What news from AWS re:Invent last week will have the most impact on you?
Amazon Q, an AI chatbot for explaining how AWS works.
Super-fast S3 Express storage.
New Graviton 4 processor instances.
Emily Freeman leaving AWS.
I don't use AWS, so none of this will affect me.
Cloud Services / Kubernetes / Operations

The Next IT Challenge Is All about Speed and Self-Service

Adopting a self-service approach for access to cloud resources and Kubernetes clusters can significantly accelerate the cloud adoption journey.
Nov 8th, 2023 8:17am by
Featued image for: The Next IT Challenge Is All about Speed and Self-Service
Featured image by John Schnobrich on Unsplash.

As organizations work to meet the ever-changing demands of customers, the spotlight often falls on IT and engineering departments. These are the teams expected to build and deploy innovative solutions rapidly, scale efficiently and ensure that the business remains competitive.

IT and engineering departments find themselves racing to grapple with a host of challenges that slow their transition to the cloud. These include dealing with the complexities of building new cloud environments across hybrid and multicloud infrastructure, provisioning Kubernetes clusters and namespaces, and managing the lifecycle of cloud environments and Kubernetes clusters over time. One solution that could be the answer to speeding up modernization efforts is providing self-service capabilities for Kubernetes and cloud environment resources to your developers.

The Bottlenecks: Complexity and Manual Overhead

One of the most significant roadblocks to rapid cloud adoption is sheer complexity. Provisioning a cloud environment involves dozens of dependent services, intricate configurations, security policies and data governance issues. The cognitive load on IT teams is significant, and the situation is exacerbated by manual processes that are still in place.

The vast majority of engineering teams still depend on legacy ticketing systems to request IT for cloud environments, which adds a significant load on IT and also slows engineering teams. This slows down the entire operation, making it difficult for IT and engineering to support business needs effectively. In fact, in one study conducted by Rafay Systems, application developers at enterprises revealed that 25% of organizations reportedly take three months or longer to deploy a modern application or service after its code is complete.

The real goal for any IT department is to support the needs of the business (at the speed of the business). Today, they do that better, faster and more cost-effectively by leveraging cloud technologies to realize all the business benefits of the modern applications being deployed.

However, IT teams often find themselves bogged down by the intricacies of setting up and managing cloud environments and Kubernetes clusters, which hampers their ability to move quickly.

Self-Service Delivers Speed

Self-service is essential for any organization looking to achieve speed in their IT operations. It democratizes access to cloud resources, enables automation with control and relies on a centralized platform engineering team for effective management. Adopting a self-service approach for access to cloud resources and Kubernetes clusters can significantly accelerate the cloud adoption journey for organizations.

Self-service platforms are not exclusive to developers. Self-service experiences can abstract the complexity of infrastructure setup and maintenance, allowing teams of data scientists and researchers, site reliability engineers (SREs), and cloud operations to provision their environments on demand, thus leveraging the transformative power of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud technologies sooner. In addition, self-service experiences can also be provided to other internal groups, such as FinOps and security, to provide faster cost visibility and incident response, for example.

This democratization of access enables various teams to deploy and manage their workloads and applications in the cloud without requiring expertise in Infrastructure as Code (IaC) or privileged access to cloud infrastructure.

To make self-service a reality, two critical requirements must be met:

Deploy Automation with Guardrails

To make self-service truly effective, automation is key. However, automation alone is not enough. There needs to be a balance between autonomy, control and efficiency.

This is where guardrails come into play. These are predefined cloud environment and Kubernetes cluster configurations alongside a set of policies that align automated processes with organizational standards and security policies. By setting up these guardrails, organizations can help ensure that their self-service platforms are both fast and secure.

Build a Centralized Platform Engineering Team

A centralized platform engineering team plays a pivotal role in enabling and managing self-service platforms. They are responsible for setting up the automation, implementing guardrails and ensuring the platform is up-to-date with the latest technologies and security measures. This central team acts as the backbone, providing a unified management platform that serves as a single pane of glass for all cloud environments and Kubernetes clusters in use.

By adopting a central management platform, organizations can significantly reduce the time and effort required to manage their cloud environments. This enables IT and engineering departments to focus on what they do best: innovating and delivering value to the business.

Implementing Self-Service

Implementing a self-service model for cloud environments and Kubernetes configuration management is not a one-step process, but organizations focusing on automation and governance can make the transition successfully.

Self-service requires a strategic mindset shift and careful process adjustments.

Apply Consistent Cloud Environment and Kubernetes Cluster Configurations

The first step in implementing self-service is to develop consistent configurations for your cloud environments and Kubernetes. A shared services platform allows multiple teams to run applications on a shared infrastructure that is managed by a central platform team. This standardization enables organizations to automate workflows and accelerate delivery, making it easier for all employees or specific departments to access resources.

Enforce Guidelines and Policies

Setting up guidelines and policies is crucial for effective self-service. These can be at the application level or team level and can include aspects like compute resources, cost management and visibility.

Rafay’s platform, for example, maintains centralized control of access control, deployment approvals, networking policies and compliance requirements. This ensures that while offering self-service capabilities, the organization does not compromise on governance and security.

Deploy Shared Services with Backstage

One of the key features of a successful self-service platform is the ability to deploy shared services easily. Rafay’s integration with tools like Backstage, an open source platform for building developer portals, allows engineers and data scientists to deploy, view and monitor all their workloads in any environment. This is particularly useful for AI/machine learning (ML) applications, where setup and maintenance can be complex.

The Need for a Self-Service Cloud Automation Platform

Given the challenges facing IT and engineering teams, there’s an acute need for a central platform that provides self-service access to cloud computing environments and Kubernetes clusters. A platform can automate many of the manual error-prone tasks that currently plague IT teams, from setting up environments to deploying applications. This not only speeds the operational workflow but also reduces the chance of human error, which is costly in complex systems like the cloud and Kubernetes.

The race against time is one that IT and engineering departments can’t afford to lose. Adopting a self-service capability is not just an option; it’s imperative for staying agile and competitive.

Group Created with Sketch.
TNS owner Insight Partners is an investor in: Pragma.
THE NEW STACK UPDATE A newsletter digest of the week’s most important stories & analyses.