Culture and Enablement in Kubernetes Service Ownership

The topic of Kubernetes service ownership is not a simple one, as the model contains many parts. But when service ownership is successfully mastered within an organization, it can become a robust business enabler in several key areas including security, cost optimization and accountability. This shift into more communicative and unified ownership of Kubernetes, one that promotes greater developer independence, is available to all organizations running containers and microservices. They just have to learn how to get there. 

However, before businesses can implement service ownership and claim the gold ring of Kubernetes best practices, they need to know a little something about culture and enablement. As two founding principles in this operational model, culture and enablement are where organizational change first happens. As you begin to facilitate new workflows and responsibility expectations among dev, sec and ops teams, the enablement piece of service ownership begins to take shape. And as this change starts to take shape, the culture of your organization is naturally going to evolve as well.

Enablement Brings Cultural Change

In a nutshell, better Kubernetes service ownership looks like a breaking down of silos and roadblocks. As we know, better developer independence is one of the most vital reasons to enable better service ownership of Kubernetes. Developers who “own” their workflows, including application deployment, operations and monitoring of the stack, are able to embrace innovation without impediments. Further, the elastic nature of cloud-native environments helps developers manage infrastructure without the need for traditional operations teams. 

Kubernetes provides ready access to infrastructure, empowering developers to provision infrastructure and spin servers up and down at scale. Developers can handle deployment environments more efficiently, while also configuring, packaging and maintaining microservices using Docker and Helm charts. 

But with all this freedom, there needs to be strong lines of communication between platform teams and development teams. This cultural shift is a critical part of any service ownership strategy. Operations teams need to provide development teams with useful context around how their applications are running. This ability allows them to pursue innovation without losing time, money or missing a deadline. Conversely, development teams need to act quickly to any feedback from the operations team to ensure their application is running securely, efficiently and reliably. When teams function this way together, maintaining a stable development and deployment process without losing velocity, they can build and run their applications with greater autonomy and less confusion. 

Cultural Change Brings Enablement

Culture rarely changes in an organization without a dedicated effort. And cultural shifts always introduce new challenges. Kubernetes service ownership is the same in this regard because it shifts the notion of operations owning everything to operations enabling service ownership instead. This more distributed level of accountability is highly effective, but it cannot happen without executive leadership at the helm. Breaking down silos and changing human workflows is challenging enough without strong leadership promoting the advantages of this new operational model. Without this top-down support, real cultural change is unlikely to take root. 

DevOps teams tend to find success when they feel supported and empowered to do their work well. This is a cultural change that happens through enablement. When developers are allowed to choose the right tools for their own self-service model, complete with visibility into the security and quality of their applications, they work more effectively. That said, it’s not just about developers—operations teams need to be able to rely on a certain level of consistency across each of the development teams in their organization, too. For them, success means finding multi-cluster visibility and policy enforcement tools to drive feedback to developers. This is a cultural loop that happens through the enablement of better service ownership. 

How to Embrace Both

Creating workflows around shared tooling can help organizations find this level of consistency and enhance collaboration across dev, sec and ops teams. More consistency means less complexity and far more productivity. This type of consistency through shifts in culture and enablement also reduces the overall cost of running a Kubernetes platform, something all organizations endorse. 

The first step in enabling a new organizational culture is to understand your own Kubernetes environment and what it needs. Everyone should understand which teams own which parts of the development and deployment process, and who is responsible for surfacing and fixing issues with security, efficiency and reliability. At the end of the day, dev, sec and ops teams can only tackle the complexity of Kubernetes by enabling full-service ownership and embracing the positive cultural changes that inevitably result.

Robert Brennan

Robert Brennan is director of open source software at Fairwinds, a cloud-native infrastructure solution provider. He focuses on the development of open source tools that abstract the complexity from underlying infrastructure to enable an optimal experience for developers. Before Fairwinds, he worked as a software engineer at Google in AI and natural language processing. He is the co-founder of DataFire.io, an open source platform for building API’s and integrations, and LucyBot, developer of a suite of automated API documentation solutions deployed by Fortune 500 companies. He is a graduate of Columbia College and Columbia Engineering where he focused on machine learning.

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