A guide to migrating to a cloud era: When and why to use Kubernetes

November 19, 2021
A guide to migrating to a cloud era: When and why to use Kubernetes


As we approach an era of companies switching to cloud-native, the migration of physical and virtual infrastructure to the cloud is now becoming the norm. But as the competency in the cloud-native business increases, is your DevOps team equipped to handle the same? Does the woe of deploying applications and worry of infrastructure sound way too common?

But what if the proposed solution allowed you to deploy cloud-native applications anywhere and manage them better?

Developed by Google in 2014, an open-source system for deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications was created. Kubernetes was the result of Google's involvement and some of the most talented software developers working together to create a solid platform to address the scaling needs of any organization.

What is Kubernetes?

What do the major players in the industry compete for in today's market? Companies strive to deliver a consistent yet fresh customer experience. Companies such as Netflix, Amazon, and others constantly release security updates. This is done to implement changes in user experience and add new features. This has resulted in the switch from software architecture into microservices to enable faster change deployment. These microservices depend on containerized application and orchestration, which in turn lead to automation to maintain a satisfied customer base.

On the surface, Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform that can divide an application into logical units for easy management. Over time, it has evolved as a method that best goes hand in hand with DevOps. Kubernetes works as a system to deploy applications utilizing the containerized infrastructure behind applications. It eases operations within the IT department and automates tasks, boosting an application's performance.

Why should I consider using Kubernetes?

In the current era, a developer is faced with not one, but multiple operating environments, Kubernetes is key. Containers help create smaller teams that can focus on specific containers and specific tasks. Kubernetes helps orchestrate these parts. It creates pods- a collection of containers that are controlled as a single application and share resources such as file systems, IP addresses, and so on.

If you are an organization that has made the shift to a DevOps team, Kubernetes is the addition your team needs. The need of the hour for most companies is faster updates and deployments, rather than managing infrastructure. Kubernetes is a framework that supports this infrastructure and a wide variety of workloads. It helps derive utility from containers and build cloud-native applications that can run anywhere, independent of cloud-specific requirements.

When to use Kubernetes

Containers in microservices architecture use a simple creation process to provide an effective way to deploy services. But, having containers does not do the trick. If handling containers is being done manually, it is high time to rethink a container management team to manage and deploy these containers.

What may seem like 10 containers, in the beginning, can turn out to be hundreds and accumulate over time. A manual update would then be a thing of the past. Even then, running containers would not be sufficient as it is necessary to integrate and orchestrate them, make them scale up and scale down based on demand, allow effective communication across a cluster and make them defect tolerant.

Areas, where Kubernetes fits in with the infrastructure architecture, include,

1. Multi-cloud adoption

Microservice architecture is growing in usage, and the proof is in the surge in the usage of tools to manage them. Microservices help split an application into smaller components with containers that can run on private, hybrid, or public cloud. With most infrastructures, there are tools and features integrated for a specific platform only. But with Kubernetes, one can deploy to public, private, or hybrid clouds.

This breakdown of applications using microservices allows the development team to choose the right resources and tools for different tasks. This allows for greater freedom of choice and management of tools. In this case, team coordination comes into play. Proper coordination can ensure that all the infrastructure and resources required to run the app are allocated in a proper manner. Kubernetes offers a common framework that allows the team to inspect and work through resource usage and sharing issues.

2. For scalability and better deployment

For DevOps teams, Kubernetes can be a huge benefit. They have specific deployment operations that help roll out applications the modern way. With Kubernetes, organizations can test a new deployment in production, in parallel with the previous version. This helps scale up the new deployment while simultaneously scaling down the previous deployment. Kubernetes helps manage more clusters at the same time and constantly checks the health of nodes and containers.

In the topic of scaling, Kubernetes is flexible and allows vertical and horizontal scaling. New servers can be added or removed easily and on the basis of metrics such as CPU utilization, the number of running containers can be manually scaled as well. Another feature of Kubernetes that can ensure better deployment is automated roll-outs and rollbacks. Kubernetes handles rollouts for new versions or updates while monitoring the container's health. In case of any problems in the rollout, it automatically rolls back.

3. Cost optimization

If your business is operating at a massive scale, instead of hiring an expanding team as the number of containers increases over time, shifting to Kubernetes can be a cost-effective solution. Container-based architecture is made feasible with Kubernetes. It packs apps optimally using cloud and hardware investments.

An example of significant cost saving can be seen in the case of Spotify. As an early Kubernetes adopter, using its orchestration capabilities, Spotify has seen a 2-3x CPU utilization, resulting in better IT spend optimization. Not only does Kubernetes automatically scale your application to meet scalability needs, it helps free up human resources to focus on the tasks at hand.

Additional benefits of Kubernetes

Albeit Kubernetes is known as a container orchestration tool, its features encompass a lot more benefits such as,

  1. It helps safely validate the health of your services

  2. Its flexibility allows the freedom of modules to be chosen and additional features as required

  3. It can run on a public or private cloud, on-premise or in a hybrid environment

  4. Deployment is made easier and safer with automated rollouts and rollbacks, along with options to pause and resume later

  5. Ensure efficient communication across clusters

  6. Prevents vendor lock in

  7. Load balancing and scaling within containers if traffic to a container rises

  8. Deployment of specific number of containers to a particular host and keep them running in a desired state

When to not use Kubernetes

When imagined on a larger scale, Kubernetes seems to be the best option for large scale deployments and projects. But if you belong to a smaller organization that has a smaller or a temporary project, is Kubernetes fit for your container needs?

To answer this, it comes down to the fact that Kubernetes was designed to address specific large-scale challenges and tasks, which may not always be present in every case. The benefit of automation stays, but Kubernetes does not use automation as a general rule of automating one discrete task. It automates an entire workflow or process, which is a matter of complexity and may not be required in cases such as,

1. Monolithic architecture

Containers and the process of orchestration are associated with microservices. But, with a monolithic architecture, the benefits of Kubernetes are barely seen. The main goal of monolithic architecture is to have the components intertwined and working. However, the main goal of Kubernetes is to separate components and work independently. With monolithic architecture, there is no need for division into individual components.

2. Lengthier investment of time and resources

In cases of projects that have a deadline approaching or when the team can handle a temporary project, pouring resources and time to learn Kubernetes is not deemed fit. Kubernetes is an extensive learning process which is done over several sessions of learning and experience. As an open source tool, it has many features that require a greater investment of time and expertise to learn and implement in current projects. When the organisation cannot spare time to fully understand the working of Kubernetes, using it for projects is not a viable choice.

3. Hidden costs

The Kubernetes architecture requires extra container build times and configurations which can lead to the developer working on non-core activities. If it becomes difficult for the development teams to fine-tune apps to their desired performance, over-provisioning takes place, which exposes the hidden costs.

A final note, to migrate to Kubernetes or not to?

The first assessment before migrating toa Kubernetes based workflow is determining if your organization has the requirement for it. A thorough assessment on the team, type of project, type of application being built, framework and cloud requirement are some major factors that can help decide. The benefits of Kubernetes are applauded on a larger scale, while the requirements of smaller companies that it does not cater to are not addressed. Making the switch to Kubernetes is a cost, time and resources involved decision that is best taken after a thorough assessment.