Kubernetes, Hybrid Cloud, Multi-Cloud, Enterprise Kubernetes, Kubernetes Governance, Multi-cluster Management

Kubernetes Cluster Sprawl: How to Effectively Manage It Across Distributed, Heterogeneous Environments

Jul 25, 2022

Alex Hisaka


Kubernetes Cluster Sprawl

8 min read

If you’re managing multiple Kubernetes clusters at scale, you’ve probably run into Kubernetes cluster sprawl. And if you haven’t, brace yourself, because you’ll likely cross that bridge in the near future. 

What Is Kubernetes Cluster Sprawl?

What do we mean by Kubernetes sprawl? It can be defined as the uncontrolled proliferation of an organization’s Kubernetes clusters and workloads. As various teams are adopting Kubernetes, they’re building an expanse of new clusters to support their efforts. Unfortunately, this is where many of the challenges begin. As the number of clusters grows, so does the management complexity, and it becomes increasingly difficult to create consistency across their footprint. 

What Causes Kubernetes Cluster Sprawl?

There are several different factors that can lead to cluster sprawl:

1) Intense competitive and market pressures 
Intense competitive and market pressures drive the desire for rapid innovation. And when time-to-market is a business imperative, developers often introduce new stacks in a bottoms-up organic way. An enterprise quickly finds itself with a variety of different software and applications, and the teams that are in charge of governance aren’t aware of the proliferation.

2) Different approaches
The usage of Kubernetes across different teams and divisions can also complicate sprawl. As teams expand their usage of Kubernetes, clusters will exist with differing policies, roles, and configurations in their usage. Operators lose the flexibility to define user roles, access levels, and responsibilities, making it incredibly difficult to create consistency across clusters.

3) Different Kubernetes distributions and infrastructures
Organizations are also facing challenges when scaling their cloud architectures. While some teams build their own Kubernetes stack and management tools, others leverage cloud-managed services such as Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS), Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS), and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). Although Kubernetes can work with just about any underlying infrastructure, managing it across a mix of on-premise and cloud environments can be a challenge, especially when each cloud platform has its own set of tools and utilities for managing them. 

All of these factors often result in dozens of clusters that are deployed and managed independently with very little uniformity, making for a complex, difficult-to-maintain DevOps landscape, increased maintenance costs, and decreased efficiency. 

Empowering Developers and Operators

When adopting Kubernetes and other cloud-native applications, it’s important to think about how they’ll impact your DevOps culture. Kubernetes is popular among developers because it enables them to quickly spin up their own environments. While this autonomy gives developers greater flexibility, it creates more overhead for operators to create consistency and governance across clusters. The challenge becomes how to balance developer freedom with operational governance?

Developers want their own community clusters created within their sandbox. They also want to install their own applications without having to talk to a different team when they do so. How do you monitor performance and troubleshoot problems across distributed environments? How can you ensure consistent roles and policy management across multiple clusters and infrastructures? How do you avoid cost overruns and optimize workloads according to service needs? And how can you give developers greater flexibility while enforcing the necessary standards? 

Balancing the needs of developers and operators can be a challenging task. What organizations need is a tested framework and resilient Kubernetes solution that brings teams together and benefits everyone. That’s where D2iQ comes in.

Manage Kubernetes Sprawl with D2iQ

Developed to address the broad issues caused by Kubernetes sprawl, the D2iQ Kubernetes Platform (DKP) is an integrated and automated solution with a federated management plane that provides centralized visibility and unified enterprise Kubernetes multi-cluster management across distributed, heterogeneous environments. 

Key Benefits of DKP Include:

Centralized Monitor Performance and Troubleshoot Problems from a Single Pane of Glass 
DKP provides a single, centralized point of control for centralized governance, federated cluster management, observability, lifecycle automation, service delivery, and cost management across any CNCF-compliant cluster, including do it yourself (DIY) deployments, other vendor distributions, and cloud services (EKS, AKS, GKE). DKP collects metrics from all managed clusters and presents them in a centralized dashboard so you can view cluster performance across the Kubernetes landscape and identify and resolve issues faster without losing valuable time required for troubleshooting problems. 

Ensure Consistent Roles and Policy Management Across Multiple Clusters and Environments 
DKP provides single sign-on and federated role-based policy across your organization’s clusters to empower division of labor across a wide variety of roles to ensure the greatest management flexibility possible. With Active Directory integration and security based on Open Policy Access (OPA), credentials (secrets), and permissions, users can leverage their existing authentication mechanism for single sign-on. With Role-Based Access Control (RBAC), admins can flexibly configure and manage user roles, access, quotas, policies, and networks consistently across multiple clusters and environments.

Provide Financial Visibility to Avoid Cost Overruns and Improve Capacity Planning
Kubecost, an integrated DKP feature, provides centralized cost monitoring of all organizational clusters and visibility of Kubernetes resources used on clusters. Kubecost is integrated directly with the Kubernetes API and cloud billing API, giving you real-time visibility into Kubernetes spend and cost allocations to avoid cost overruns and improve capacity planning according to service needs. This translates into lower total cost of ownership (TCO) and greater return on investment (ROI).

Balance Developer Flexibility and Operational Control to Maintain Line of Business Relationships
As organizations create new clusters within their organization, it can be critical to create lines of separation across clusters. With DKP, custom needs can be met and critical services can be deployed as needed by individual teams. At the same time, operators can create standardization over which infrastructure, provider, and application services are best for the organization. When your organization is able to deliver a balance between developer flexibility and operational control, productivity goes up and the number of redundant efforts and wasted resources goes down. 

Take Control of Your Multi-Cluster Operations with DKP
As your organization adopts new cloud-native services and applications, needs will arise for simplifying ongoing operations and ensuring control over an expanding Kubernetes footprint. DKP can help your organization control Kubernetes sprawl, rein-in wasted resources, deliver organizational-wide governance, and empower greater division of labor within the organization for optimal control and flexibility. 

To learn how DKP can help your organization manage Kubernetes sprawl, visit the d2iq.com website or see DKP live in action by requesting a demo. 

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