What are containers, where does Kubernetes fit in, and what tools do you need for a successful implementation?
Container use is exploding right now. Developers love them and enterprises are embracing them at an unprecedented rate.
If your IT department is looking for a faster and simpler way to develop applications, then you should be considering container technology. But what are containers and what problems do they address? Where does Kubernetes fit into the container and cluster management space? Why is it presenting enterprises with implementation challenges? And, what considerations should you bear in mind as you explore whether containers and cluster management tools are right for your application development needs?
Here are some essentials that every enterprise needs to know about containers, container cluster management, the pros and cons of Kubernetes, and how to get the most out of our Kubernetes implementation.
What Are Containers and What Problems Do They Address?
When application developers test software, they must ensure it runs reliably when moved from one computing environment to another. This could be from a staging environment to production or from an on-premises server to a virtual machine in the cloud. The problem is that different environments are rarely symbiotic. The software may be different and the network and security environments are almost certainly going to be different.
Containers address this problem by bundling everything that makes up your development environment into one package. This introduces a level of environmental consistency, and lets developers deploy applications quickly, reliably, and in the same manner, regardless of the deployment environment. By containerizing the application platform and its dependencies, differences in operating system distributions and the underlying infrastructure are abstracted away. In fact, with containers, you can forget about the infrastructure all together.
Modular, executable standalone packages for software, containers include every element you’ll ever need to run an application — from code to settings. This portability makes containers a great asset to organizations thinking about a multi-cloud strategy.
Containers can also help you prepare for a proper DevOps implementation and its promise of efficient, rapid delivery. With containers, you can update and upgrade, without the legacy headache of starting over each time. Thanks to containers, implementing new applications and efficiencies into existing systems isn’t as hard as you think anymore.
Lighter than virtual machines and less resource-intensive, container adoption is through the roof. A recent survey shows that 94% of respondents had either investigated or used some container technology over last 12 months.
What Companies Are Leading the Way With Containers?
Docker is now the de facto container technology. With a mature technology stack, strong open source ecosystem, compatibility with any platform, and great timing (Docker launched just as the popularity of virtual machines was waning). Docker has left its competitors — rkt, OpenVZ and LXC way behind. Immutable and independent from the underlying infrastructure, Docker runs the same way on a developer machine as it does in a production environment.
How Do Container Management Tools Help Efficiently Manage Containers?
To effectively implement this DevOps approach to application development and effectively manage container technologies and platforms at an enterprise level, you need the right tools.
This is where container cluster management or container orchestration solutions come into play. As enterprises expand their use of containers into production, problems arise with managing which containers run where, dealing with all those containers, and ensuring streamlined communication between containers across hosts. These scaled-out containers are called “clusters.”
Container cluster management tools provide an enterprise framework for integrating and managing containers at scale and ensure essential continuity as you embrace DevOps. Basically, they can help you define your initial container deployment while taking care of mission-critical IT functions on the back end such as availability, scaling, and networking — all of which are streamlined, standardized, and unified.
What Enterprise Container Cluster Management Solutions Are Available?
There are many options for container cluster management. Kubernetes, however, is winning the container war and is now the most widely used, open source solution. With 15 years of Google development behind it and an enviable open source community (including Red Hat, Canonical, CoreOS, and Microsoft), Kubernetes has matured faster than any other product on the market.
Kubernetes hits the sweet spot for container cluster management because it gives developers the tools they need to quickly and efficiently respond to customer demands while relieving the burden of running applications in the cloud. It does this by eliminating many of the manual tasks associated with deploying and scaling your containerized applications so that you can run your software more reliably when moved from one environment to another. For example, you can schedule and deploy any number of containers onto a node cluster (across public, private, or hybrid clouds) and Kubernetes then does the job of managing those workloads so they are doing what you intend.
Thanks to Kubernetes, container tasks are simplified, including deployment operations (horizontal auto-scaling, rolling updates, canary deployments) and management (monitoring resources, application health checks, debugging applications, and more).
Yet, Kubernetes still poses high entry barriers
But, and there’s always a “but.” Despite its many benefits, as we previously discussed when offering tips on choosing the best Kubernetes management platform, Kubernetes is still relatively difficult to set-up and use. Managing Kubernetes is a time-consuming process requiring highly-skilled staff and a potentially large monetary commitment. To the untrained eye, Kubernetes looks like it can be up and running in hours or days, but this is far from true for production environments where additional functionality is needed — security, high availability, disaster recovery, backups, and maintenance — everything you need to make Kubernetes “production-ready.”
The result is that organizations that go the Kubernetes route quickly realize that they are unable to deliver it without bringing in skilled and costly external resources.
So, what are your options? The answer lies in Kubernetes management tools. Designed to simplify Kubernetes management for the enterprise, even if your systems are rigid, popular solutions include Tectonic, Red Hat’s Open Shift Container Platform, Rancher, and Kublr.
How to Choose The Right Kubernetes Management Platform
There are a number of things to consider as you choose your Kubernetes management platform for your enterprise, including:
- Production-readiness — Does it provide the features you need to fully automate Kubernetes configuration, without the configuration hassles? Does it have enterprise-grade security features? Will it take care of all management tasks on the cluster — automatically? Does it provide high-availability, scalability, and self-healing for your applications?
- Future–readiness — Does the platform support a multi-cloud strategy? Although Kubernetes lets you run your apps anywhere and everywhere without the need to adapt them to the new hosting environment, be sure your Kubernetes management platform can support these capabilities so you can configure them when you need them in the future.
- Ease of management — Does it incorporate automated intelligent monitoring and alerts? Does it remove the problem of analyzing Kubernetes’ raw data so that you have a single pane of glass view into system status, errors, events, and warnings?
- Support and training — As your enterprise ramps up its container strategy, will your Kubernetes management platform provider assure you of 24×7 support and training?
Of all the available options, only a few check each of these boxes. Kublr, for instance, is a cost-effective and production-ready platform that accelerates and streamlines the set-up and management of Kubernetes. With it, you can gain a self-healing, auto-scaling solution that brings your legacy systems to the cloud on a single engine, while you seamlessly maintain, rebuild, or replace them in the background. Dynamism, flexibility, and unmatched transparency between modules. It’s a win-win.
How to Choose the Right Kubernetes Management Platform Vendor
As you think about and plan your Kubernetes enterprise strategy, educate yourself about the hurdles along the way and the challenges and misconceptions about Kubernetes. Find out what you should be looking for in a Kubernetes platform, spend some time doing a Kubernetes management platform comparison. Finally, see for yourself how automation tools can provide the production-readiness (the single most important feature), future-readiness, ease-of-management, and the support you need to use Kubernetes, without the management overhead.