In 2019, IT is increasingly at the forefront for businesses. Whether it’s a bank looking to improve feature rollouts on their mobile app, an ecommerce website that wants to streamline the maintenance of their stock and product listing databases, or an independent software vendor that needs scope for continuous deployment, digital transformation is becoming a key component in companies’ plans for long-term growth.

If your company is looking to invest in technology that supports the development of scalable and portable applications with high-availability, then Kubernetes could provide the solution.

What Is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes (also known as K8s) is a container orchestration tool. It provides development teams with standardised mechanisms to automate the deployment, maintenance and scaling of applications.

How Does It Work?

To understand how Kubernetes works, you first need to understand two other terms – microservices and containers.

Historically, applications have been built using a monolithic architecture. This meant the application was essentially a large singular ‘object’ where all of the components and features were interlinked and dependent on one another. But, it’s now possible to update legacy applications, and build new ones, using a more modern microservices architecture.

By breaking an application down into smaller components called microservices, each of those microservices becomes responsible for one feature of the application.

The microservices are then packaged up into individual containers. The container provides a standardised structure where the microservice can be stored and run. It acts as an isolated operating environment because the container holds everything the microservice needs to run. Containerising applications enables a new level of portability – because everything the application needs to function is self-contained, it is able to run on any machine.

Working with containers and microservices offers many benefits to development teams. It makes applications more portable, as discussed above, and reduces dependencies. This means that, rather than redeploying the entire application to push a small update live, developers only have to deploy the containers for the microservices which are directly involved in the update.

Despite the benefits though, there is one major drawback. You’ve gone from a single application to hundreds, or even thousands, of individual containers – how do you manage, maintain and repair all of them?

Here’s Where Kubernetes Comes In

Kubernetes automates all of these container management tasks which would otherwise need to be manually completed by developers. The main purpose of the tool is to enable companies to take advantage of the benefits of containers, without staff having to spend all of their time managing them.

To provide an overview, Kubernetes manages your containerised applications across a cluster of physical and/or virtual machines. One machine acts as the ‘master’ and the other machines within the cluster are ‘workers’. A Kubernetes user instructs the master on how the application should run e.g. ‘rollback the latest deployment if containers fail’ or ‘scale services up if resource usage exceeds 70%’. The master then schedules tasks to the workers to ensure the application runs as instructed. This system enables reliable and flexible application management, whilst also providing predictability.

How Can This Help My Company?

Flexible, reliable, efficient… these are all excellent sounding benefits. But if you’re going to invest in a new technology and build your development process around it then you want to know what value these benefits can actually bring to your business.

Kubernetes helps companies to:

    • Reduce hosting costs: Kubernetes helps you to use your resources more efficiently. If traffic spikes, the workers will spin up more containers to handle the extra traffic and provide high availability. They automatically do this on under-utilised machines first to make sure that you’re getting the most out of your existing resources. Then, once traffic levels return to the normal range, any extra machines are turned off, so you’re only ever paying for the hosting resources that you actually use.
    • Get new features/services to market faster: The ability to self-heal is a major benefit of Kubernetes. If an error occurs, it can automatically rollback to the last working version of the application. This gives development teams the freedom to ship updates quickly, removing the risk of a release breaking anything and taking the application offline. Early case studies have shown companies have achieved up to 98% reduction in time-to-market since adopting K8s.
    • Reduce downtime: When you need to carry out maintenance, or if you experience a hardware failure, Kubernetes can keep your business online. Containers can always be recreated/moved to another machine, so services don’t have to go offline to be maintained or whilst failures are being resolved.
    • Be prepared for growth: The main goal for a company is to grow, right? With Kubernetes, your infrastructure is ready to take the next step whenever you are. The ability to scale with ease is built into the system, unlike alternatives which may require you to restructure your setup when you want to scale up.
    • Free up developer time: If you’re already working with containerised workloads, you may have seen an increase in the amount of time that your developers spend managing the containers, just to keep everything running smoothly. Kubernetes is designed to automate this process, freeing up time for developers to focus on the work that really matters to your business – improving and developing products/services for your customers.

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