November 22, 2021

Kubernetes Cost Management: Why Manage and Optimize Costs?

Table of Contents

Key takeaway

The advent of cloud computing has enabled us to develop faster and ship more than ever before, but we’re spending a lot more on cloud than we anticipated. And with Kubernetes a mainstay, managing the manager of your infrastructure usage is becoming a crucial leg of cloud cost management. Let’s dive into why it’s getting more and more important to scrutinize our cloud bills and get a handle on costs - and why Kubernetes costs, especially, can lead to bill shock. One might even say that having a Kubernetes cheat sheet for costs can be handy, given how complex it can get.

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.

FinOps: Why Manage and Optimize Costs?

The answer is simple: it’s the same reason you watch your own money. You don’t want to throw away money, and you want to get the most value that you can out of the dollars that you spend.

Businesses operate by this simple principle, and want to keep costs as low as possible. Cloud infrastructure is a necessity for the business to operate, but that doesn’t mean any amount of money can be thrown at it. When you buy food, it’s because it’s a necessity. But would you want to spend $1.35 on a banana when there’s one next to it for $1, all things equal? Strange grocery store analogies aside, you don’t want to spend an extra 35% on something when you know you don’t need to. Cloud costs are the same, and yet, on average, 35% of cloud spend is entirely waste.

Why Manage and Optimize Kubernetes Costs? 35% of Cloud Spend is Waste.

The bright side is that just as you can have a $1.00 banana, with a little visibility and knowing what savings look like, you can not only curb unwanted spending, but also extend to being able to project what all of your bananas will cost over time.

Cloud Costs vs. Kubernetes Costs

But how does this relate to Kubernetes? Let’s dive into Kubernetes basics. The costs of running Kubernetes are a subset of your overall cloud spend, but also 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. Kubernetes makes it easy to use and manage more cloud resources, driving up cloud spend at an accelerated rate.

Just as there are cost management 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.

Where Does the Problem Come From?

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.


Looking at how Kubernetes works, it’s easy to understand why cloud costs could increase when using it - and why the learning curve to manage costs in Kubernetes is so much harder. Engaging in cloud cost optimization, especially in Kubernetes, is crucial. It's important to learn how to optimize costs since accidentally overprovisioning resources is conveniently easy. But there are strategies to help decrease (or even completely eliminate) sharp increases in costs due to Kubernetes and ultimately manage them continuously with minimal engineering effort. Find these strategies - and more - by reading our free eBook, Cost Management Strategies for Kubernetes. We won’t even ask for your email address!

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