Build a platform with KRM: Part 3 – Simplifying Kubernetes app developmentBuild a platform with KRM: Part 3 – Simplifying Kubernetes app developmentDeveloper Programs Engineer

This is part 3 in a multi-part series about the Kubernetes Resource Model. See parts 1 and 2 to learn more. 

In the last post, we explored how Kubernetes and its declarative resource model can provide a solid platform foundation. But while the Kubernetes Resource Model is powerful, it can also be overwhelming to learn: there are dozens of core Kubernetes API resources, from Deployments and StatefulSets, to ConfigMaps and Services.  And each one has its own functionality, fields, and syntax. 

It’s possible that some teams in your organization do need to learn about the whole Kubernetes developer surface, such as the teams building platform integrations. But other teams, such as application developers, most likely do not need to learn everything about Kubernetes in order to become productive. With the right abstractions, developers can interact with a Kubernetes platform more easily, resulting in less toil and speedier feature development. 

What is a platform abstraction? It’s a way of hiding details, leaving behind only the necessary functionality. By taking certain details away, abstractions open up new possibilities, allowing you to create concepts and objects that make sense for your organization. For instance, you may want to combine all the Kubernetes resources for one service into one “application” concept, or combine multiple Kubernetes clusters into one “environment.” 

There are lots of ways to abstract a Kubernetes platform, from custom UIs, to command-line tools, to IDE integrations. Your organization’s abstraction needs will depend on how much of Kubernetes you want to expose developers to – it’s often a tradeoff between ease of use and flexibility. It will also depend on the engineering resources you have available to devote to setting up (and maintaining) these abstractions; not every organization has an in-house platform team. 

So where to start? If you’re already shipping code to a Kubernetes environment, one way to brainstorm abstractions is by examining your existing software development lifecycle. Talk to the app developers in your org: how do they interact with the platform? How do they test and stage their code? How do they work with Kubernetes configuration? What are their pain points? 

From here, you can explore the vast cloud-native landscape with a set of concrete problems in mind. This post demonstrates one end-to-end development workflow using a set of friendly Kubernetes tools.

Bootstrapping developers with kustomize

Imagine you’re a new frontend developer at Cymbal Bank. Your job is to build and maintain the public web application where customers can create bank accounts and perform transactions. Most of your day-to-day work involves changing or adding features to the Python and HTML frontend, testing those features, and creating pull requests in the source code repository. You’re not very familiar with Kubernetes, having used a different platform in your previous role, but you’re told that you have a development GKE cluster to work with. Now what?

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