Key Criteria for Evaluating Hosted Kubernetes Solutionsv1.0

Table of Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Hosted Kubernetes Primer
  3. Evaluation Criteria
  4. Metrics
  5. Table Stakes
  6. Key Criteria
  7. Critical Features: Impact Analysis
  8. Near-Term Game-Changing Technology
  9. Conclusion
  10. About Enrico Signoretti


With the increasing attention that enterprise organizations are reserving for the transformation of their infrastructures and the transition to DevOps and Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) development models, containers and more, generally, microservices architectures are becoming the standard for new application development, delivery, and management.

In this context, many organizations are now in a transition phase moving from the development and testing of their first applications to production. At the same time, from the infrastructure point of view, we are quickly advancing from the initial curiosity around Kubernetes, to first proof of concepts and training laboratories, to early production environments.

There is an increasing interest in solutions that can bridge the gap between user expectations and the reality of Kubernetes. Kubernetes is still a very complex and immature platform that continues to receive continuous updates and offer new functionalities. For most IT organizations that are accustomed to the ease of use and maturity of technologies like virtualization, this is a destabilizing factor. In most cases, the only way to operate safely is to be up to date with the latest upstream version of Kubernetes and its satellite projects, and be sure to get everything supported and fully functioning with the latest security patches, Application Program Interfaces (APIs), and performance improvements. But once again, most organizations are not ready to operate at this pace.

Managing an ever-evolving platform such as Kubernetes is a demanding task, and on top of this, there are several operational complexities in this type of platform that can create reliability issues if not addressed correctly when necessary.

IT organizations favor containers because they enable true application portability, and Kubernetes is the platform to manage container-based applications correctly, at scale. With portability comes the possibility of planning and realizing hybrid cloud strategies that enable organizations to move applications across different on-premises and cloud environments.

The easiest way to get all the advantages of Kubernetes and none of the complexity that comes with it is to choose the right hosted Kubernetes services. There are plenty of options in the market at the moment and, although rooted in the same code base, they present several differences in technical features, consumption models, and support aspects.

In this report, we are going to analyze all of these aspects and give indications about how to evaluate different Kubernetes services and find the best option depending on technical and business needs.

Report Methodology

A Key Criteria report analyzes the most important features of a technology category to help the reader understand how they impact an enterprise and its IT organization. Features are grouped into three categories:

  1. Table Stakes
  2. Key Criteria
  3. Near-term game-changing technology

The goal is to help organizations assess capabilities and build a mid-to-long-term infrastructure strategy. In a mature technology, the solutions are divided into three target market categories: enterprise, high-performance, and specialized solutions. In a mature market, these differ in their characteristics and how they integrate with existing infrastructures. That said, the assessment is more dependent on the specific user’s needs and not solely on the organization’s vertical.

Table Stakes

Table stakes are system characteristics and features that are important when choosing the right solution. They include architectural choices that depend on the size of the organization, its requirements, the expected growth over time, and the types of workloads they handle. Table stakes are mature, and the implementation of these features will not add any business advantage nor significantly change the TCO or ROI of the infrastructure.

Key Criteria

Key Criteria features differentiate one solution from another. Depending on real user needs, they have a positive impact on one or more of the metrics mentioned. Therefore, implementation details are essential to understanding the benefits relative to the infrastructure, processes, or business. 
Following table stakes and key criteria, aspects like architectural design and implementation regain importance and need to be analyzed in great detail.

In some cases, the features described in the Key Criteria section are the core solution, and the rest of the system is designed around them. This could be a crucial benefit for organizations that see them as a real practical advantage, but that also poses some risks in the long term. In fact, over time, the differentiation introduced by a feature becomes less relevant. It falls into the ‘table stakes’ group, while new system capabilities add new benefits or address new needs, with a positive impact on metrics like efficiency, manageability, flexibility, and so on.

Key Criteria bring several benefits to organizations of all sizes with different business needs. This category is organized to give the reader a brief description of the specific functionality or technology, its benefits in general terms, and what to expect from a well-executed implementation. To provide a complete picture, we also include examples of the most interesting implementations currently available in the market.

Critical Impact of Features on the Metrics

Technology, functionality, and architecture designs that have demonstrated their value are adopted by other vendors, become a standard, and then lose their status as a differentiator. Initially, the implementation of these key criteria was crucial for delivering real value, perhaps with some trade-offs. The most important metrics for the evaluation of a technology solution include:

  • Architecture
  • Flexibility
  • Scalability
  • Manageability and ease of use
  • Pricing model

This section provides the impact individual features have on the metrics at the moment of the report’s publication. Each feature is scored from 1 to 5, with a score of 5 indicating the most impact on an enterprise. These impacts are not absolute and should always be verified with the organization’s requirements and use case. Strategic decisions can then be based on the impact each metric can have on the infrastructure, system management, and IT processes already in place, with particular emphasis on ROI and TCO.

Near-Term Game-Changing Technology

In this report section, we will be analyzing the most exciting technologies on the horizon over the next 12 to 18 months. Some are already present in some form, but usually as part of niche products or for addressing very specific use cases. In either case, at this stage, the implementations available are not mature enough to be grouped in Key Criteria. Yet when implemented correctly and efficiently, this technology can make a difference to the metrics.

Over time, game-changing features become key Criteria, and the cycle repeats. Therefore, to get the best ROI, it is important to check up on what vendors are offering today and what they plan to release in the near future.

Companion Reports

The Key Criteria report is part of a series of documents aimed at giving the reader the tools to understand technology more fully, evaluate it, and explore the market to find the best solutions for their organization.

In this context, and to get a complete view of the state of the solutions available in the market, the reader should consider the following documents:

  • This report, Key Criteria for Evaluating Hosted Kubernetes, is an introduction to the technology. It defines the necessary evaluation metrics, the key criteria that may be used to evaluate new solutions, and the impact of the latter on the former. It is dedicated to those end users that are approaching a new technology for the first time or want an update on the latest evolution.
  • GigaOm Radar for Hosted Kubernetes offers a brief 360° view of the market, including market and technical positioning of most notable vendors, and a short introduction of their solutions and differentiation, including a high-level graphic comparison of the vendors.
  • Vendor Profiles for Hosted Kubernetes are easy-to-read deep dive documents that cover a single vendor regarding the solutions described in the other reports. They provide more details on the solution, describe how the vendor approached the key criteria, and the impact that its solutions have on the evaluation metrics. This document helps end-users to get a quick but complete evaluation of single vendors.

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