December 10, 2019

Day 10 - It’s OK if you’re not running Kubernetes

By: Mattias Geniar (@mattiasgeniar)

I love technology. We’re in an industry that is fast-paced, ever improving and loves to be cutting-edge and bold. It’s this very drive that gives us exciting new tech like HTTP/3, Kubernetes, Golang & so many other interesting projects.

But I also love stability, predictability and reliability. And that’s why I’m here to say that it’s OK if you’re not running the very latest flavor-du-jour insert-new-project-here.

The media tell us only half the truth

If you would only read the media headlines or news outlets, you would believe everyone is running their applications on top of an auto-scaling, load balanced, geo-distributed Kubernetes cluster backed by only a handful of developers that have set the whole thing up overnight. It was an instant success!

Well no. That’s not how that works.

The reality is, most Linux or open source applications today still run on a traditional Debian, Ubuntu or CentOS server. As a VM or a as physical server.

I’ve managed thousands of servers over my lifetime and have watched technology come and go. Today, Kubernetes is very hot. A few years ago it was Openstack. Go back some more and you’ll find KVM & Xen, paravirtualization & plenty more.

I’m not saying these technologies will vanish - far from it. There’s merit in each project or tool, they all solve particular problems. If your organisation can benefit from something that can be fixed that way, great!

There’s still much to improve on the old & boring side of technology

My background is mostly in PHP. We started out using CGI & FastCGI to run our PHP applications and have sinced moved from mod_php to php-fpm. For many sysadmins, that’s where it ended.

But there’s so much room for improvements here. The same applies to Python, Node or Ruby. We can further optimize our old and boring setups (you know, the ones being used by 90% of the web) and make it even safer, more performant and more robust.

Were you able to check every config and parameter? What does that obscure setting do, exactly? What happens if you start sending malicious traffic to your box? Can you improve the performance of OS scheduler? Are you monitoring everything you should be?

That Linux server that runs your applications isn’t finished. It requires maintenance, monitoring, upgrades, patches, interventions, back-ups, security fixes, troubleshooting, …

Please don’t let the media think you should be running Kubernetes just because it’s hot, you have servers running that you know best that still have room for improvements. They can be faster. They can be safer.

Get satisfaction in knowing that you’re making a difference for the business & its developers because your servers are running as best they can.

What you do matters, even if it looks like the industry has all gone and left for The Next Big Thing (tm).

But don’t sit still

Don’t take this as an excuse to stop looking for new projects or tools. Have you taken the time yet to look at Kubernetes? Do you think your business would benefit from such a system? Can everyone understand how it works? Its pitfalls?

Ask yourself the hard questions first. There’s a reason organisations adopt new technology. It’s because it solves a problem. You might have the same problems!

Every day new projects & tools come out. I know because I write a weekly newsletter about it. Make sure you stay up-to-date. Follow the news. If something looks interesting, try it out!

But don’t be afraid to stick to the old and boring server setups if that’s what your business requires.

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