Kubernetes 101:

The Definitive Guide

Most organizations today use numerous applications for business operations, and containerization has become common as a result. Companies realize that manually orchestrating all their containerized apps is inefficient and unnecessary when there are software solutions to manage them instead, such as Kubernetes.

Kubernetes is the de-facto standard for scaling, deploying and managing containerized applications for the modern workplace. Its prevalence has increased so much that, according to a survey conducted by Red Hat, 70% of IT leaders are employed at an organization that uses Kubernetes.

Kubernetes has a long list of features that give companies the tools they need to run their operations with higher efficiency and lower costs. To explain what Kubernetes is, how it evolves business operations and why you need it for your organization, we put together the definitive guide so you and your team can profit from its many benefits.

What Is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes — or “K8s” — is an open-source platform that manages containerized workloads and services. Portable and extendable, Kubernetes enables configuration and automation, and its features and services are widely available.

Originating from Google Cloud (GCP) in 2014 and shaped by the open source community, Kubernetes makes application deployment and management easier with numerous built-in commands. K8s is influenced by Google’s cluster management system, Borg. By offering automated container orchestration, it improves reliability, reduces load time and scales resources for your operations according to your needs.

Furthermore, since Kubernetes is supported by a professional and expansive community like Google Cloud, there will always be innovation and improvements made to ensure Kubernetes is operating at its optimal capacity. Since it receives these updates when necessary, K8s is also more secure than other open-source platforms.

What Kubernetes Is Not

Functioning at a container level rather than with hardware, Google Cloud’s Kubernetes is not an all-encompassing Platform as a Service (PaaS). Although it offers many PaaS services — like deployment and scaling — it isn’t monolithic. Instead, it uses microservices, giving it more flexibility in how it is used and deployed.

Kubernetes does not:

  • Stop collaboration with different application types. Kubernetes supports a variety of applications, and as long as it can run in a container, it should function properly.
  • Build your application or implement code by itself. The organization establishes code integration and workflows, not Kubernetes.
  • Only orchestrate containers. Kubernetes is an extremely versatile tool for orchestration, but it does more than that. Since Kubernetes always aims to change the state of containers from their current state to your desired state, K8s is more powerful and flexible than your typical orchestration tool.

What Are the Benefits of Kubernetes?

Automated Task Management

Kubernetes manages a lot of the heavy lifting for application management with its built-in commands, allowing you to automate many daily tasks. With these built-in commands, you can ensure your apps are running exactly as intended from any location.

Infrastructure Abstraction

K8s handles much of the computing and storage of your workloads for a lighter infrastructure. IT teams can then focus on the applications and not have to constantly worry about the underlying infrastructure components.

Quick Container Monitoring

Kubernetes constantly monitors your services for any potential issues. If a container fails or stalls, it quickly restarts them and only allows its services to become available to users once they’re back up and running correctly.

What Is Kubernetes Used For?

It’s important to briefly mention that Kubernetes and Docker are different tools for running containerized services, but they can work together and complement each other.

Docker enables you to place every component necessary to run an application into a box that can be stored and opened when needed. Kubernetes manages these boxed-up application components and delivers them to their intended location once they’re ready to be opened back up and used to run your app.

Kubernetes helps create simple, cloud-native and microservice-based applications that can be deployed from anywhere. As a managed service, Kubernetes offers the following solutions to help your business operations:

Faster Development

Kubernetes enables containerization of both new and existing apps. This service lets you develop apps quicker and is the core feature of application modernization for cloud-based operations.

Deployment From Anywhere

K8s is designed to be used from any location. Regardless of on-site, public cloud or hybridized application deployment, you will have access to your apps and services from anywhere.

Scalable Services

Since Kubernetes uses automation to adjust its expenditure, you can set and scale your applications according to your needs. K8s will use its automated services to handle the rest, ensuring optimal resource management for maximum cost-efficiency.

Let’s go over each individual component of Kubernetes to help you understand these services more and how they can help your company.

Chapter 1

Kubernetes Nodes vs. Clusters

Kubernetes Nodes

Kubernetes is broken into nodes, its smallest components. Each node represents an individual machine — or a set of CPU and RAM resources — within your clusters. 

In most systems, a node will be a physical machine that’s housed in a data center, but it can also be a virtual machine offered by a CMS provider. For example, Google Cloud Platform is a virtual machine that can house clusters and subsequently nodes.

Each node has a primary agent that runs on it. Known as a “kubelet,” it can register the node with the API server for more CMS provider capabilities.

Kubernetes Clusters

However, Kubernetes doesn’t focus on individual nodes. Instead, it prioritizes clusters. Kubernetes clusters are nodes that are brought together to create a more powerful individual machine. These clusters pool together each node’s CPU and RAM resources, making it much more effective and efficient since the nodes are working more closely together.

In Kubernetes, when clusters receive programs, they automatically shift workloads to each individual node for optimized functionality, even when nodes are removed or added.

