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How to reduce Kubernetes costs

With cutting expenditure a business imperative, there are five ways enterprises can get started on reducing their Kubernetes costs

With prices rising significantly over the last 12 months, businesses globally have been forced to explore how to reduce expenditure on several fronts, including their Kubernetes costs.  

Used efficiently, Kubernetes offers a range of benefits for enterprises; from enhancing business productivity to streamlining application development and reducing friction for developers. Recent pricing surges, however, mean Kubernetes could end up costing some businesses more than they bargained for.  

Research from Civo shows almost half of all developers have witnessed a year-on-year increase in spending on Kubernetes clusters, with some contending with a spending surge of up to 25%.  

Amid challenging economic times fraught with tightening budgets, this growing financial burden means some organisations are scrambling to reduce Kubernetes costs and optimise how they function. 

This might be a challenging task, especially with imperatives to reduce software costs and reduce security costs, alongside making energy savings, and so on. There are, however, several practical ways businesses can get started on reducing their Kubernetes costs.

1. Use cost analysis tools 

One of the first things you should consider before embarking on a cost-cutting campaign is to consider some of the key tools at your disposal to help monitor costs. Research from 2021, for example, showed most businesses don’t monitor their costs, despite the fact prices were surging even back then. 

A commonly-used tool among many enterprises is Kubecost. This particular tool analyses an organisation’s IT infrastructure environment to pinpoint areas of friction and poor performance, enabling you to target specific points within your environment to implement changes and cut costs.  

OpenCost is another valuable tool for businesses looking to better manage or reduce Kubernetes costs. This open source tool is easy to use and enables users to track Kubernetes spending in real-time, also allowing you to identify areas of friction and ultimately reduce costs. 

2. Fewer clusters, fewer headaches 

Simply put, the greater number of Kubernetes clusters your business uses, the more you will be required to pay for hosting costs.  

This is because each cluster requires you to fork out for additional compute nodes to host your control plane in production, meaning you’re essentially multiplying costs within each cluster.  

Dr Manzoor Mohammed, co-founder and CINO at Capacitas tells IT Pro that a recommended approach is to run fewer clusters, with larger worker nodes and small pods. 

“Having small pods and large worker nodes, in a small number of clusters for the pods to run in, will allow you to pack the worker nodes more efficiently,” he says.  

Running a single cluster to host all of your workloads is also recommended, enabling you to consolidate workloads and reduce financial burdens.  

This isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, however. There are instances where running multiple clusters is required, meaning each business should assess workloads and establish the ideal approach.  

3. Autoscaling is your friend 

Autoscaling is among the most impactful ways that organisations can reduce Kubernetes costs, according to Tobi Knaup, CEO at D2iQ.  

Configuring autoscaling enables you to add or remove nodes from Kubernetes clusters during off-peak times. This means that, depending on demand, workloads will still have consistent resources without the need for paying for excess infrastructure. 

“It delivers benefits because it allows an application to scale to meet demand – when your usage spikes, autoscaling lets your app and your cluster scale up to meet that demand without degrading usage,” Knaup says. 

“Some businesses, especially those with presence largely in a single country, can drive costs down by using autoscaling to scale down when their load is low.” 

4. Understand your (resource) limits

Defining resource limits can be a highly efficient way of reducing Kubernetes costs, but there may be a compromise here.  

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By assigning a limit, it curtails the amount of memory or CPU resources that containers can consume. By doing so, you may prevent applications from burning through – or hogging – resources and incurring additional costs.  

Combined with autoscaling, this provides a dual method for reducing costs by both setting a limit and preventing workloads from demanding additional resources to accommodate demand. 

Be warned, however, that setting Kubernetes limits can present issues, according to Knaup. By setting limits there is the potential to inhibit workloads by cutting access to additional resources. This has been known to cause performance issues, which ultimately could negatively impact user experience (UX).  

“The only downside to it is you have to carefully set the right resource limits such that it allows legitimate usage for an application,” he tells IT Pro. “Setting it too low would deny an application to function properly.” 

5. Evaluate provider options 

Evaluating your provider options can be “essential” to reducing Kubernetes costs in the long run, Knapp suggests.  

Assessing the pricing offered by providers, such as AWS or Azure, for example, will enable you to develop a deeper understanding of what fits best for your business and your budget. Most of the major providers offer tools to help estimate costs.  

This isn’t just limited to costs, however. An equally important aspect to consider is what functionalities and features certain providers offer and whether they are cost-effective and relevant to your business needs.  

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to help reduce Kubernetes costs, and the tactics employed by some businesses will vary compared to others. Similarly, this differing approach is also dependent on the size of the organisation itself, with smaller businesses encountering far more acute issues with costs compared to larger enterprises. 

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