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VMblog Expert Interview: What You Need to Know About Rafay's Technology, Enterprise-grade Kubernetes Management, Trends and More

interview-rafay-budhani 

VMblog spoke with Haseeb Budhani, the co-founder and CEO of Rafay, to learn more about the company and its technology, different Kubernetes challenges to be aware of, enterprise-grade Kubernetes management, trends and more.

VMblog:  Tell us about Rafay - Why did you form the company and what is Rafay's overarching purpose?

Haseeb Budhani:  Rafay was founded to address the significant challenges companies are facing when deploying modern (containerized) apps. In a previous company, we experienced similar problems and built an appreciation for how hard the job of a devops engineer truly is. When we started designing our initial platform here at Rafay, first-generation and do-it-yourself (DIY) container orchestration solutions existed, but they didn't solve operational challenges related to scalability, security, interoperability, and ease of use. It was clear to us from day one that Kubernetes would be the winning platform, and we bet on Kubernetes from day-1 as the container orchestration platform of the future. 

Rafay's mission is to enable faster, easier development and delivery of modern applications for companies through a mature, battle-tested and easy-to-use Kubernetes (K8s) management and operations platform. Without a platform like Rafay, internal K8s projects typically stall or become too cumbersome to operate in due course, which can lead to delayed application deployments, and ultimately, delays in the positive business impact that modernization initiatives promise. With a combination of enterprise-grade platform capabilities and world-class expert services, Rafay enables customers to deliver Kubernetes infrastructure with enterprise-grade governance, control and automation, empowering companies to build and deliver cutting-edge applications that can change the world.

VMblog:  What are the key challenges enterprises run into when they start progressing down the path of Kubernetes and realize they need better processes and systems in place?  And how can they overcome those challenges?

Budhani:  Kubernetes is an incredibly powerful enabler for enterprise-wide app modernization strategies, but the great Kubernetes irony is that the very technology that was created to streamline the management of modern applications is, itself, incredibly difficult to manage. The engineering skills required to operate a K8s infrastructure can also be hard to find and retain. To add to this, the average number of K8s clusters deployed by enterprises is growing, and many companies operate 10s of clusters, or "fleets." First-generation products were unfortunately not built with fleet management in mind -- so while managing one or clusters is usually not onerous, many companies fail to plan for operational requirements and risks associated with the cluster lifecycle management of K8s cluster fleets.

Rafay has developed a purpose-built SaaS K8s management and operations platform to meet the needs of modern enterprises and app development. To overcome the challenges inherent to K8s management, Rafay's platform and services uniquely offer a number of enterprise-grade features that help DevOps teams realize the true promise of Kubernetes, such as: Zero Trust security, native fleet management, multi-cloud support, broad enterprise integrations, and fast easy deployment -- all of which add up to a much lower Total Cost of Ownership than with other solutions.

VMblog:  Amazon (w/ AWS) and Microsoft (w/ Azure) offer managed Kubernetes services, what makes you different from them?

Budhani:  Being a Kubernetes Management provider and not a Kubernetes distribution provider, Rafay's solution DOES NOT compete with the managed Kubernetes services provided by AWS, Azure, etc. In fact, most of Rafay's customers use Amazon EKS or Azure AKS. These customers leverage the automation, governance, and zero-trust capabilities built into the Rafay platform to simplify ongoing operations for EKS, AKS, etc. Additionally, for customers running hybrid or multi-cloud environments, Rafay delivers the easiest path to automation cluster provisioning and containerized application deployment across multiple distributions with ease.

VMblog:  As Kubernetes deployments grow in size and scope, what do companies need to know - specific dynamics of managing large fleets?  Security or compliance concerns?

Budhani:  No enterprise is a flat organization. They each have multiple teams, multiple production environments, sometimes even multiple BUs. And each of these groups may have their own Kubernetes clusters running unique apps, which may require development, QA and production clusters. Net-net, all enterprises end up running tens or hundreds of clusters over time. As a result, fleet management are critical requirements for all enterprises, and must be native capabilities in K8s management solutions. K8s management frameworks that lack fleet management capabilities compromise efficiency and result in slower rollout of new applications. For enterprise-grade K8s management, it should be just as easy to manage the lifecycle of 100s of clusters as it is to manage a handful of clusters, perhaps in a software-defined way.

Rafay offers native fleet management capabilities and also recently introduced cluster blueprinting for configuration enforcement across cluster fleets as well as configuration reconciliation and drift detection for applications, to help enterprises simplify ongoing operations for Kubernetes environments. With cluster blueprints, enterprises can rapidly provision standardized Kubernetes clusters that are automatically configured with enterprise-sanctioned tools across clouds and data centers, a major issue faced by infrastructure operations teams as part of day-2 activities. With configuration reconciliation and drift detection for applications, infrastructure operations teams can ensure that no unsanctioned or erroneous configuration changes are made in production environments. These capabilities make it easy for enterprises to streamline deployments and enforce standard application and cluster configurations across their infrastructure, setting a new standard in Kubernetes management.

