Q&A: Kubernetes managed services: MassMutual's app modernization journey

Q&A: Kubernetes managed services: MassMutual’s app modernization journey

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Companies of all sizes and industries are now leveraging the public cloud and Kubernetes to modernize their apps. 

Kubernetes lets DevOps teams automate deployments, scale and easily manage all containerized applications. But these companies stumble with many business challenges and technical risks that delay their modernization process. The path is full of obstacles — from scaling, managing hundreds to thousands of Kubernetes clusters and their entire life cycle, applying blueprints, defining access controls, and issuing the proper governance and security. 

To help Kubernetes users overcome such obstacles, enterprise Kubernetes management services, such as Rafay Systems Inc. provide container management for platform teams. Life insurance and financial company Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. is one such user, which has been leveraging Rafay’s managed Kubernetes services in the cloud.

“If I’m providing a Kubernetes platform for my application partners, they have everything ready,” said Santhosh Pasula (pictured left), global head of cloud SRE at MassMutual. “All they need to do is build their application, deploy it and run it. They don’t have to worry about the provisioning of the servers, and then building the middleware on top of it, and then do a bunch of testing. And you don’t have to struggle to build an environment to implement your idea and test it in real time. So, from an innovation perspective, agility plays a key role, and that’s where platforms like Kubernetes come in.”

Pasula and Haseeb Budhani (pictured right), chief executive officer of Rafay Systems, spoke with theCUBE industry analysts John Furrier and Lisa Martin at the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA 2022 eventduring an exclusive broadcast on theCUBE, SiliconANGLE Media’s livestreaming studio. (* Disclosure below.) 

They discussed cloud transformation, platform organization, the new value, and the added features versus real value. [The following content has been condensed for clarity.]

Furrier: Take us through the story of your transformation, because you’re on at the front end now of that next inflection point. 

Pasula: The whole cloud journey in big companies, large financial institutions, the healthcare industry or the insurance sector, it takes generations of leadership to get to that perfection level. And, ideally, [when] the cloud-first strategy starts in, then how do you standardize and optimize the cloud? That’s the [cloud] second-gen altogether, and then operationalization of the cloud. And especially if you’re talking about Kubernetes.Iin the traditional world, almost every company is running middleware and their applications in middleware. So, that came in first, and eventually companies started adopting Docker — Docker Swarm became one of the technologies they adopted. And, eventually, when we were taking it to more complicated application implementations or modernization efforts, that’s when Kubernetes played a key role.

Furrier: What’s on your agenda now? As you look forward, what’s on your plate? 

Pasula: So, we are past the stage of proof of concepts, proof of technologies, and pilot implementations. We are actually playing the real game now. This is where the real-time challenges will pop up. So, if you’re talking about standardizing and then optimizing the cloud, how do you put your governance structure in place? How do you make sure your regulations are met? And how are you going to scale it? And while scaling, how are you going to keep up with all the governance and regulations that come with it? 

Martin: Who are the decision-makers in terms of the adoption of Kubernetes these days? Is that elevating? 

Budhani: Consistently, what I’m seeing, is somebody — a CTO, CIO level, an individual — is making a determined decision: “I have multiple internal BUs who are now modernizing applications. I’m going to centralize some of this capability so we can all benefit together.” And that team is essentially a platform organization. And they’re making Kubernetes a shared services platform so that everybody else can come and sort of consume it. So, what that means to us is our customer is a platform organization, and their customer is a developer. So we have to make two constituencies successful — our customer, who’s providing a multi-tenant platform, and then their customer, who’s your developer, both have to be happy.

Furrier:  So, you’ve got the two constituents, the builders of the infrastructures and the consumers of the services on the other side. What’s the new thing? 

Pasula: The faster market. The value that we are bringing to the table, it’s very important. Your business has an idea, and how do you get that idea implemented in terms of technology and take it into real time? So, we have cut down that journey. [With] technologies like Kubernetes, it makes an IT person’s life so easy that they can speed up the process. In a traditional way, what used to take a year or six months can be done in a month today, or less. So, there’s definitely speed, agility and then flexibility. And then the automation that we put in, especially if you have to maintain thousands of clusters. 

Furrier: You’re like the vCenter of Kubernetes. Explain what that means in your terms. If I said that to you, how would you react? 

Budhani: vCenter, in my opinion, is one of the best platforms ever built. VMware did an amazing job, because they took an IT engineer and made him able to do storage management, networking management, VM multitenancy, access management, audits, etc. Everything that you need to run a data center, you can do from essentially a single platform.  So, you are now able to empower people to do way more. Well, why are we not doing that for Kubernetes? So, the premise from Rafay was: “I should have the same IT engineers, [but] now, they should be able to run fleets of clusters.” That’s what people at MassMutual are able to do now. So, to that end, now you need cluster management, you need access management, you need blueprinting, you need policy management. All of these things that have happened before used to have it in vCenter, but now they need to happen in other platforms, but for Kubernetes.

Here’s the complete video interview, part of SiliconANGLE’s and theCUBE’s coverage of the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon NA 2022 event:

(* Disclosure: Rafay Systems Inc. sponsored this segment of theCUBE. Neither Rafay Systems nor other sponsors have editorial control over content on theCUBE or SiliconANGLE.)

Photo: SiliconANGLE

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