November 29, 2021

Kubernetes Cost Management: Where Does the Problem Come From?

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

The costs of running Kubernetes are a subset of your overall cloud spend, but we see this increasingly becoming a significant driver of that spend. As an open-source technology, Kubernetes is actually completely free to use. The costs that come with Kubernetes are in the cloud resources that are consumed while Kubernetes is managing your infrastructure, such as spinning up compute instances such as AWS EC2 instances or Google Compute Engine instances. Kubernetes makes it easy to use and manage more cloud resources, driving up cloud spend at an accelerated rate - and sometimes without any good way to understand why.

Just as there are cost management and cloud finops strategies for cloud resources themselves, there are similar strategies you can use to manage and optimize your Kubernetes costs. In the end, you’ll see that cost management for Kubernetes utilizes many of the same methodologies, and how to apply that same thinking to your Kubernetes costs.

This article contains an excerpt from our eBook, Cost Management Strategies for Kubernetes. If you like the content you see, stick around to the end where we’ll link the full eBook for you. It’s free - and best of all, ungated.

Where Does the Problem Come From With Kubernetes?

Here’s the first way that cloud and Kubernetes costs are very similar: the core of it is the rise of the DevOps paradigm. In no way is DevOps a bad thing - in fact, it’s the reason you’re able to move so quickly and deliver innovation to customers faster than ever before. As part of this efficiency in software delivery, the use of Kubernetes in development and deployment is here to stay, because it simplifies the deployment, management, and scaling of applications.

A lot of the power of Kubernetes is in being able to take a defined need and freely scale up and down resource requirements. That need is defined by developers, who tend to overestimate resource needs so that things don’t break. Intuitively, developers (along with DevOps and Operations alike) aim to maximize the core metric of application performance (which incidentally led to the rise of APM tools). They err on the side of keeping apps running during the peak traffic spikes, but that costs a lot of money downstream. Thus, cloud cost management - and Kubernetes cost management, as a byproduct - were born.

However, it’s important to realize that developers aren’t the blanket problem here. In fact, you want to empower developers to freely innovate and build, test, and deploy code quickly. At the same time, you have to recognize that developers are the master keyholders to implementing cost efficiency, just the way that they are for software delivery and performance. Ergo, the key is empowering developers to be cost-efficient without added toil, the way you do for delivery and performance, is it not?

Crucially, cost efficiency is a function of more than just development and ops teams. To be truly cost efficient, it’s just as important to empower developers and ops teams as it is to bring that empowerment to multiple levels of the organization, including engineering teams, ops teams, finance teams, and executives. In this way, you’re creating and enabling a collaborative cloud cost management culture that brings the whole organization to joint goals, visibility into costs, opportunities to be more efficient, and effective capacity planning ability. 

At Harness, we believe in this collaborative approach to cloud cost management, starting with the engineers. Providing this visibility, we’ve found, is one of the biggest roadblocks for engineers to create efficiencies in cost. Just like APM tools provide the visibility needed to improve performance, Harness provides the visibility engineers need to identify and act on key opportunities to minimize costs.

Kubernetes Cost Management Problem: CCM Kubernetes View

Kubernetes Cost Management Strategies

To come up with the right strategy, it’s important to first recognize the core goals that you want to achieve. Just as with cloud cost management, there are three goals to solve for to do comprehensive cost management in Kubernetes:

  1. Cost visibility
  2. Cost savings
  3. Cost forecasting

The overall strategy is simple: first, see the costs; second, find savings; finally, achieve predictability in costs. Incidentally, these three steps are the same goals that will serve as the pillar for your Kubernetes cost management strategy, so you can achieve both at once. 


What will follow in coming blog posts are strategies that can be taken within each of cost visibility, cost savings, and cost forecasting, so that you can create a comprehensive strategy depending on your organization’s needs and maturity.

All of these are strategies that you can implement within your organization, though maybe not immediately, depending on what you have in place already. And while an individual tactic might make sense, it’s worth keeping in mind that the real benefit is seen when these are put together as part of a holistic Kubernetes cost management strategy.

Additionally, if you don’t want to wait for the next few blog posts, you can simply download the full eBook right now - it’s free and doesn’t require an email address! Download the Cost Management Strategies for Kubernetes eBook now.

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