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Chapter 2

Kubernetes Pods vs. Containers

Kubernetes Containers

The programs running on Kubernetes are set up as Linux containers, and containerization allows you to create sandboxed Linux environments.

By doing so, the programs — and components that enable them to run — can be packaged and shared across the Internet in the form of one file. These containers can be downloaded and integrated seamlessly into architectures.

Several small Kubernetes containers are generally better than one large one, though you can still run multiple programs on one container if need be. With several smaller containers, updates and fixes are easier to deploy.

Kubernetes Pods

Compared to other systems, Kubernetes pulls one or more containers into a pod rather than running the containers directly. All the containers in a pod will share the same resources, though they do have some degree of isolation for security and load balancing. In these pods, containers can communicate with each other, even if they’re not on the same machine.

If an application becomes too overloaded and a pod becomes unstable, Kubernetes can deploy a new pod with the same components to replace it in the cluster. To prevent failure and boost load balancing, it’s a common practice to run multiple replicated pods, even when there is no issue.

Although you can place multiple containers into a pod, it is advisable to minimize the number of containers to achieve your optimal goal. When scaling up or down, every component in a pod gets scaled with the pod, which can cause unnecessary lost resources and increased costs.

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Chapter 3

Kubernetes Orchestration in the Cloud

Containerization is necessary. However, as the number of containers required to meet the high demand for multiple apps grows, managing them becomes more problematic. What happens when those containers fail or stall? Manually restarting them while avoiding as much downtime as possible is easier said than done. 

Automated container management and maintenance designed to streamline a Kubernetes environment are known as container orchestration. This process manages the entire container and pod environment. 

Kubernetes orchestration offers: 

  • Load balancing. Kubernetes can reveal a container using the DNS name or assigning it its own IP address. If there is too much traffic to that container, Kubernetes can redirect and manage that traffic to enable stable deployment and functionality with that container.
  • Storage versatility. Kubernetes allows you to use local storage systems as well as storage systems offered by cloud-managed services (CMS) providers. 
  • Optimized containers. K8s enables you to configure the optimal desired state for your containers and will make the changes from their current state to your new state at a steady pace. If a container goes down, you can copy the resources of that container and apply them to the new replacement container that Kubernetes has automatically deployed.
  • Parameter settings for containers. By using clusters of nodes, K8s as an offered service can run containerized tasks with set CPU and RAM parameters — you provide the amount of CPU and RAM each container needs and K8s implements it.
  • Self-healing. Kubernetes can take a variety of actions with containers when they fail. It can restart, kill or replace them altogether, depending on the status of the container and how it’s behaving.

Sensitive data configuration. Kubernetes enables you to store and manage sensitive data — like passwords — and allows you to deploy and update application configuration without risk to your security stack.

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Chaper 4

Kubernetes Deployment

A Kubernetes deployment sets the parameters and rules for how Kubernetes should manage pods with a containerized app. Deployments can help:

  • Scale replica pods to your needs.
  • Roll out the correct code at a controlled rate.
  • Roll back to previous deployment.

Kubernetes deployments automate pod replication, removal and replacement and ensure they are functioning as intended across all nodes in a K8s cluster. This precise and quick automation results in faster deployments and fewer errors.

Deployment Strategies

Kubernetes provides several deployment strategies for addressing application and deployment requirements.

Recreate Deployment

The recreate deployment strategy kills pods that are running and replaces them with a pod created from scratch. This is a common strategy when user activity doesn’t seem to be the issue.

Since this strategy recreates the pods — and therefore the state of the application — downtime should be expected, since all new parameters for your pod and app will need to be configured for the new pod.

Rolling Update Deployment

The rolling update deployment offers a steady migration from an existing application to a new one. As the new application’s components are slowly rolled out, the pods from the old app are removed over time. Eventually, they are all replaced by the new application’s pods altogether.

Although this strategy may cause downtime like the recreate deployment strategy, it’s an effective and helpful method for app migration.

Blue/Green Deployment

The blue/green deployment strategy is the faster variation of the rolling update deployment strategy. In this strategy, the existing application is designated as the “blue” app while the new app is dubbed the “green” version. 

With a blue/green deployment strategy, migration from the blue app to green app occurs rapidly. Both versions are deployed alongside each other and once the green app works as intended, traffic is immediately switched over to the new app from the existing one.

Although this method seems better than the rolling update deployment strategy due to its speed, it requires many more resources since both apps are running simultaneously, rather than one at a time. This strategy is best for those who can’t afford downtime and have the resources to handle it. 

Canary Deployment

A canary deployment strategy redirects a small number of users to a new version of an existing app. This new app is allocated a small group of pods — enough to function and test in a production environment to see if it’s working as intended.

After determining that the new version of the app is functioning correctly and has zero errors, resources and replicated pods are scaled up for the new app while the existing app is replaced systematically.

A canary deployment strategy is best for organizations that want to test their new app in a live environment for a small group of users. Because it’s smaller in scale during its trial phase, you can roll back much easier than other deployment strategies. Testing new code and how it will affect your operations is easier to analyze as well.

