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A startup’s guide to getting started with managed Kubernetes

Kubernetes adoption is on the rise. According to CNCF’s 2021 annual survey, over 5.6 million developers are using Kubernetes today—a 67% increase year over year in Kubernetes adoptions. Teams considering if they should adopt Kubernetes shouldn’t take the decision lightly. Kubernetes is a highly complex system that requires hard work and dedication to implement correctly. It’s not just installing something on a virtual machine (VM); it’s a transformative way of viewing IT and enabling your teams.

Implementing Kubernetes is a process that starts with planning the tech stack necessary for the success of your application. With proper planning, teams can move through their Kubernetes adoption journey—from planning to production, in as little as 4-6 weeks.

Why choose Managed Kubernetes

While there are times when it makes sense to self-host Kubernetes, maintaining self-hosted clusters is time and resource intensive and requires a level of expertise that many small businesses lack. With Managed Kubernetes like DigitalOcean Kubernetes, the cloud provider performs critical tasks such as monitoring, security, updates, and more. Businesses leveraging Managed Kubernetes often have a faster time to market.

Whether you’re a developer interested in hassle-free Kubernetes management, a startup needing a faster time to market, or an SMB that needs dynamic scaling capabilities, managed Kubernetes offerings like DigitalOcean Kubernetes can help you achieve your goals.

For comprehensive recommendations on implementing Kubernetes for your startup, download our FREE guide, Kubernetes adoption journey for startups and SMBs.

Choosing a managed Kubernetes provider

If your team has decided to implement a Managed Kubernetes offering, the next step is to choose a provider. Many factors go into the decision of which provider to use. Consider the following:

Onboarding experience: A managed offering from a cloud provider should provide teams with a straightforward platform and accurate, up-to-date documentation. A simple platform allows teams to move faster and lessens the time to market.

Uptime Service Level Agreements (SLA): Cloud providers share a Service Level Agreement or a contract with their customers stating their targeted uptime for a service. If you’re planning to run in production, checking if an SLA exists for your service to cover you from outages is essential.

Upstream Kubernetes components: Find out if your managed Kubernetes provider has a CNCF certification. Clouds certified by CNCF are able to demonstrate that their Kubernetes clusters are conformant to CNCF standards. CNCF-certified clusters are conformant with other installations of Kubernetes. They provide timely updates and allow interoperability between Kubernetes installations. CNCF conformant clusters interoperability makes it easy to have Hybrid Cloud environments where you can spread your infrastructure across different cloud providers, on-premises, Internet of Things (IoT), and the edge.

Upgrades and patches: Will your provider allow you to choose whether you receive automatic updates of your clusters to new versions of Kubernetes? For example, DigitalOcean allows developers to opt-in to automatic updates if they wish or get an update on-demand, allowing teams to manually select when their Kubernetes is updated.

Control plane and High Availability (HA): The control plane is often seen as the brain or central nervous system of the Kubernetes cluster. It manages the worker nodes and pods in a cluster. In small setups, there might be only one control plane installed on one of the nodes, often referred to as a primary node and the single point of failure. If your primary node crashes or is lost, you are left with worker nodes that may still run for a bit, but you no longer have a Kubernetes cluster. Having a Highly Available control plane means you will have multiple primary nodes to ensure your cluster is always running. For production, a Highly Available control plane is crucial and recommended even for on-prem infrastructure.

Pricing: Find out if providers include things like the control plane within initial pricing for a managed Kubernetes instance. DigitalOcean, for example, doesn’t charge for Kubernetes and instead only charges for the underlying resources used, and the cost for HA is minimal. It can also be hard to estimate your bandwidth costs because they fluctuate with your users. Choose a cloud provider with transparent, consistent pricing targeting startups.

Planning infrastructure components

Workload distribution

Do all workloads run on Kubernetes, or are they distributed across Kubernetes, VMs, and other compute platforms? For example, you may want to keep front end running on Droplets while moving backend jobs to Kubernetes and adding a load balancer and a managed MongoDB.

An opportunity for multi-cloud

Open source software like Kubernetes allows startups to avoid vendor lock-in by facilitating migrating projects to other clouds or spreading workloads across multiple clouds, while Infrastructure as Code (IaC) tools like Terraform easily provision environments. With Kubernetes, teams can pick up their whole infrastructure and run it the same way in different environments, easily moving networking, applications, databases, and even things like secrets. Using Kubernetes, developers can mix and match services from different providers to best fit their solution.

Managed databases

While a large business can usually afford to hire employees with a deep knowledge of databases, smaller teams typically have fewer resources available. This makes tasks like replication, migrations, and backups more difficult and time-consuming. Managed Databases handle common database administration tasks such as setup, backups, and updates so you can focus more on your app and less on the database.

1-Click applications

Certain cloud providers have 1-click applications. For example, DigitalOcean Marketplace provides a variety of apps and stacks that you can install to run pre-configured container images on Kubernetes clusters. Most Kubernetes 1-Click apps are Helm charts under the hood and require Helm 3 package manager to run.

Sizing your cluster

An oversized cluster is inefficient with its resources and costs more, but an undersized cluster running at full CPU or memory suffers performance issues and can crash under stress. Look at your node size and count to determine your cluster’s overall CPU, RAM, and storage. Larger nodes are easier to manage, are often more cost-efficient, and can run more demanding applications; however, they require more pod management and cause a more significant impact if they fail. Teams less familiar with Kubernetes may want help determining what resources their applications need. DigitalOcean has experts available to help.

Try DigitalOcean Kubernetes today

If you’re interested in trying DigitalOcean’s managed Kubernetes for your applications, take DigitalOcean Kubernetes for a spin. If you have questions about migrating from another cloud provider or what your total costs will be on DigitalOcean once you start scaling, you can schedule a meeting with our team to help answer any questions you have.

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