Podcast: How the Netherlands’ Largest Telco Builds, Runs and Manages Modern Apps

With the rise of Kubernetes and cloud, enterprises are transforming the way they build, run and manage their application environments.

To help us dive deeper into how businesses are modernizing their applications and infrastructure, we sat down with Albert Alberts, architect for the largest telecom and IT company in the Netherlands, KPN.

Listen to the video podcast:

Q: A common scenario today is that businesses are under a ton of pressure to produce new services. What’s behind the demand to get services to market faster?

At KPN, we see the market moving. We are a large telco company, but a lot of smaller companies are moving faster than we are. So, the pressure is on developers to deliver faster.

Cloud-native applications are only one way to develop apps. Previously, we used big monoliths and development took months. Now, a new release only takes a couple of days, sometimes multiples in one day. With this, new features can be offered to our customers faster.

Q: What goals are you hoping to achieve with your app modernization strategies?

Currently, we have a lot of departments that are running Kubernetes for themselves, so we hope to achieve a bit more consolidation of our platforms. We want to pull them into the hypervisor platform so we can deliver services to our developers from one platform.

App Modernization in a Multi-Cloud World

Q: What is your current app ecosystem, and how does that create challenges for developers?

We have a diverse landscape of applications, but we also have a lot of platforms. We have some legacy services that we must keep running, but also, new services that are cloud-based already. So, it’s a different landscape from a bare metal surface for performance, as opposed to Kubernetes environments, which are based on containers in which all things must work together.

Now, developers have to learn how to not only orchestrate the containers but also how to work across the entire landscape of diverse scenarios and surfaces.

Q: What are KPN’s developers trying to achieve?

They need to build applications faster with less time for application development because there’s a higher demand. The landscape of application development is also changing into more Kubernetes-like applications. Microservices demands them to be cloud-native and able to run on-premise but also in the cloud. Therefore, cloud-native applications are the answer for developers. And with that, we need to offer Kubernetes environments, as well.

Delivering Modern Apps (and Pizza) with Kubernetes

Today, we see development teams solely building their operations for Kubernetes environments.

Q: How are your developers meeting their needs today?

We have different developer teams. Some teams are already implementing services based on Kubernetes. Cloud-native applications all face the same problem. They have to manage the Kubernetes environments themselves. And building a Kubernetes environment is not easy.

The services that we could deliver with (VMware Tanzu) could take a lot of work away from them, so they can focus more on application development instead of maintaining Kubernetes environments.

We have operational teams within the developer teams working on Kubernetes, and that’s a shame. They should put their efforts into building applications instead of doing operational work on Kubernetes. That’s why we think (Tanzu) is going to enable us to provide Kubernetes-as-a-Service.

Q: How is your team managing security in your environment?

We have a strict security policy called KSP (KPN Security Policy). And yes, it does create a lot of challenges for our developers, as well. We hope to achieve a little more with implementing the SDN  (software-defined networking) parts to make it easier for the developers when setting up their own Kubernetes environments.

Basically, it’s a zero-trust network and that’s very good. If something happens, it only happens within their bubble and doesn’t affect other development teams or other tenants within our platform. With that, security is top of mind and we must solve a lot of problems there. Our hope is that (Tanzu) will make it easier.

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Q: Lastly, if you could build your utopia platform with no budget restrictions, how would that look?

My utopia platform would be one base layer, which can offer all of the services from bare metal to serverless and FaaS (Function-as-a-Service). In between, we’d offer virtual machines, containers, and Kubernetes environments in two different ways: complete self-serve from a portal or as a managed service.

Some departments are just not ready to handle the responsibility that comes with certain surfaces, and they need help. They want to just focus on application development and not the operational.

We were looking for a way to implement Kubernetes as a service for quite some time now. It was a really nice surprise to see that (Tanzu) came along and filled in that gap. Implementing Kubernetes is not a question of when, but how for us, and I think VMware really nailed that.

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