left arrowBack
Eugene Dimov

Eugene Dimov

September 30, 2023 ・ Kubernetes

Evolution of Reliability: Kubernetes and Beyond

Navigating the Kubernetes Labyrinth

Understanding Kubernetes: Pros and Cons

Kubernetes has undeniably become the de facto standard for container orchestration. Initially developed by Google and later donated to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, Kubernetes is open-source and designed to automate deploying, scaling, and operating containerized applications. However, it's not a one-size-fits-all solution. Kubernetes excels at certain tasks but still has its own set of limitations and complexities.

To fully grasp Kubernetes' scope, it's essential to distinguish what Kubernetes is exceptionally good at from what it's not designed for. Kubernetes offers robust resource management, self-healing, and extensibility features that make it ideal for managing microservices-based applications. Yet, its complex architecture and steep learning curve make it less suitable for small-scale deployments or projects with simpler requirements.


  • "Kubernetes: Up and Running" by Kelsey Hightower, Brendan Burns, and Joe Beda

  • "The Kubernetes Book" by Nigel Poulton

The Fallacy of "Set and Forget"

The concept of "Set It and Forget It" is a fallacy in the context of Kubernetes. Kubernetes environments are dynamic by nature, and overlooking this dynamism can lead to severe operational problems. Simply deploying a containerized application and expecting Kubernetes to handle everything is a recipe for trouble.

Issues often arise in the form of resource constraints, networking bottlenecks, and a myriad of possible failures that demand a proactive approach. To maintain a healthy Kubernetes cluster, regular monitoring, updates, and fine-tuning are required. This continuous oversight goes beyond what the Kubernetes control plane can provide and demands skilled operational practices.


  • "Kubernetes Best Practices: Blueprints for Building Successful Applications on Kubernetes" by Brendan Burns, Eddie Villalba, Dave Strebel, and Lachlan Evenson

  • "Kubernetes Failure Stories" by various authors, hosted on Codeberg e.V.

Microservices: A Double-Edged Sword

The Rise and Pervasiveness of Microservices

Microservices architecture didn't just appear overnight. The evolution began as companies started feeling the limitations of monolithic architectures and sought more modular and scalable designs. One pivotal moment was in 2014 when Martin Fowler and James Lewis crystallized the microservices architectural style in their seminal article. This work became a cornerstone that guided many organizations in their transition toward a more compartmentalized approach.

The article from Fowler and Lewis laid down key principles and practices that shaped the way developers thought about building applications. It wasn't just about breaking down applications into smaller pieces; it was about building a system that's robust, scalable, and manageable. The microservices approach, when combined with orchestration platforms like Kubernetes, offers unparalleled advantages but also introduces new complexities.


  • "Microservices" by Martin Fowler and James Lewis

  • "Microservices: Flexible Software Architecture" by Eberhard Wolff

  • "Building Microservices" by Sam Newman

Cutting Through the Microservices Hype

Just like any other trend in the technology world, the adoption of microservices architecture has been a double-edged sword. It's important to cut through the hype and look at the actual utility and potential drawbacks. Below are several seminal works on the topic to help readers make well-informed decisions.


  • "Monolith to Microservices: Evolutionary Patterns to Transform Your Monolith" by Sam Newman

  • "Microservices Patterns: With examples in Java" by Chris Richardson

  • "Microservices AntiPatterns and Pitfalls" by Mark Richards

The Illusion of Autonomy in Kubernetes

The Myth of Self-Sufficiency

The adoption of Kubernetes often comes with the promise of automating much of the operational overhead. This promise leads some to believe in the fallacy of "Set It and Forget It" — the idea that once your services are up and running in a Kubernetes cluster, the system can run autonomously without much intervention. However, this is far from the truth.

While Kubernetes does automate many aspects of application deployment and scaling, it's not a silver bullet. The complexities that arise from managing the state, ensuring security, and handling network latency are issues that require continuous attention.


  • "Kubernetes in Action" by Marko Luksa

  • "Kubernetes Best Practices: Blueprints for Building Successful Applications on Kubernetes" by Brendan Burns, Eddie Villalba, Dave Strebel, and Lachlan Evenson

Adapting to an Ever-Changing Ecosystem

Another issue is that Kubernetes and the ecosystem around it are in a constant state of flux. New features are added, old ones are deprecated, and security patches are released regularly. Ignoring these changes can have significant implications on your service's performance and security.

