Nowadays, customers have high expectations of (online) services and what a business can (or should) deliver. To live up to those lofty expectations, companies need to transform the way they work and think and even their organizational culture. This involves significant changes in day-to-day operations. As a result of these changes, customer value will increase.
Enterprises try to achieve this change by adopting new technologies to help them modernize their operations. This is called digital transformation. Digital transformation solves traditional problems by integrating technology into all levels and departments of companies. It is also one of the most hyped buzzwords of the last years. Open any IT blog, and you’ll see the word immediately. There’s no escaping. So, how come many companies still struggle to achieve digital transformation?
The key to digital transformation is gaining the ability to develop and launch new applications or features efficiently. Efficiency used to be about working faster and cheaper to increase profit. Nowadays, working efficiently means that you focus on company growth by increasing customer value and improving the customer experience. Because in the end, customers want new features or applications that scale, and they wanted them yesterday.
Now imagine maintaining existing applications who are built with old-fashioned tools and keeping your infrastructure up-to-date, and at the same time growing new capabilities to match the customer’s desires. This seems impossible since every company has only so many resources to spend. That’s why we need to focus on automation. By automating daily operations and applications, we save resources which gives you more time and money to spend on reaching your business goals.
Automation is a difficult thing to achieve within enterprises because it requires company-wide integration and collaboration. Plus, there is a skill gap between several functions that makes working together tricky and most automation tools solve only one problem while it takes a lot of time and effort to adopt them.
Evolving your operations into an automation driven development life-cycle can be achieved by:
- Containerizing your applications
- Adopting the DevOps way of working
- Choosing the right platform that facilitates collaborative change and automation of your operations
Containerizing your applications
With companies focusing on digital transformation, software is becoming a core part of those companies. The goal of integrating software into the foundation of a company is mostly agility and automation. Containerization plays a significant role in enabling automation. By putting your applications in containers, they aren’t stuck to the operations system anymore. This allows developers to focus on functionality where they used to worry about the infrastructure as well. You can place your applications in containers using Docker, but this alone doesn’t do the trick. You’re still missing scaling, scheduling, recovery and many more useful features. Kubernetes can solve the missing pieces in the puzzle.
Kubernetes is the industry-standard platform for container application development and delivery. It solves the problem of the complexity of automation. With Kubernetes, you have one endpoint and tool to manage and maintain your applications and one dashboard to access.
Containers make applications portable. Packaging applications and their configuration are easier with Kubernetes, and you can deploy your application within seconds in any environment. However, working with containers asks for a modernized and cloud-based infrastructure. Work progress needs to become more agile across IT and the rest of the organization. A DevOps way of working can be used to achieve this.
DevOps way of working
Although everybody knows the word ‘DevOps’, most people associate it with a role. But it isn’t. DevOps is about organizational culture and structure that allows developers and the operations team to work together in an agile way. In the end, the organizational structure should support a continuous delivery pipeline. With this pipeline, you can overcome bottlenecks in the software development and deployment process. This results in better features or products for customers that can be pushed to production faster.
DevOps is about the entire process of work. Where developers used to work on building prominent, new features and pushing them to production at big releases, it’s now about smaller changes, testing and learning. By making more minor changes to the code and testing them before pushing them to production, you ensure safe progress.
Shifting towards the DevOps way of working involves not only the IT team but the entire company. Although the most significant change might be for the operational team (they need to adopt an agile way of developing), management has to worry about data security, testing and creating a high-trust cultural norm. Colleagues should be able to discuss their failures and what they learned from them and responsibilities need to be shared. It’s not about what someone did today, but about what they have learned and how this will help the company grow. In the end, DevOps is about collaboration. The tools you use don’t matter. But the right toolchain can greatly enhance collaborative change.
A DevOps platform that facilitates collaboration and automation
We introduced Kubernetes as the industry-standard platform to develop and deliver applications in containers. However, the biggest challenge of Kubernetes is bringing it to production within your company. And although Kubernetes enables monitoring, scaling and easy application management, it doesn’t cover the entire load that you need for digital transformation. Because, as mentioned before, for digital transformation, you need a tool that encourages collaborations and the DevOps workflow as well.
By now, more and more tools emerge that enable both automation and collaboration. However, one of the leading platforms on the market is OpenShift by Red Hat. OpenShift is a Platform-as-a-Service solution that supports the entire application life-cycle. From developing to testing, deploying and management. It is built on containers that are orchestrated by Kubernetes, but it offers a lot more.
OpenShift is known as a reliable and flexible platform that supports important innovations to enable digital transformation (like migrating to the hybrid cloud, containerization and adopting microservices). Continuous application management needs less time and developers only have to focus on delivering applications and features. But wait, this sounds a lot like Kubernetes, so what are the differences?
- Kubernetes is available on more cloud providers than OpenShift but in a vendor-specific way. OpenShift is vendor-neutral. However, Red Hat chooses the out of the box tool stack;
- OpenShift is a supported product, whereas Kubernetes is an Open Source project. As an OpenShift customer, you have to renew subscriptions and pay when your cluster grows. With Kubernetes this depends on the service provider (if you have one);
- OpenShifts’ approach to security is more advanced than Kubernetes’. With OpenShift you can configure security policies on a cluster level, while with Kubernetes you have to set the policies per pod (or at least for now. Rumour has it that the new Kubernetes release fixes this);
- The web interface of OpenShift is more user-friendly. You can manage many day-to-day tasks from within the OpenShift dashboard. Kubernetes and OpenShift both feature a command-line interface, which is targeted at more experienced users and gives the user more freedom;
- OpenShift has more deployment options using DeploymentConfig in addition to Kubernetes’ classic Deployment. OpenShift also offers ImageStreams. If you make a change in the image using ImageStreams, the change automatically pushes a new version Build;
- OpenShift has native integration with Jenkins CI/CD pipelines. Use it to build container images, perform continuous integration tasks and deploy them on containers in multiple environments. OpenShift also supports source-to-image to create a custom image that automatically updates when you make changes.