What CFOs need to know about Kubernetes and containerisation

Veeam’s Chris Norton says CFOs have the opportunity to fast-track their organisations’ digital transformation.

A new technological breakthrough – which is gaining momentum around the world – has given CFOs and their fellow C-suite decision-makers an opportunity to make investments today that will fast-track their organisations’ digital transformation journeys. Arguably, the last time such a significant computing advancement occurred was about 15 years ago when virtualisation changed businesses.

No doubt many CFOs have heard talk about Kubernetes and containerisation and while there may be a risk of leaving these discussions exclusively to those in the IT back offices, demystifying the technology empowers executive decision-makers with a new set of tools that will fast-track digital resilience. At its core, containerisation allows for the development of scalable applications that can be deployed both more quickly and securely.

It’s vital to understand that the advantages brought on by Kubernetes are compelling, but organisations must protect these advantages by implementing a backup, recovery and security solution tailored specifically to the architecture.

A CFO may well ask: what’s the business case?
Cost savings, availability, flexibility and portability of infrastructure. The mobilised application can be run anywhere and is optimised for cloud it but can also be run on physical infrastructure or even on a virtual one where the cost of the infrastructure is written down already, or it could be cheaper to run it as a service in a third-party environment. The point is that the C-suite has a choice about where they would like to run it either for financial, stability or security reasons.

The environment is highly available and it’s cost-effective because of the simplification of the ecosystem – you can run it on the cheapest platform you can find, with tools that can automatically shift workloads between public clouds to continually minimise costs, and which can also be moved between public and private clouds. This is all possible because it is a cloud-native and vendor-agnostic technology.

IT tends to become very technical and difficult for non-experts to understand. Put plainly, Kubernetes is similar to virtualisation – which is widespread – except it is a “layer up”. In any industry, or any technology, you have a physical layer, a virtual layer, the application layer, and then the data. Now, instead of having a physical operating system and applications that run on top of the operating system, with the data above that, Kubernetes sits between the application and the operating system, and it virtualises the application, not the physical infrastructure.

Once this is understood, some of the real benefits of Kubernetes are easier to understand. Development teams can remove a component without affecting the application. In other words they can work on the architecture – or even move or delete it – without bringing everything to a halt.

According to a 2020 survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), the use of containers in production has increased to 92 percent, up from 84 percent last year, and up 300 percent from the first survey in 2016. Kubernetes’ use in production has increased to 83 percent, up from 78 percent last year. There has been a 50 percent increase in the use of all CNCF projects since their 2019 survey.

If it’s so amazing, why hasn’t everyone in South Africa invested in it yet?
As with all new technologies, there are generally two phases of entering the market. The first, where we are now in South Africa, is driving awareness. The next phase, once the business case has been made apparent, will materialise quickly, driving massive uptake over the coming months and years. Various organisations are already in the planning phase about requirements to backup and recover Kubernetes environments.

In my position, I am often asked by colleagues and extended family where I would suggest young people focus their studies to be highly employable in the rapidly evolving IT landscape.

Young people looking to go into careers in IT, as well as those already in the workplace seeking to future-proof themselves from a skills perspective, already know about artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning as good bets for developing skills that will be in high demand.

However, recently, we ran an internal, informal test on LinkedIn and analysed the Kubernetes job market. The number of jobs available indicate precisely what we are encountering on the ground: the uptake, and preparation for uptake, of containerisation means that companies and partners are not just increasing their teams by one or two people, but they’re bracing for an exponential increase in demand by doubling, tripling and in some instances, even quadrupling their Kubernetes skills investments.

Any C-suite knows by now that cybersecurity represents a serious financial, reputational and even existential threat to enterprises of all shapes and sizes. Security should always be built-in, and not bolted on as an afterthought, and a company needs a robust backup and recovery strategy, which exists for two eventualities: recovery in the event of a disaster, and cyber resilience to be able to back up and recover data in the event of a breach from either outside or inside the organisation.

In our experience half of customers building in such resilience are seeing their cost of data backup and protection drop whilst 95 percent have experienced little to no financial impact due to ransomware. It’s convincing evidence for the tangible business and financial benefits CFOs can reap from a more robust enterprise.

About 15 years ago, when VMWare set up an office in South Africa and there was a rapid uptake in virtualisation, companies understood that they needed to back up their virtual machines. Today, companies that have shifted, or are planning to shift, to containerisation also need a comprehensive backup and recovery strategy.

We are at the starting blocks of a monumental shift in how business environments are designed. With the right partners who have native-technology solutions, appropriate skills and a proven track record in delivering modern data protection for business edge, this moment marks the start of an exciting time for the C-suite looking to gain a competitive advantage.