Container Orchestration for Enterprises: The First Step to a Successful Digital Transformation
Compliance is the number one concern for enterprises switching to container management platforms. According to a Cloud Container Adoption report, 65% of tech will leaders plan to turn to third-party vendors to meet their container management requirements (CapitalOne, 2023). Docker, Google, Kubernetes, CoreOS, and other platforms are examples of container orchestration technologies built to overcome the challenges presented by modern containerization solutions.
The DevOps community is experiencing rapid advancements, and enterprises are embracing digital transformation at an unprecedented pace. While containerization technologies are easily deployable, they possess certain limitations that fail to meet enterprise requirements, particularly in terms of scalability and compliance.
Limitations of Containerization Technology
- Containerization solutions are based on stateless architectures that do not adequately address storage and performance issues during scaling. Legacy architectures struggle to achieve the necessary API integration and direct connectivity for their container ecosystems.
- Containerization storage lacks scalability and exhibits unpredictable performance, especially in distributed container systems and alternative gateways.
- Most containers lack essential features like portability, encryption, integration, and migration capabilities, which are vital for smooth enterprise operations.
- Container misconfigurations sometimes go undetected after deployment, and many developers fail to address the default settings. Misconfigurations in containers can lead to ports being exposed and insecure, leakage of user credentials, and poor visibility into workloads. Other challenges are associated with these containers, such as networking errors, resource usage issues, and increasing complexity.
- Unrealistic pricing models and vendor lock-in periods hinder enterprises from opting for flexible pay-as-you-use subscriptions, making containerization solutions a significant investment of time and money.
What is Container Orchestration?
Container orchestration involves automating container scaling, deployment, implementation, networking, scheduling, and management. Containers encompass complete applications that include libraries, code, dependencies, system tools, and infrastructure assets. The primary goal of container orchestration is to enhance the lifecycle management of containers (Velimirovic, 2021).
While container orchestration has its origins in the 1970s, the technology has evolved significantly, leading to significant improvements in container creation, management, and security. Currently, Kubernetes dominates the landscape of popular container orchestration services alongside IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud Platform, and Amazon Web Services (AWS). Emerging container orchestration tools include Apache Mesos, PingSafe, and Docker Swarm.
Benefits of Container Orchestration
In complex containerized environments, managing individual components becomes increasingly challenging. Container orchestration helps streamline container lifecycle management in dynamic environments, enables application deployment, and facilitates seamless communication between programs and users or other applications.
The key advantages of utilizing container orchestration tools include the following:
- Task automation and improved scalability for cloud deployments
- Reduced operational costs through enhanced resource utilization and fewer workflow defects
- Enhanced disaster recovery planning and prevention of data loss
- Improved infrastructure stability, increased visibility, comprehensive audit trails, and effective conflict resolution
- Faster integration of new technologies, simplified governance, and robust data compliance
- Workflow visualizations and process simulations, leading to improved production capabilities
- Improved infrastructure security through the isolation of malware and limiting unwanted communications with unapproved components
As organizations manage numerous workloads, the automation of processes and optimization of resources and task management become crucial. Whether hosting applications and data on-premises, in the cloud, or both, container orchestration addresses the challenges posed by traditional containerization, streamlines automation, and prioritizes cybersecurity. Container orchestration serves as a foundational element for successful digital transformation journeys, and various tools are available to facilitate the process.
Container Use Cases
The following are the most popular use cases of containers in organizations.
- Ensure minimal changes to source code and make it easier to port applications from one environment to the next.
- Migrate legacy applications from on-premises environments to the cloud and use the lift-and-shift cloud migration strategy for modernizing application stacks.
- Assist engineering teams with the implementation of continuous integration and development practices and apply DevOps culture. This makes producing, developing, deploying, and testing applications a lot faster, more productive, and more convenient.
- Promotes significant cost savings for organizations by reducing the need for physical hardware and equipment through virtualization. Containers are excellent for multi-cloud environments and can run microservice-based applications in them.
Best Tools for Container Orchestration
It’s important to use a platform that allows developers to efficiently scale, manage, and deploy containers in production environments. Containers have a short lifecycle and have different scheduling requirements. Using the right DevOps tools ensures faster application deliveries, simplified infrastructure automation, and achieves mandatory compliance.
The most popular container orchestration tools used by professionals include the following:
- Kubernetes: Kubernetes is the industry standard for container orchestration and is an open-source tool used to manage resources and deploy scalable containers effectively. It features high-level architecture, managed services, increased DevOps efficiency, and can deploy workloads in multi-cloud environments with no requirement of vendor lock-in.
- Docker Swarm: Docker Swarm improves production deployments for developers and fits great when it comes to flawless cluster management. It offers an excellent service discovery tool and is simple, lightweight, and intuitive. Those new to container orchestration find its automated load-balancing feature to be useful and extremely easy to use.
