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3 container orchestration challenges to tackle head on

Jayne Groll CEO, DevOps Institute

For many organizations, container orchestration is a logical next step in DevOps adoption. Containers are lightweight and portable, making them easier on the resources within organizations. In comparison to heavyweight virtual machines, containers are componentized.

But this infrastructure is not always straightforward to use. Implementing containerized workloads presents several challenges, including security issues, networking issues, and use of CI/CD pipelines to generate container images, says Parveen Arora, co-founder and director of VVnT SeQuor, which provides DevOps-related maturity audits and assessments.

To help you better understand the challenges behind container orchestration and why some organizations struggle, several DevOps Institute ambassadors shared their advice ahead of the upcoming Container Orchestration SKILup Day. Here's what they had to say.

1. Choosing the right container technology can be a challenge in itself

It is easy to forget that not all DevOps trends are right for every organization. Containers are rapidly becoming the standard way to deploy software in production, but managing containers at scale is still a problem for many.

Anshul Lalit, head of technology and transformation at Kongsberg Digital, a solutions supplier to the oil and gas and other industries, said, "In general, container orchestration tools have been simplified to the extent that any developer can use them with minimal guidance. However, this does not mean that the challenges have been eliminated."

For many organizations, choosing a container technology is where the problems often start. As with any technology used within enterprises, several things need to be considered. For containers, these factors include scale, redundancy, release cadence, security, orchestration efficiency, and required skills, Lalit said.

When an organization does finally choose its container-based architecture, it is important to remember that technology changes frequently. "When it comes to the cloud and Kubernetes, versions of the underlying software keep changing every three months. To keep pace, "you must have a proactive approach to address the patches and make sure the applications running on the containers are not getting impacted," said Vishnu Vasudevan, head of product engineering and development at Opsera, a provider of a continuous integration platform.

2. Security needs to be top of mind, even when it's difficult

Security is also among the most frequent problems organizations face with container orchestration. Container environments are far more complex and dynamic than other infrastructures. Security-minded developers ensure that containers are running as intended, thus protecting the infrastructure, software supply chain, runtime, and everything else within your technology stack.

A security breach of a container is "almost identical to an operating system-level breach of a virtual machine" in terms of potential application and system vulnerability, said Supratip Banerjee, solutions architect at Principal Financial Group. It's critical for any DevOps team working on container and orchestration architecture and management to "fully understand the potential vulnerabilities of the platforms they are using," he said.

3. Struggling to adopt modern infrastructures is often related to culture

Even beyond the technical issues, "we see the cultural challenge as a major concern in adopting modern infrastructure," said VVnT SeQuor's Arora.

It's not surprising that culture is often at the core of many technological issues within an organization. This has been true with many technological advancements around DevOps. Container orchestration is not easy, and it requires openness and accountability, among other things.

Companies that have effectively implemented containerized workloads irrespective of their sector and corporate size have something in common. "These include institutional openness, a readiness for short feedback cycles and a shared accountability for the results," say, a new app or service, said Principal Financial's Banerjee.

One way to combat concerns about container technology is to prove the commercial value. Once the commercial value is proved and the company gets some experience, additional usage often results.

With the right implementation tactics, containers can be helpful for any organization

With knowledge of these challenges, any organization can tackle container orchestration. According to the 2021 Upskilling Report, 51% of respondents said container orchestration is a must-have technical skill. As we continue to upskill our engineers on the skills they need to be successful, we will see further advancements with container orchestration.

If you'd like to gain more how-to knowledge about container orchestration, register for the next SKILup Day.

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