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Chapter 5

What to Look for in a Kubernetes Cloud Provider

Because of the way Kubernetes transforms businesses operations, you may be considering a Kubernetes environment but probably prefer to avoid the complexity. A Kubernetes cloud provider may be what your company needs.

A provider can handle most of the work that goes into the deployment and integration of Kubernetes, allowing you and your team to focus on your day-to-day tasks.

Finding the right Kubernetes cloud provider, though, can be complicated and overwhelming if you don’t know the best practices, certifications and tools each provider should offer. Here are six critical qualifiers:

1. Certifications and Staff

Companies usually can’t afford unnecessary downtime, and for anyone working with a managed service provider, it’s important to make sure the provider has the expertise, knowledge and qualified staff to handle your Kubernetes environment the right way.

When picking a provider, be sure to ask each provider about their certifications, their staff and their track record of success. While it is important for team members to be certified, you must also verify that they are knowledgeable about managing a Kubernetes environment. The staff should all have relevant certifications — such as the Google Cloud certifications — and expertise to handle the applications your business uses for its operations. 

Additionally, see if the provider has experience and expertise with other services, like Google Cloud Platform. Since Kubernetes originated from Google, if the provider has experience with GCP, they should, in theory, have extensive experience with Kubernetes.

2. Learning Opportunities

While the provider will manage your Kubernetes environment, you should also understand container technology and Kubernetes functionality. When weighing your provider options, consider the learning opportunities each one offers.

Some CMS providers offer programs tailored and customized for each organization. These opportunities can give your team the necessary education to understand your Kubernetes environment and how the provider is managing it.

3. Availability

Uptime is crucial when it comes to selecting the right K8s provider. For many organizations, there are countless applications running at the same time across many microservices. If one container is down, and the environment is not set up to handle this, downtime can cost a company significant resources. Downtime can also permanently damage application functionality.

Providers can guarantee a certain amount of uptime in a Service Level Agreement. Determine the uptime each provider guarantees as this may be a deciding factor when choosing a provider.

Most providers offer “nines” in their guarantees. For instance, a provider might offer a 99.9% uptime guarantee. The more nines a provider has, the more stable their uptime is.

4. Scalability

Since each microservice operates in its own container with specific resources allocated to it, you need to make sure that each container has the right amount of resources at all times to avoid disruption and/or downtime.

When selecting a Kubernetes provider, look for scalability options. Does the provider account for different containers and the various resources each one needs? What about if you need to scale up or down? 

Understanding the answers to these scalability questions will help you understand how the providers will manage your Kubernetes resources and the costs of doing so.

5. Security

Security over your Kubernetes environment is one of the most vital qualities to consider when picking the right CMS provider for your company. Look for the following best security practices for your K8s system:

Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

RBAC can help you manage who has access to your Kubernetes environment and what permissions they have. For RBAC, it’s better to grant permissions specific to components of your clusters rather than cluster-wide privileges.

Third-Party Authentication

When implementing Kubernetes, it’s best to do so with a third-party authentication provider. This enables stronger security features — like multi-factor authentication — and ensures your environment isn’t changed when new users are added or removed.

Kubernetes Nodes Isolation

K8s nodes should never be exposed to public networks if possible. They should be on a private network and they should be cut off from public access.

Access to the network can be managed with an access control list (ACL).

Limit Communications From Network Traffic

Containerized applications use cluster networks frequently, and it’s important to monitor active network traffic to identify any unusual behavior within your network or application.

Secure Kubelet

If the cluster where a kubelet is deployed becomes exposed to a cyberattack, it can compromise the entire cluster, which can cause catastrophic consequences for your organization. Ensure that kubelet is secured with enforced multi-factor authorization controls just as you would with all your other devices and software connected to your network.

6. Updates and Compliance

A K8s provider should always follow modern updates and compliance standards. These can help ensure your Kubernetes environment is safe and follows your industry’s standards.

Communicate with your provider what your compliance requirements are and ensure they can support those needs with up-to-date tools and services.

Modernize in the Cloud

The Onix cloud DevOps team can help you create a systematic migration and modernization strategy that will dramatically reduce risk and cost as you leverage advanced cloud capabilities.

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Conclusion

Discover the Power of Kubernetes and GCP With Onix

The modern business landscape is always evolving. To keep up with the competition, companies must adapt by undergoing a digital transformation. If your organization truly wants to digitally transform, it must consider modernizing its applications via the right cloud software and technology.

Kubernetes is leading the way in modernizing organizations and their applications, now and for the future. A Kubernetes-certified CMS provider can maximize your Kubernetes environment to ensure your resources are scaled according to your needs and your applications are functioning as desired.

Onix is a certified Kubernetes and Google Cloud Platform provider that specializes in transforming organizations’ digital environments with the power of K8s. Our team is knowledgeable in GCP and Kubernetes best practices and works with you every step of the way to ensure your business operations function at peak performance.

Find the best way to approach your cloud modernization journey and learn more about how Onix can help by downloading our white paper today!

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