- Rancher: Rancher enables global enterprise container orchestration, distribution, and scheduling. It offers features such as application cataloging, enterprise-grade pre-authentication controls, role-based access controls, etc.
- Google Cloud Run: Google Cloud Run is a fully managed modern containerization platform that takes applications to production in seconds. It is scalable, supports database migrations, batch data transformation, nightly reports, and runs on the cloud.
- Google Container Engine: Google Container Engine is a fully automated Kubernetes service that reduces cluster costs and streamlines load node management. Its autopilot mode offers a Serverless Kubernetes experience, and it features access to prebuilt Kubernetes applications and deployment templates. From simplified licensing, portability, consolidated billing, and open-source images, users can deploy applications on third-party clouds and on-premises using the Google Cloud Marketplace.
There are other modern container orchestration tools like the Hasicorp Nomad, Mesos, Azure AKS Service, Amazon EC2 Container Service (ECS), and Azure AKS Service. Whether an organization opts for managed container orchestration or self-hosted container orchestration tools will entirely depend on its business requirements (Wilson, 2022).
Best Practices for Container and Kubernetes Security
- Secure Images: Utilize trusted sources and store containerized applications in a secure private registry to prevent tampering. Employ image signature verification for additional security measures.
- Never Store Credentials in Code: Use a dedicated secrets manager to securely manage passwords and other sensitive information, avoiding storing them directly in code or configuration files.
- Enable Real-Time Container Monitoring: Implement monitoring, logging, and alerting mechanisms to enhance visibility into each component of the containerized environment. This enables effective threat detection, remediation, and continuous compliance monitoring. Collect resource usage metrics and analyze them to detect issues with container performance, and management and troubleshoot other problems.
- Use the Principle of Least Privilege Access: The principle of least privilege access will grant minimal access to users to perform given tasks and not exceed their permissions. It prevents unauthorized access to sensitive information and prevents users from exploiting root privileges. Restricting container access can mitigate vulnerabilities at the host-kernel level and eliminate security risks arising during container runtime and execution. Use Role Based Access Control (RBAC).
- Automate Vulnerability Scanning and Management: Automate vulnerability scanning and management for CI/CD pipelines and mitigate security risks before they occur or have a chance to escalate. It’s good practice to identify root issues and scan software code to check for security vulnerabilities. Other good practices are image scanning, Static Application Security Testing (SAST), and Software Component Analysis (SCA).
- Implement Network Security: Define Kubernetes network security policies and controls to limit unwanted traffic to different ports and protocols. Applying network segmentation can limit network access to specific services and prevent unauthorized access to pods by isolating containers. Load balancers should be used to block ingress traffic, and the best encryption for ensuring reliable communications between pods is TLS. Users can secure traffic between microservices by implementing a service mesh.
- Implement Pod Security Policies: Pod Security Policies define and enforce security constraints on the creation and execution of pods within Kubernetes clusters. These policies help prevent the deployment of insecure or misconfigured pods, reducing the potential attack surface. By implementing Pod Security Policies, you can ensure that only trusted and secure pods are running in your environment.
If you find yourself tired of manually scanning containers and nodes to uncover blind spots and are seeking comprehensive automated analytics, look no further than modern containerization solutions. Container management and production solutions these days adopt preventive cybersecurity measures that eliminate cyber attacks by identifying and mitigating vulnerabilities before they can be exploited. They will help you enhance real-time security, prevent breaches, and take a proactive approach to safeguard containerized environments.
Container security is a continuous process, and as companies shift to a cloud-native architecture, the demand for faster application deliveries will keep rising. It is critical to implement the best security practices and safeguard container applications for optimum security and peak performance.
CapitalOne. (2023). Cloud Container Adoption In The Enterprise. https://www.capitalone.com/tech/cloud-container-adoption-report/
Velimirovic, A. (2021, December 9). Orchestration vs Automation: Overlapping, but Different IT Concepts. phoenixNAP. https://phoenixnap.com/blog/orchestration-vs-automation
Wilson, B. (2022, January 5). 16 Best Container Orchestration Tools and Services. DevOpscube. https://devopscube.com/docker-container-clustering-tools/
CISO, Irwin Mitchell
Graham J. Thomson is a Partner and Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) with a proven track record in innovative information and cyber security leadership. With experience across multiple industries, he excels in creating risk-based security frameworks. Graham is a recognized thought leader in the field, dedicated to blending modern security theory with practical experience. Currently serving as CISO for Irwin Mitchell, he leads all aspects of information and cyber security while also spearheading their client-facing cyber audit practice. Graham volunteers for TechVets, bridges veterans into IT careers, and is a member of advisory boards for EC-Council and the Cyber Resilience Centre. With exceptional leadership and strategic thinking, Graham empowers businesses to operate securely.