Migrating to Kubernetes? What Platform and DevOps Teams Need to Know

You finally convinced your management to migrate to Kubernetes. Way to go! But now the real work begins – you need to plan and execute a successful migration. No pressure!

Don’t let the complexity intimidate you. With some strategic planning and the right guidance, you can make this transition as smooth as possible. This article will outline some key considerations and best practices to help you migrate existing workloads and build new services in Kubernetes. You’ll learn how to assess readiness, choose the right migration strategy, handle persistent storage, and optimize your cluster for performance and cost. We’ll also provide tips to help you avoid common pitfalls and speed up your developer onboarding. Whether you’re migrating from virtual machines (VMs), cloud services, or bare metal, we’ve got you covered. Let’s break this down step-by-step so you can stick the Kubernetes landing!

Why Migrate to Kubernetes?

If you’re managing infrastructures and applications, Kubernetes can make your life a whole lot easier. Here are a few of the major benefits of migrating to Kubernetes:

1. Reduced Management Overhead

Kubernetes automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. This means you can stop worrying about manually configuring and connecting resources since Kubernetes does the work for you, so you can focus on higher-value tasks.

2. Improved Resiliency

Kubernetes ensures your applications are always running by restarting containers that fail and redistributing your workloads when nodes go down. This high availability means you can sleep better at night knowing your services will be there when your users need them.

3. Faster Development

Kubernetes accelerates development workflows by making it easy to package, deploy, and scale applications. Developers can get their code from development to production in a fast, repeatable way, which allows teams to focus on innovation.

4. Increased Portability

Kubernetes works across on-premises data centers and public clouds like AWS, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. This means you can move workloads between environments or burst into the cloud to meet increased demand. This portability helps you avoid lock-ins and gives you flexibility in where and how you run your applications. Migrating to Kubernetes does require some investment, but the benefits to your team and organization can be huge. With Kubernetes managing your infrastructure, you’ll gain agility, reliability, and portability so you can build better software faster. The future of application development is containerized, and Kubernetes puts you at the cutting edge.

Key Considerations When Migrating to Kubernetes

Migrating to Kubernetes will provide huge benefits, but migrating from a traditional data center setup or other infrastructure platform to Kubernetes requires some planning. Here are some considerations for when you’re starting your migration to Kubernetes:

1.      Application Architecture

First, evaluate how compatible your applications are with containers and microservices. Monolithic applications may need to be redesigned, so make a plan for how your components will interact with each other in a distributed system.

2.      Infrastructure Requirements

Next, determine what Kubernetes infrastructure you need. How many nodes? What instance types? Do you need a managed Kubernetes service like GKE or EKS? Make sure you understand storage, networking, and other requirements.

3.      Backup and Disaster Recovery

With any migration, having a solid backup and disaster recovery (DR) plan is critical. Look for a solution that’s designed specifically for Kubernetes like Kasten K10, which will allow you to back up and restore applications, databases, and the Kubernetes control plane. Fast recovery is key to avoiding downtime!

4.      Security

Security is essential, so define your policies for pod security, network policies, Role-based Access Control (RBAC), and auditing before migration. Use tools like Twistlock, Aqua, or Neuvector to scan images and enforce policies.

5.      Team Skills

Finally, ensure your team has the necessary skills they need to manage Kubernetes. They’ll also need to be comfortable with containers, microservices, and troubleshooting distributed systems, so be sure to provide training on Kubernetes fundamentals and how to operate your specific installation.

With the right planning and preparation, migrating to Kubernetes can be a smooth transition. Following these key considerations will set your team up for success as you embark on your Kubernetes journey!

Choosing the Right Kubernetes Migration Strategy

With Kubernetes, there are a few ways to migrate your workloads, and the strategy you choose depends on your priorities and constraints. Here are some possible routes to take, along with the pros and cons that come with each option.

Replatforming VMs

This involves taking your existing VMs and deploying them on Kubernetes with minimal changes. It’s the fastest way to get up and running on Kubernetes, but you won’t be able to realize all the benefits of Kubernetes. You’ll still be managing your infrastructure, and your workloads likely won’t be optimized to take advantage of Kubernetes’ scalability and resilience.


For a more transformative migration, refactor your applications to become cloud native. This means breaking down monolithic applications into microservices, making them horizontally scalable, and building in resilience — and Kubernetes’ architecture aligns well with these principles. Refactoring does require significant investment in order to rearchitect your applications, but the long-term benefits are huge. Your applications will now be more robust, scalable, and portable across clouds.


The most ambitious approach is to re-architect your infrastructure and applications from the ground up to accommodate Kubernetes. This means you’ll design everything around Kubernetes’ capabilities and best practices. This is only feasible if you’re building new applications or undergoing a major systems overhaul. While rearchitecting requires the most effort up front, you end up with a system that’s optimized for Kubernetes and can evolve as your needs change.

For most teams, re-platforming parts of your system while refactoring other workloads over time is a practical strategy. You can get experience with Kubernetes while upgrading applications one by one, so don’t feel like you must rearchitect everything right out of the gate. With planning, you can ensure a smooth migration to Kubernetes that moves at your own pace.