This constant need for attention is contrary to the notion of a system that runs itself and highlights the need for a dynamic approach to Kubernetes management, involving real-time monitoring, automated updates, and proactive incident management.


  • "The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations" by Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, and Jez Humble

  • "Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems" by Niall Richard Murphy, Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, and Jennifer Petoff

Conclusion: The Pragmatic Approach

It's time to dispel the myth of a hands-off Kubernetes environment. A successful Kubernetes strategy involves not just the initial setup, but a continuous cycle of monitoring, tweaking, and improvement. The complexity and dynamism of the Kubernetes environment make it essential for operators to adopt a proactive and educated approach to managing it.


  • "Kubernetes Up & Running: Dive into the Future of Infrastructure" by Brendan Burns, Joe Beda, and Kelsey Hightower

  • "Seeking SRE: Conversations About Running Production Systems at Scale" by David N. Blank-Edelman

Best Practices: Not a Silver Bullet

The Classics: A Review of Tried-and-True Practices

Kubernetes has been around since 2014 and over these years, various practices have emerged to aid in the successful implementation and management of Kubernetes clusters. The list of classic items includes:

  • Automated Deployments: Automating deployment processes to reduce human errors.

  • Resource Limits: Setting CPU and memory limits to ensure that applications do not consume excessive resources.

  • Self-healing: Utilizing Kubernetes’ self-healing features like auto-scaling and auto-restart.

  • Immutable Infrastructure: Adopting an immutable infrastructure where configurations are baked into the container images.

  • Logging and Monitoring: Setting up extensive logging and monitoring to keep track of application performance and errors.

These practices have stood the test of time and are widely recommended for most Kubernetes setups. However, one must remember that they are not a one-size-fits-all solution, especially as the complexity of your systems increases.

The Evolving Landscape: The Twelve-Factor App

As the landscape of Kubernetes and cloud-native technologies has evolved, so have the best practices. Among these, the Twelve-Factor App stands out as a particularly systematic approach that builds on tried-and-true methodologies. It's worth noting that while the Twelve-Factor App is the most widely recognized set of best practices, it is by no means the only one. Introduced by Adam Wiggins in 2011, this methodology has gained wide acceptance and emerged from the experiences at Heroku, a Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) company.

The Twelve Factors are:

  • Codebase

  • Dependencies

  • Config

  • Backing Services

  • Build, Release, Run

  • Processes

  • Port Binding

  • Concurrency

  • Disposability

  • Dev/Prod Parity

  • Logs

  • Admin Processes


  • "The Twelve-Factor App" by Adam Wiggins

  • "Beyond the Twelve-Factor App: Exploring the DNA of Highly Scalable, Resilient Cloud Applications" by Kevin Hoffman

By delving into the Twelve-Factor methodology, we can see how it complements and extends the classic best practices we discussed earlier. The Twelve-Factor App has become a cornerstone for developing cloud-native applications, thereby influencing various Kubernetes best practices. Hence, the classic and modern strategies don't exist in isolation but rather build upon each other, reinforcing the need for constant adaptation and learning in this Kubernetes era.

Steering Through Unpredictable Variables

We've briefly discussed the notion of best practices in Kubernetes and microservices. These methodologies have been proven effective across various scenarios and are grounded in real-world experiences.

Despite their utility, best practices aren't one-size-fits-all solutions. Organizations often find that as they scale, these guidelines require adaptation or a complete overhaul.

Scaling up introduces new challenges. In smaller systems, you might have a grip on influential variables. However, in large, especially Kubernetes-based environments, several factors are beyond control, such as software bugs or network latency.

As systems grow, advanced methods like Capacity Planning and Rate Limiting become vital. These too require ongoing adjustments and are far from being foolproof solutions.

At some point, it becomes evident that single methodologies or sets of best practices can't handle the inherent complexity of large-scale systems. This sets the stage for Chaos Engineering, one of the most advanced methodologies for managing large systems, which we will explore next.

This prepares the reader for an in-depth look at Chaos Engineering in the next chapter, making it a logical next step for understanding the management of large, complex systems.