VMblog:  How has the growth of Kubernetes, and Kubernetes management changed Devops team composition - How has the role evolved and where do you see it going?

Budhani:  To deploy and manage a single application in an organization's data center requires a working familiarity with a Kubernetes distribution, understanding of how to integrate several enterprise systems (e.g. logging, metrics collection, alerting, secrets management, app deployment pipelines, etc.), and more. This is a high degree of complexity that results in many Kubernetes implementations not being successful. In fact, in some cases, misconfigurations have led to security breaches and significant application downtime. Overwhelmed teams with insufficient training only make the problem worse, putting these implementations farther behind with Kubernetes management becoming more and more difficult. As such, we are now seeing the rise of a new role in the enterprise -- the "Kube"-master, similar to the rise of the Webmaster in the early days of the Internet. This is a role that will gain more prominence in the months and years to come, as operating and managing Kubernetes becomes a significantly larger part of the engineering operation.

VMblog:  Briefly tell us about the products and solutions you provide and how they are delivered.

Budhani:  Over the past year, Rafay has seen a sharp increase in adoption of its Kubernetes Management Cloud (KMC). KMC is a SaaS-based offering that provides organizations with an enterprise-grade solution to automate the lifecycle management for Kubernetes clusters (all well-known managed Kubernetes services are supported, along with upstream Kubernetes for on-prem deployments), along with the automated deployment of containerized apps across clusters in any environment. Additionally, KMC delivers fleet management, governance, user management/access, alerting and logging/metrics collection capabilities -- all of which is based on Rafay's unique zero-trust framework. Combined with world-class support, Rafay gives enterprises the ability to quickly and easily deploy production-grade Kubernetes environments in a matter of days.

VMblog:  What are some specific use cases for your solution?  Are there particular industries that are most in need of Rafay KMC?

Budhani:  One important use case is the support for applications being deployed at the Edge. As an example, multiple retailers are looking to deploy applications in stores to deliver a better user experience to retail customers. However, the enormous complexity and overhead involved with managing the deployment and lifecycle of globally distributed edge applications along with the underlying Kubernetes infrastructure is slowing down application rollouts. Rafay's KMC is the best-fit solution for such scenarios, and is why managed service providers, such as Verizon Business, have partnered with Rafay.

Another use case is the ability for companies to standardize DevOps workflows and support for hybrid IT environments. A number of hi-tech companies delivering software solutions to business and consumers have partnered with Rafay to automate infrastructure creation and containerized application deployment, enabling the company's modern technology stack to be deployed anywhere - on premises or in the cloud. These companies quickly come to see Rafay as an extension of their DevOps teams, and work with Rafay to speed up the company's high-value solutions to their customer base.

Acceleration of application modernization is yet another important use case. A number of financial services companies have partnered with Rafay to speed up their app modernization journeys. A number of these companies are adopting cloud-first strategies and picking managed Kubernetes offerings (e.g. Amazon EKS) for their Kubernetes distribution needs. To simplify the ongoing operations for EKS, these companies adopted Rafay KMC, which enabled them to launch a comprehensive automation framework for Kubernetes management and operations within weeks. With the turnkey workflows built into the Rafay platform, development teams can now deploy new applications into production environments within days instead of months, and are able to focus on application development rather than worry about Kubernetes management issues.

Industries that are most in need of Rafay KMC include: healthcare, financial services, telecom, e-commerce/retail, and more.

VMblog:  How are you different from your competitors?  Why would someone prefer your offerings to those provided by others in the industry?

Budhani:  First-generation and DIY K8s management solutions are a good training ground for DevOps teams, but they require a significant investment of time and resources at scale, while lacking production-level capabilities. This means enterprise DevOps teams have to build inhouse platforms on top of first-generation solutions to meet the enterprise's needs. Rafay delivers a powerful alternative that helps enterprises overcome the challenges and complexities of operating Kubernetes, delivering the turnkey workflows, built-in governance and security frameworks, and the automation needed by today's enterprises that need to manage large numbers of K8s clusters. Rafay KMC uniquely offers critical features necessary for large-scale enterprise deployments that no other solution provides, and which give companies an edge in building and shipping modern applications in a highly streamlined and secure manner.

VMblog:  Finally, how do you expect industry practices around Kubernetes and its management to evolve over the next few years?  And what are the key trends you expect to see emerge?

Budhani:  IT leaders today recognize the complexity and the never ending work effort required to keep up with Kubernetes management and operations. With the growing backlog of automation features and slowing down of modernization initiatives, IT leaders are looking to vendors to help automate and simplify governance for modern application infrastructure. Kubernetes Management & Operations vendors such as Rafay are key to freeing up DevOps teams so they can focus on tasks that positively impact the company's bottom line.

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Published Tuesday, July 13, 2021 7:30 AM by David Marshall
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