Ensuring Application Availability During Migration

Migrating to Kubernetes is not without risk. As a platform or DevOps team, ensuring your applications stay up and running during the transition is the top priority. Here’s some key things to keep in mind:

Choose a Phased Approach

Don’t try to migrate all your applications at once; take it slow and choose a phased rollout plan. Start with a few non-critical applications first to test the process and once you’ve worked out any kinks, move on to more important ones. This minimizes disruption and allows you to safely learn as you go.

Set up a Sandbox Environment

Build a sandbox Kubernetes environment that mimics your production setup, deploy copies of your applications here to uncover any issues, then make necessary changes before promoting your application to production. This also gives developers time to get familiar with Kubernetes without impacting live applications.

Have a Rollback Plan

Even with testing, problems can still emerge, so establish a clear plan for rolling back applications to your legacy environment in case of errors or downtime. Be sure to practice this plan ahead of time so you can act quickly if needed. Tools like Velero or Kasten K10 can help automate application backup and restoration across your environments.

Developers often approach backup and DR starting with scripting operation and open-source tools. But governance, reliability, scale, support, and business requirements quickly advance to enterprise tooling. Which approach is best for your organization? Dive deeper with analyst firm Futurum and the “Enterprise-Grade Cloud Native Data Production at Scale: Kasten K10 vs Open Source” report which can be downloaded free here.

Add Capacity and Redundancy

For critical applications, add extra capacity and redundancy in your Kubernetes cluster before migration. This can include running multiple instances of an application by using replica sets, deploying across zones, and more. This helps ensure maximum availability even under increased load or system failure. Be sure to remove excess capacity once your migration is complete and your applications have stabilized.

Monitor Closely

Closely monitor your applications for signs of trouble both during and after migration and track metrics like CPU usage, memory usage, network traffic, and application uptime/downtime. Many monitoring tools can integrate with Kubernetes to give you visibility into the health of your clusters, nodes, pods, and applications. This means you can address any issues immediately to avoid disruption.

With the proper planning and safeguards in place, migrating your applications to Kubernetes can be a smooth process. But staying vigilant and taking things slow is key to minimizing risks and keeping your applications up without a hitch.

Backup and DR for Kubernetes

Migrating to Kubernetes provides powerful infrastructure automation, but also brings new responsibilities. By making Kubernetes backup and DR a priority, your team will give your organization confidence in this new technology. With a solid strategy and possibly a managed solution in place, you’ll be well on your way to Kubernetes’ success.

Kubernetes Migration FAQs

Migrating to Kubernetes is a big step, and you probably have a lot of questions. Here are some of the FAQs we get from teams who are going through a Kubernetes migration.

How long will the migration take? The timeline will depend on the size and complexity of your current infrastructure. For a small setup with a few applications, the migration could take just a few months. However, larger, more complex environments with many legacy applications may need 6 – 12 months. The key is to start with a well-defined plan and working in phases.

Do we need to rearchitect our applications? Not necessarily. While Kubernetes works best with cloud-native applications that are designed for containers and microservices, you can still migrate many monolithic applications. You’ll want to evaluate each application to determine how much re-engineering is needed. Some may only require minor changes, while others may need significant refactoring to become cloud ready.

How will this impact application teams? The impact on application teams will depend on how much change is needed. Teams who are responsible for applications that can migrate with little or no re-engineering may notice minimal disruption. Teams with applications that require significant rearchitecting will need to invest more time, but the long-term benefits of migrating to Kubernetes can make it worthwhile. With proper planning and communication, you can minimize disruption.

What happens to our existing infrastructure? Your existing infrastructure components like VMs, storage volumes, and networks will need to transition to Kubernetes infrastructure components like nodes, persistent volumes, and networking. Work with your cloud or infrastructure team to develop a plan for how to best map your current resources to their Kubernetes equivalents and decommission legacy infrastructure that you no longer need.

How do we secure Kubernetes? Kubernetes introduces some new security concerns, but also has many built-in security features. Focus on strategies like RBAC policies, network policies, admission controllers, pod security policies, and integrating with the enterprise security tools you already use. Lock down the Kubernetes API server and use tools like Kasten K10 to secure Kubernetes workloads and with good DevSecOps practices, Kubernetes can be deployed securely.

Migrating to Kubernetes is a big investment, but by addressing concerns upfront and with the right planning and partnerships, platform and DevOps teams can feel confident in making the move to Kubernetes. The benefits of improved scalability, agility, and reliability will make the journey worthwhile.

Kubernetes Migration is Possible

Migrating to Kubernetes is no small task, but with the right planning and preparation, your team can make it happen. Focusing on getting stakeholder buy-ins, choosing the right migration strategy, and investing in training are important, and make sure you don’t forget to think about backup and DR from the start. Kubernetes offers a lot of advantages, but you need to architect it properly at the outset. Approach migration in phases, learn from your early wins and losses, and continue optimizing over time. Most importantly, make sure your team is along for the ride. With their expertise and enthusiasm, you can build a Kubernetes environment that takes your infrastructure to the next level. Now go forth and migrate confidently!


For more best practices on moving entire applications among clouds and on‑premises, download The Gorilla Guide to Kubernetes Native Application Mobility

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