  • "Kubernetes Best Practices: Blueprints for Building Successful Applications on Kubernetes" by Brendan Burns, Eddie Villalba, Dave Strebel, Lachlan Evenson

  • "The Art of Scalability" by Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher

  • "Site Reliability Engineering" by Niall Richard Murphy, Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, and Jennifer Petoff

  • "Scalability Rules: Principles for Scaling Web Sites" by Martin L. Abbott and Michael T. Fisher

  • "Chaos Engineering" by Casey Rosenthal, Lorin Hochstein, Aaron Blohowiak, Nora Jones, and Ali Basiri

Chaos Engineering: Mastering Unpredictability

Chaos Engineering has gained attention as one of the most forward-thinking approaches to system reliability. Initially coined by Netflix engineers, this methodology was designed to stress-test large, complex systems to identify weak points.

Unlike traditional methods that aim to prevent failure, Chaos Engineering seeks to break systems intentionally to understand how they respond. The foundational principles are:

  • Define 'steady state' as some measurable output of a system.

  • Hypothesize that this steady state will continue in both the control and the experimental group.

  • Introduce variables that reflect real-world events like servers that crash, hard drives that malfunction, etc.

  • Try to disprove the hypothesis by looking for a difference in steady-state between the control group and the experimental group.

These principles were initially laid out by the Netflix team and have been widely adopted and expanded upon.

Tools and Techniques: Embracing the Chaos

Several tools are specifically designed for Chaos Engineering, such as Chaos Monkey, Chaos Toolkit, and Gremlin. These tools allow you to conduct controlled experiments to break things and learn from them.

As the field has matured, advanced platforms like Gremlin and Chaos Mesh have come into existence. These platforms offer fine-grained control over experiments, facilitating more complex scenarios and more insightful findings.

The most advanced frameworks and services in this domain are Gremlin, Chaos Mesh, and LitmusChaos. They offer a comprehensive suite of tools and capabilities, making it easier for organizations to integrate Chaos Engineering into their operations.

Chaos Engineering is an invaluable methodology for anyone looking to understand and improve large systems. It's a proactive approach, challenging you to break your system to learn how to make it more robust.

This concludes our discussion on Chaos Engineering, providing a strong foundation for understanding how to manage the unpredictability inherent in large-scale systems.


Conclusion: Adapting in Reliability Management

In the world of rapidly evolving technology, managing and operating distributed systems like Kubernetes can be a challenge. This article has covered a range of topics, from the origins of microservices and the development of best practices to methodologies like Chaos Engineering.

Adaptability is Key

The landscape is ever-changing, and while certain practices have gained widespread recognition, there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Systems and processes need to be adapted to fit the specific needs and nuances of each business or project.

Not As Complex As It Seems

While the technological landscape has certainly become more complex compared to two decades ago, it's not insurmountable. The industry has developed a variety of tools and methodologies that make the process more accessible. All it takes is a willingness to learn and apply new approaches to achieve efficiency, especially in larger, more complex environments.

Key Takeaways

  • The world of system reliability is dynamic, requiring ongoing adaptation to new best practices and methodologies.

  • Established practices like microservices and emerging ones like Chaos Engineering offer valuable frameworks for managing complexity.

  • Adapting to the specific needs of a business or project is crucial for successfully implementing these practices.

  • The industry offers a wide range of tools and frameworks to make the adaptation process more accessible.

By staying updated and adapting to these evolving best practices, you can navigate the complexities of modern system management more effectively.

References: Suggested Reading on Reliability

While there is an abundant supply of literature on the topic of system reliability and best practices, some works stand out for their contribution to the field. Below are seminal pieces that were particularly influential in shaping this article and the current discourse on managing reliable systems.

  • "Microservices" - Martin Fowler, James Lewis, 2014

  • "The Twelve-Factor App" - Adam Wiggins, 2011

  • "The DevOps Handbook: How to Create World-Class Agility, Reliability, and Security in Technology Organizations" - Gene Kim, Patrick Debois, John Willis, and Jez Humble, 2016

  • "Chaos Engineering" - Casey Rosenthal, Lorin Hochstein, Aaron Blohowiak, Nora Jones, and Ali Basiri, 2016

  • "Site Reliability Engineering: How Google Runs Production Systems" - Niall Richard Murphy, Betsy Beyer, Chris Jones, and Jennifer Petoff, 2016

These texts provide a deep understanding of the complex landscape of system reliability and are highly recommended for anyone seeking to master this area.

  • Kubernetes
  • Basics
  • Infrastructure