September 6, 2022 By IBM Cloud Education 5 min read

Exploring the benefits of using this open-source container orchestration solution to manage your microservices architecture.

Kubernetes (sometimes referred to as K8s) is an open-source container orchestration platform that schedules and automates the deployment, management and scaling of containerized applications (microservices). The Kubernetes platform is all about optimization — automating many of the DevOps processes that were previously handled manually and simplifying the work of software developers.

So, what’s the secret behind the platform’s success? Kubernetes services provide load balancing and simplify container management on multiple hosts. They make it easy for an enterprise’s apps to have greater scalability and be flexible, portable and more productive.

In fact, Kubernetes is the fastest growing project in the history of open-source software, after Linux. According to a 2021 study by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF), from 2020 to 2021, the number of Kubernetes engineers grew by 67% to 3.9 million. That’s 31% of all backend developers, an increase of 4 percentage points in a year.

The increasingly widespread use of Kubernetes among DevOps teams means businesses have a lower learning curve when starting with the container orchestration platform. But the benefits don’t stop there. Here’s a closer look at why companies are choosing Kubernetes for all kinds of apps.

The following are some of the top benefits of using Kubernetes to manage your microservices architecture.

1. Container orchestration savings

Various types and sizes of companies — large and small — that use Kubernetes services find they save on their ecosystem management and automated manual processes. Kubernetes automatically provisions and fits containers into nodes for the best use of resources. Some public cloud platforms charge a management fee for every cluster, so running fewer clusters means fewer API servers and other redundancies and helps lower costs.

Once Kubernetes clusters are configured, apps can run with minimal downtime and perform well, requiring less support when a node or pod fails and would otherwise have to be repaired manually. Kubernetes’s container orchestration makes for a more efficient workflow with less need to repeat the same processes, which means not only fewer servers but also less need for clunky, inefficient administration.

2. Increased DevOps efficiency for microservices architecture

Container integration and access to storage resources with different cloud providers make development, testing and deployment simpler. Creating container images — which contain everything an application needs to run — is easier and more efficient than creating virtual machine (VM) images. All this means faster development and optimized release and deployment times.

The sooner developers deploy Kubernetes during the development lifecycle, the better, because they can test code early on and prevent expensive mistakes down the road. Apps based on microservices architecture consist of separate functional units that communicate with each other through APIs. That means development teams can be smaller groups, each focusing on single features, and IT teams can operate more efficiently. Namespaces — a way of setting up multiple virtual sub-clusters within the same physical Kubernetes cluster — provide access control within a cluster for improved efficiency.

3. Deploying workloads in multicloud environments

You used to deploy an application on a virtual machine and point a domain name system (DNS) server to it. Now, among the other benefits of Kubernetes, workloads can exist in a single cloud or be spread easily across multiple cloud services. Kubernetes clusters allow the simple and accelerated migration of containerized applications from on-premises infrastructure to hybrid deployments across any cloud provider’s public cloud or private cloud infrastructure without losing any of an app’s functions or performance. That lets you move workloads to a closed or proprietary system without lock-in. IBM Cloud, Amazon Web Services (AWS), Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure all offer straightforward integrations with Kubernetes-based apps.

There are various ways to migrate apps to the cloud:

  • Lift and shift refers to simply moving an application without changing its coding.
  • Replatforming involves making the minimum changes needed that allow an application to function in a new environment.
  • Refactoring is more extensive, requiring rewriting an application’s structure and functionality.

4. More portability with less chance of vendor lock-in

Using containers for your applications provides a lightweight, more agile way to handle virtualization than with virtual machines (VMs). Because containers only contain the resources an application actually needs (i.e., its code, installations and dependencies) and use the features and resources of the host operating system (OS), they are smaller, faster and more portable. For instance, hosting four apps on four virtual machines would generally require four copies of a guest OS to run on that server. Running those four apps in a container approach, though, means containing all of them within a single container where they share one version of the host OS.

Not only is Kubernetes flexible enough for container management on various types of infrastructure (public cloud, private cloud or on-premises servers, as long as the host OS is a version of Linux or Windows), it works with virtually any type of container runtime (the program that runs containers). Most other orchestrators are tied to particular runtimes or cloud infrastructures and result in lock-in. Kubernetes services let you grow without needing to rearchitect your infrastructure.

5. Automation of deployment and scalability

Kubernetes schedules and automates container deployment across multiple compute nodes, whether on the public cloud, onsite VMs or physical on-premises machines. Its automatic scaling lets teams scale up or down to meet demand faster. Autoscaling starts up new containers as needed for heavy loads or spikes, whether due to CPU usage, memory thresholds or custom metrics — for instance, when an online event launches and there’s a sudden increase in requests.

When the need is over, Kubernetes autoscales down resources again to reduce waste. Not only does the platform scale infrastructure resources up and down as needed, but it also allows easy scaling horizontally and vertically. Another benefit of Kubernetes is its ability to rollback an application change if something goes wrong.

6. App stability and availability in a cloud environment

Kubernetes helps you run your containerized applications reliably. It automatically places and balances containerized workloads and scales clusters appropriately to accommodate increasing demand and keep the system live. If one node in a multi-node cluster fails, the workload is redistributed to others without disrupting availability to users. It also provides self-healing capabilities and will restart, reschedule or replace a container when it fails or when nodes die. It allows you to do rolling updates to your software without downtime. Even high-availability apps can be set up in Kubernetes on one or more public cloud services in a way that maintains a very high uptime. One use case of note is Amazon, which used Kubernetes to transition from a monolithic to a microservices architecture.

7. Open-source benefits of Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a community-led project and fully open-source tool (at one time, the fastest-growing open-source software ever), meaning there is a huge ecosystem of other open-source tools designed for use with it. The platform’s strong support means there is continued innovation and improvements to Kubernetes, which protects an investment in the platform, meaning no lock-in to technology that soon becomes outdated. It also sees support and portability among all the leading public cloud providers, including IBM, AWS, Google Cloud and Microsoft Azure. A common misconception is that Kubernetes services directly compete with Docker, but that’s not the case. Docker is a containerization tool, while Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform often used to orchestrate multiple Docker clusters.

Kubernetes and IBM

Containers are ideal for modernizing your applications and optimizing your IT infrastructure. Built on Kubernetes and other tools in the open-source Kubernetes ecosystem, container services from IBM Cloud can facilitate and accelerate your path to cloud-native application development, and to an open hybrid cloud approach that integrates the best features and functions from private cloud, public cloud and on-premises IT infrastructure.

Take the next step:

  • Learn how you can deploy highly available, fully managed Kubernetes clusters for your containerized applications with a single click using Red Hat OpenShift on IBM Cloud.
  • Deploy and manage containerized applications consistently across on-premises, edge computing and public cloud environments from any vendor with IBM Cloud Satellite.
  • Run container images, batch jobs or source code as a serverless workload — no sizing, deploying, networking or scaling required — with IBM Cloud Code Engine.
  • Deploy secure, highly available applications in a native Kubernetes experience using IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service.
  • Help ensure your Kubernetes environments and mission-critical apps get exactly what they need to meet your SLOs with IBM Turbonomic.

To get started right away, sign up for an IBM Cloud account.

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