When you create an application, you need to decide how best to deploy it to your users. Your first choice might be containerizing the application since that’s relatively simple and requires fewer system resources than traditional or hardware virtual machines. During high server traffic or server downtime, though, users might not be able to access your application because the server’s infrastructure can’t manage the amount of requests coming in or because the server gets overloaded.
One solution is to deploy the application on multiple hosts, so that if one goes down others are still accessible. However, deploying an application on multiple connecting containers across multiple hosts, scaling them, and managing them can be a complex task.
Kubernetes is a feasible alternative. This open-source platform developed by Google automates the deployment and orchestration of your applications with the help of a powerful, extensible API.
This article will examine the pros and cons of Kubernetes, so you can determine whether it’s the solution for your team.
How does Kubernetes affect software development?
The traditional way of deploying software is to send a monolithic application to a dedicated server. When traffic increases, developers need to tune the application accordingly or else shift it to bigger hardware.
Alternatively, Kubernetes allows you to deploy and orchestrate a large number of small web servers or microservices. Both client and server sides of the application expect that there are replicas of software available for response, and if one goes down others will still be functioning.
One common mistake that developers make is treating Kubernetes as a virtual machine manager, prompting them to develop the software the same way they would for monolithic services. A monolithic service is like a huge box that contains all the necessary modules for an application, whereas microservices are a collection of little boxes that separately perform distinct service functions for one application. This means microservices need to be developed differently than monolithic applications.
Typically when an application is developed, the project manager decides what the app’s behavior and development style will be; the development team writes, builds, and unit tests the system; and the testers check the whole system. This traditional method has some limitations. If communication is not handled effectively, it can be hard to complete a stage; each stage depends on the previous stage, so delay in one would slow down the entire project. Finally, without proper coordination between teams, the development may fall behind schedule or fail.
Kubernetes offers a solution to these problems through its support for continuous integration/continuous delivery (CI/CD) practices. A CI/CD pipeline is a series of automated steps a software goes through from development to deployment.
Code is developed and deployed frequently, in a day or an hour, instead of deployed quarterly. Continuous integration provides constant feedback to developers about issues in the process to help them increase their productivity. CI tools are increasingly becoming container-first, such as CircleCI and Travis, which both offer good support for Kubernetes.
The goal of CD is to verify the functionality of code by deploying it on multiple environments. Prior to deploying the software in production, these environments are designed to mimic the actual production environment in which it will run. This concept works well in a Kubernetes environment, and CD tools such as Spinnaker support Kubernetes natively.
For more on CI/CD tools that integrate well with Kubernetes, read this article.
Infrastructure as Code (IaC)
Another concept affected by Kubernetes is Infrastructure as Code (IaC). This is the process of creating and managing an infrastructure with code rather than doing it manually. IaC uses configuration files that contain all the specifications needed to create or manage infrastructure, enabling the user to make necessary changes by modifying the configuration files. The idea behind IaC is to code the full infrastructure, which makes it simple to redeploy a comparable infrastructure in various locations as needed.
Since Kubernetes is a collection of different components and each of these works differently, manual development and monitoring can be hard. This is why IaC is a critical feature in DevOps practices, making it easier to write these components through code with little or no required variation.
Here are some of the major advantages of IaC:
1. Version control
2. Modular infrastructure that can be combined in different ways
3. Error reduction
4. Enhanced deployment speed
5. Reduced costs
6. More consistent infrastructure
Kubernetes and IaC
IaC is used to create CI/CD pipelines in Kubernetes. The configuration files help developers to speed up their development and deployment process, avoiding more manual processes.
Say your application deploys to the operations team, which is unfamiliar with the development process. If those team members attempt to create infrastructure manually, they might need extra time to do so and they might make errors.
IaC avoids these issues by creating a configuration file for both the development and operations teams, ensuring that both teams are on the same track.
But there are some downsides to IaC, such as no collaboration, no automation testing, and no code reviews. GitOps is used in Kubernetes to address these challenges, since it provides best practices for Git deployment and management, as well as does monitoring for containerized applications while addressing the challenges faced by IaC.
For more on GitOps, read this article.
Benefits of Kubernetes
There are multiple reasons why you might want your team to adopt Kubernetes:
Kubernetes is open-source software that isn’t owned by any tech companies. Instead, it’s a community-led project. Contributors can add value to it and developers can use it freely.
Kubernetes can boost the workflow of your development team because it allows you to manage all projects in the same way. Even if different projects use different technology stacks, the standard layers will remain the same.
For example, tools like Drone make it simple to build CI/CD pipelines for Kubernetes and Prometheus makes monitoring easier, improving overall productivity.
Kubernetes provides higher uptime for your project and allows you to roll out updates without taking the whole application down.
Effective resource use
Kubernetes can auto-scale your infrastructure, prompting higher resource utilization to meet demand and scaling down when traffic lessens. This more efficient use of resources can save on costs.
Kubernetes allows you to easily identify and resolve problems through white-box testing. It also offers containerized version control and scalability, and its automated processes save time on deployment.
Downside of Kubernetes
Difficult to grasp
One of the major issues with Kubernetes is that it’s complex and can be hard to learn for both entry-level and skilled developers. This article goes into some detail on this topic.
Difficult to transition
You might face major issues in switching your legacy software to Kubernetes-deployed software. Your application might need a lot of changes to work effectively on this platform. How much effort this will take depends on the software. For example, is it already containerized? What programming language does it use? Sometimes the whole application needs to be rewritten to enable a transition to Kubernetes.
Though Kubernetes is still cheaper than other services for moderate-scale applications, large-scale deployments can be more expensive if you don’t have in-house Kubernetes developers, since training a developer to use Kubernetes would take both time and effort. Costs can also rise for small-scale applications because Kubernetes needs a certain amount of infrastructure.
Though Kubernetes is designed to increase productivity and speed up your workflow, that’s only possible if your team is comfortable using the platform. Otherwise, you might spend extra time trying to learn the system.
Applications written in one platform may not run on others without a bit of tuning. For example, you have written an application to use Google Cloud services and the development team interacts with the cloud storage using custom APIs. If you then decide to deploy on Amazon and make use of Amazon S3, it won’t work until changes are made.
Kubernetes offers both advantages and disadvantages to developers. If your development team has the time and ability to learn it and they need software with high scalability and availability, you should consider Kubernetes. If you’re short on deadlines and you would have a learning curve to overcome in order to use it quickly, then Kubernetes might not be the right choice.
If your team is working on a small-scale application, then you can skip Kubernetes in favor of more traditional tools like Heroku. If you’re working on a larger scale and you have a Kubernetes developer on your team, Kubernetes would be the more cost-effective choice.
Ultimately, no matter your business situation, you should look into learning Kubernetes at some point. It’s a future-proof technology and in high demand, and with a proper workflow and guide, you should be able to adopt it without problems.
If you’re looking for an API management tool to use with Kubernetes or a multi-cloud system, try Tyk. This open-source, cloud-native platform gives you scalable, lifecycle API management through a single dashboard and helps keep all aspects of your business connected.