An Introduction to Kubernetes: All About the Container Orchestration Tool

Gone are the days of physical server-dependent application deployment. The advent of cloud computing has long facilitated the usage of fully virtualized infrastructures for application deployment. And when we talk about virtualized deployment, the biggest emergent trend is, irrefutably, a shift toward containers.Today, Kubernetes practically has a stranglehold on container orchestration in organizations that have embraced DevOps practices. This dominance ensures the continued relevance of Kubernetes certification and usage to any and all involved in DevOps-centric sectors. And, its importance will only grow in the DevOps ecosystem of tomorrow. To that end, the following article will go over all the important things that you need to know about Kubernetes as a DevOps tool, its features, and Kubernetes certification. 

The popularity of DevOps tools

Devops toolsDevOps is, first and foremost, the notion of an agile system of production where the operational unit and the developmental unit of an organization work in synchronicity at all stages of the production. The DevOps tools are services that put this into action. Some of the most popular DevOps tools trending in 2020 include: 

  • Git (GitHub, GitLab, Bitbucket) – A toolkit for source code control.
  • Docker and Kubernetes – Tools for container orchestration and containerization of services and applications.
  • Jenkins, Chef, Puppet, Ansible – Tools dedicated to continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) through automation.
  • AWS, Google Cloud, Azure – Cloud providers offering highly-efficient computing and storage.
  • Microsoft Teams and Slack – Tools for collaboration and communication, with the ability to integrate with other DevOps tools.
  • Zoom, Skype, GoToMeeting – High-quality live call and video conferencing tools to connect global businesses.

The above list is in no way an end-all and be-all. Each tool can add tangible value to your organization. But, what or which tool/tools you choose will ultimately depend on the type of service/application you want to build, what suits your specific engineering and business teams, and the structural build of your team.

What is Kubernetes?

KubernetesEssentially, Kubernetes is a container orchestration system. Its core purpose is twofold: firstly, to orchestrate a cluster of VMs, and secondly, to deploy and schedule containers to operate on these VMs based on resource requirement and availability. In other words, it tackles the operational complexities of managing and scaling many containers over multiple servers by providing an API that determines where and how these containers will run. Other than things like storage management and internal networking, its functionality also includes maintenance viz-a-viz monitoring the condition of the containers and their elements and automating repair and adjustment where necessary. 

For clarification’s sake, it is important to note another major point. Kubernetes itself does not double as an all-encapsulating platform as a service (PaaS) system. Granted, there is some overlap between the nature of their function. For example, there are vital features that are common among all PaaS infrastructures – the ability to dictate scaling, execute a deployment, and provide load balancing, user-integrated logging, and monitoring solutions. Kubernetes has the ability to plug some of these solutions, such as garnering DevOps metrics and exporting them. However, the key difference is that Kubernetes does not have an innate facility to provide application-level services as-is. Rather, it can be deployed as an ancillary system on a Kubernetes-based IaaS or PaaS. Despite featuring a few optional bells and whistles of a PaaS, the baseline focal point of Kubernetes is at the container level. 

Top features of Kubernetes

Many of Kubernetes’ features are pluggable and optional, but the core framework is sufficient to run a full production environment with zero downtime while allowing for both horizontal and vertical scalability. 

Kubernetes uses units of deployment, ‘pods,’ with a distinct IP address. A pod essentially groups multiple containers into a common network namespace and port. There is a downside that a third-party distributed file system is a de facto requirement to prevent data loss; a fallout effect of containers being dropped when the pods are rescheduled.

But, this is offset by several plus points, such as: 

  • Load balancing: Kubernetes can identify containers with high traffic and redistribute load so as to ensure stable deployment. 
  • With a replication controller, the system can allocate and schedule only the desired number of containers at any given time. Unlike a toolchain, a controller is a single piece of code, and thus a much more lightweight alternative. With controllers, the system can be regulated to maintain the desired state and/or use a specified amount of resources. 
  • Automation of rollouts and rollbacks: Along with the ability to default to a custom ‘desired state’ as discussed above, it is also possible to automate complete processes, including the creation, deployment, and dismissal of controllers, and dynamic resource allocation.
  • Self-maintenance: In accordance with user-defined presets, containers are monitored with routine health-check and killed/replaced where necessary. 

The portability of Kubernetes also gives it a noteworthy edge. Kubernetes-enabled systems have the vital flexibility of transferring the workload at will, and the freedom to prop their system on public cloud, on-site or hybrid premises. 

Need to get Kubernetes certified

Due to its increasing popularity, two standardized training programs exist. Engineers can undergo these programs and take tests for certification (CKA – Certified Kubernetes Administrator and CKAD – Certified Kubernetes Application Developer). The benefits of these certificates far outweigh the effort required to qualify them. To begin with, the future relevance of Kubernetes makes competence in K8S a reward of its own. Moreover, it works as an introduction to the 12-factor app principle, which Kubernetes is based upon. For the aforementioned reasons, Kubernetes is a robust addition to an engineer’s CV. Demonstrating a sound knowledge of the K8S makes a CKAD/CKA-certified candidate, a lucrative option for any company, leading to a high salary bump. 

The lineage of Kubernetes can be traced back to Borg, Google’s era-defining cluster management system. Many of the major proponents of the Borg project were involved in the development of Kubernetes. And, Kubernetes was virtually developed on Borg as a skeletal framework. Consequently, Kubernetes is the cumulative result of Google’s decade-long experience in running a containerized production workload. Moreover, Kubernetes was open-sourced at its very inception in 2014, ensuring not only its rapid growth but also its widespread availability. Kubernetes’ open-access ecosystem, coupled with its ability to run any containerized application, makes it the industry-standard solution for container orchestration. 

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