Concepts

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What is Kubernetes?

This page is an overview of Kubernetes.

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?

Kubernetes has a number of features. It can be thought of as:

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.

Kubernetes:

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.

Why containers?

Looking for reasons why you should be using containers?

Why Containers?

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:

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”.

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