organization, application and development process. To be able to look very critically at one’s own business and capabilities. “What knowledge do you actually have internally? Holding up a mirror to the business clearly shows to what extent your organization can adopt Kubernetes itself, but also whether you should want to do this by yourself,” Bevelander concludes.
Curious how True can support your organization in embracing Cloud-native technology? Our experts are happy to think along with you. Contact us for more information!