Coinbase is introducing a key change to its tech stack, one that would likely affect the exchange’s overall stability. Earlier today, Coinbase has announced that it will be moving its container management and tech stack to integrate with Kubernetes, an industry-leading container orchestration system.
There would be some concerns, however, regarding this shift. First is cost. Coinbase has discussed this before in a previous blog post by Drew Rothstein, Director of Engineering at Coinbase. At the time (pre-IPO Coinbase), the crypto exchange said that it needed a simple and effective method for container orchestration. Coinbase’ previous tooling for container orchestration was deployed through Odin, an AWS (Amazon Web Services) Step Function which deployed its services as Auto-Scaling Groups (ASGs) to AWS. With Odin, the costs were much less than Kubernetes, but it came with certain limitations and capacity constraints that were not addressable through this framework.
“Coinbase has grown substantially since we first considered migrating to Kubernetes. With any growth of this kind, it is important to prioritize scalability concerns. As we continue to scale, one of the main areas in need of future-proofing is Coinbase’s compute platform.” writes Clare Curtis, a software engineer at Coinbase.
Now that Coinbase has announced its shift to Kubernetes, the second concern is this: what would this cost Coinbase users, ultimately? Cloud customers often have to pay an average of at least three times more for cloud computing costs associated with Amazon Web Services, Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud. This is paid out for the speed, security, and reliability of such frameworks. However, because of the costs, the operational expenditure is often transferred and thereon becomes an additional burden for consumers. Coinbase has not disclosed any pricing changes for it services at the moment, but this may likely happen in the next few years as the exchange’s consumer base scales.
There’s also some concern regarding the security framework for Kubernetes. Given that it’s being used by top tech companies such as Google (where it was first developed as an open-source public-cloud infrastructure), it positions itself as a highly visible target for threat actors. A recent report from Shadowserver, an information security foundation, details how 380,000 Kubernetes API servers had “open” API instances, which meant that they were vulnerable to external access. The number represents and constitutes roughly 84% of all instances over the Ipv4 web.
“Security is incredibly important at Coinbase and securing Kubernetes clusters is a non-trivial undertaking. Transitioning from highly-isolated and single-tenant compute to a system which promotes multi-tenancy requires deliberate security design and consideration.” Coinbase claims.
According to the exchange, ultimately, this decision was made to prioritize the long-term stability and scalability of its platform, which has now been expanded from an exchange to a range of financial services tied to crypto. This shift will help Coinbase meet the needs of its current and future customer base while maintaining security and compliance, and the move to Kubernetes is an important part of that commitment. We’ll just have to wait and see whether this proves to be a great decision in the long run, or if it ends up being a costly mistake for Coinbase and more importantly, its users.
Disclaimer: This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.
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