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Here’s Your Primer on Containers and Kubernetes

Not long ago, businesses used legacy monolithic applications: massive codebases that kept growing with new features and functions. Those applications, however, often became too big over time. And as a result, they turned into slow-moving and hard-to-manage giants. 

To combat those cumbersome monsters, an increasing number of developers started exploring containers, which have profoundly changed the way development teams test, deploy, and scale modern software. 

Despite these benefits, however, containers have also introduced new infrastructure challenges. Companies of all sizes are now deploying thousands of container instances every day, and along with it, they’re introducing a complexity of scale that’s increasingly difficult to manage. So how do they do it? Enter Kubernetes. 

Long story short, there’s no denying the power of containerization. But if you’re just beginning your digitization journey, these tools might just sound like a bunch of IT buzzwords. To help, we break down the what, why, and how of containers, and the role of Kubernetes.

So what are containers, anyway? 

Containers bundle an application’s code together with the related configuration files, libraries, and other dependencies required for the application to run. This allows developers to deploy applications seamlessly and quickly across environments. It also enables developers to create a fully functional development environment to work within, isolated from other applications.

In a nutshell, containers enable you to make highly efficient use of the underlying infrastructure and develop and deploy applications more rapidly (a game-changing combination of benefits in today’s fast-paced world). It makes sense, then, that so many businesses are adopting container technology at an explosive rate. In fact, 451 Research predicts more than 250% growth in the market from 2016 to 2020.

So how do you deploy a container? Shortly after the release of Docker, a lot of software companies started using the technology in their software development. Docker is a tool designed to make the work of developers (and your life) easier. With Docker, a developer can create, deploy, and run applications in containers.

When it comes to running those containers in production, though, you can accumulate dozens—or even millions when using microservices—of containers over time. Each of these containers need to be deployed, managed, and connected to the outside world, which includes scheduling, load balancing, and distribution. Imagine you doing all of this work manually. You would need an entire army of skilled developers (who weren’t working on anything else, like application development) to accomplish this. This is where container orchestration (aka Kubernetes) comes to the rescue.

What are Kubernetes and how do they relate to containers?

Open-sourced by Google to the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) in 2014, Kubernetes is a vendor-agnostic container orchestration platform. It provides businesses with a platform for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of hundreds of application containers.

This ultimately lets developers focus on their applications instead of worrying about the underlying infrastructure that delivers them. It'll also lower the cost of cloud computing expenses and simplify operations and architecture. And another bonus? Kubernetes can run on different cloud providers, such as AWS or Azure, for example.

So why do Kubernetes matter?

First, imagine that your application is running on multiple nodes with hundreds of containers. Without Kubernetes, you’d need to manually update every single one of these containers every time your team releases a new application feature. This takes a lot of time and is highly prone to error (and you know as well as we do that errors are bad for business). 

With Kubernetes, however, you can automate deploying, scaling, and operating of these application containers. Kubernetes does this by categorizing an application’s closely-related containers into functional groups (“pods”) for easy management and discovery. Then, on top of the pod infrastructure, Kubernetes provides another layer that allows for scheduling and services management of containers.

How does a container know which nodes it needs to run on? Kubernetes checks with the scheduler to figure it out. What if a container crashes? Kubernetes easily creates a new one. If you need to rollout a new version of your app, Kubernetes has you covered there, too. It automates and simplifies your daily business with containers.

What are the benefits of using Kubernetes?

It’s easy to see why Kubernetes is popular: it’s a flexible and scalable, open-source orchestrator that streamlines the complex task of managing multiple containers. But what are the business benefits of implementing it for your team? Here are a few ways Kubernetes can yield positive business outcomes. 

Multi-cloud flexibility: Kubernetes easily runs any application on any public cloud service or a combination of public and private clouds. It helps to avoid vendor lock-in and allows you to assign the right workloads to the right cloud.

Increased productivity and faster time-to-market:  Kubernetes has fundamentally changed deployment methodologies, empowering DevOps teams to scale and deploy faster than ever before. Instead of one deployment a month, teams can now deploy multiple times a day.

IT cost optimization: Kubernetes provides a viable container-based architecture, which makes scaling of applications much easier and simpler, using the cloud and hardware investments of your business. This automated scaling of applications to meet business requirements—without over-provisioning the infrastructure—will free up your resources and lead IT cost optimization. Kubernetes also eliminates the hypervisor layer, removing VMware costs

Improved scalability and availability: Performance and scalability are vital when it comes to an application’s success. Kubernetes serves as a critical management system that can scale up the application as well as its infrastructure whenever the workload increases, and scale it down as the load subsides.

Seamless migration to the cloud: Kubernetes can manage rehosting, re-platforming, as well as refactoring. It offers a seamless path to transport your application from on-premise to cloud effectively.

What kind of support is available for containers and Kubernetes? 

While there are many benefits that come with containerization, like faster deployment, scalability, and resiliency, it’s not easy to tap into these benefits out-of-the-box. Businesses that are new to containers are finding challenges with hosting and managing clusters on their own, such as creating deployment strategies and scaling the infrastructure to support the business.

Velocity’s Managed Container Services offers planning, deployment, and ongoing management of your Kubernetes environments with enterprise-grade functionality backed by robust service levels. This offering helps you eliminate the complexity and steep learning curve associated with Kubernetes adoption and empowers your application teams to focus on accelerating time-to-value for the core business code.

Learn more about Velocity’s Managed Container Services!

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