Kubernetes is a portable, extensible open-source platform for managing containerized workloads and services, that facilitates both declarative configuration and automation. It has a large, rapidly growing ecosystem. Kubernetes services, support, and tools are widely available.
Google open-sourced the Kubernetes project in 2014. Kubernetes builds upon a decade and a half of experience that Google has with running production workloads at scale, combined with best-of-breed ideas and practices from the community.
Why do I need Kubernetes and what can it do?
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Kubernetes has a number of features. It can be thought of as:
- a container platform
- a microservices platform
- a portable cloud platform and a lot more.
Kubernetes provides a container-centric management environment. It orchestrates computing, networking, and storage infrastructure on behalf of user workloads. This provides much of the simplicity of Platform as a Service (PaaS) with the flexibility of Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), and enables portability across infrastructure providers.
How is Kubernetes a platform?
Even though Kubernetes provides a lot of functionality, there are always new scenarios that would benefit from new features. Application-specific workflows can be streamlined to accelerate developer velocity. Ad hoc orchestration that is acceptable initially often requires robust automation at scale. This is why Kubernetes was also designed to serve as a platform for building an ecosystem of components and tools to make it easier to deploy, scale, and manage applications.
Labels empower users to organize their resources however they please. Annotations enable users to decorate resources with custom information to facilitate their workflows and provide an easy way for management tools to checkpoint state.
Additionally, the Kubernetes control plane is built upon the same APIs that are available to developers and users. Users can write their own controllers, such as schedulers, with their own APIs that can be targeted by a general-purpose command-line tool.
This design has enabled a number of other systems to build atop Kubernetes.
What Kubernetes is not
Kubernetes is not a traditional, all-inclusive PaaS (Platform as a Service) system. Since Kubernetes operates at the container level rather than at the hardware level, it provides some generally applicable features common to PaaS offerings, such as deployment, scaling, load balancing, logging, and monitoring. However, Kubernetes is not monolithic, and these default solutions are optional and pluggable. Kubernetes provides the building blocks for building developer platforms, but preserves user choice and flexibility where it is important.
- Does not limit the types of applications supported. Kubernetes aims to support an extremely diverse variety of workloads, including stateless, stateful, and data-processing workloads. If an application can run in a container, it should run great on Kubernetes.
- Does not deploy source code and does not build your application. Continuous Integration, Delivery, and Deployment (CI/CD) workflows are determined by organization cultures and preferences as well as technical requirements.
- Does not provide application-level services, such as middleware (e.g., message buses), data-processing frameworks (for example, Spark), databases (e.g., mysql), caches, nor cluster storage systems (e.g., Ceph) as built-in services. Such components can run on Kubernetes, and/or can be accessed by applications running on Kubernetes through portable mechanisms, such as the Open Service Broker.
- Does not dictate logging, monitoring, or alerting solutions. It provides some integrations as proof of concept, and mechanisms to collect and export metrics.
- Does not provide nor mandate a configuration language/system (e.g., jsonnet). It provides a declarative API that may be targeted by arbitrary forms of declarative specifications.
- Does not provide nor adopt any comprehensive machine configuration, maintenance, management, or self-healing systems.
Additionally, Kubernetes is not a mere orchestration system. In fact, it eliminates the need for orchestration. The technical definition of orchestration is execution of a defined workflow: first do A, then B, then C. In contrast, Kubernetes is comprised of a set of independent, composable control processes that continuously drive the current state towards the provided desired state. It shouldn’t matter how you get from A to C. Centralized control is also not required. This results in a system that is easier to use and more powerful, robust, resilient, and extensible.
The Old Way to deploy applications was to install the applications on a host using the operating-system package manager. This had the disadvantage of entangling the applications’ executables, configuration, libraries, and lifecycles with each other and with the host OS. One could build immutable virtual-machine images in order to achieve predictable rollouts and rollbacks, but VMs are heavyweight and non-portable.
The New Way is to deploy containers based on operating-system-level virtualization rather than hardware virtualization. These containers are isolated from each other and from the host: they have their own filesystems, they can’t see each others’ processes, and their computational resource usage can be bounded. They are easier to build than VMs, and because they are decoupled from the underlying infrastructure and from the host filesystem, they are portable across clouds and OS distributions.
Because containers are small and fast, one application can be packed in each container image. This one-to-one application-to-image relationship unlocks the full benefits of containers. With containers, immutable container images can be created at build/release time rather than deployment time, since each application doesn’t need to be composed with the rest of the application stack, nor married to the production infrastructure environment. Generating container images at build/release time enables a consistent environment to be carried from development into production. Similarly, containers are vastly more transparent than VMs, which facilitates monitoring and management. This is especially true when the containers’ process lifecycles are managed by the infrastructure rather than hidden by a process supervisor inside the container. Finally, with a single application per container, managing the containers becomes tantamount to managing deployment of the application.
Summary of container benefits:
- Agile application creation and deployment: Increased ease and efficiency of container image creation compared to VM image use.
- Continuous development, integration, and deployment: Provides for reliable and frequent container image build and deployment with quick and easy rollbacks (due to image immutability).
- Dev and Ops separation of concerns: Create application container images at build/release time rather than deployment time, thereby decoupling applications from infrastructure.
- Observability Not only surfaces OS-level information and metrics, but also application health and other signals.
- Environmental consistency across development, testing, and production: Runs the same on a laptop as it does in the cloud.
- Cloud and OS distribution portability: Runs on Ubuntu, RHEL, CoreOS, on-prem, Google Kubernetes Engine, and anywhere else.
- Application-centric management: Raises the level of abstraction from running an OS on virtual hardware to running an application on an OS using logical resources.
- Loosely coupled, distributed, elastic, liberated micro-services: Applications are broken into smaller, independent pieces and can be deployed and managed dynamically – not a monolithic stack running on one big single-purpose machine.
- Resource isolation: Predictable application performance.
- Resource utilization: High efficiency and density.
What does Kubernetes mean? K8s?
The name Kubernetes originates from Greek, meaning helmsman or pilot, and is the root of governor and cybernetic. K8s is an abbreviation derived by replacing the 8 letters “ubernete” with “8”.