How Kubernetes quickly became a key container orchestration system
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This article was written by Nate Matherson, Co-Founder and CEO of ContainIQ.
Containerization has transformed the way modern applications are developed. More and more teams are adopting intelligent application architectures like microservices to break their applications down into easily manageable units using containers.
Kubernetes has proven to be a hugely important technology in this trend. And according to a recent study by RedHat, 85% of IT managers agree that Kubernetes is “extremely important”, “very important” or “important” for cloud native application policies. But how did Kubernetes get into a world accustomed to virtual machines (VMs) and hypervisors?
What is Kubernetes?
Containerization has been at the heart of modern DevOps techniques since its inception. It allows you to package apps with their environment and runtime settings to ensure they perform the same in production as they do on your developers’ laptops.
However, problems start to arise when you have to divide your application into many separate containers and scale them by the thousands to meet the demand for inbound traffic.
This is where Kubernetes comes to the rescue.
Kubernetes is a modern container orchestration framework that allows you to manage massive swarms of containerized applications to meet the needs of your users. Kubernetes helps developers easily deploy, manage, and scale their applications. It acts as an abstraction between you and the raw containers.
All you have to do is define your needs and resources, and Kubernetes will find the best arrangement for you. Without it, it would be impossible to imagine applications like Pokémon Go or organizations like OpenAI.
The rise in Kubernetes adoption in recent years
Kubernetes was originally developed by Google as a Borg project, but was later integrated into the Cloud Native Computing Foundation for further development. In recent years, many big brands, including AWS and Microsoft, have shown their support for the technology.
The adoption of Kubernetes in the industry has also seen a gradual increase. In the Cloud Native Computing Foundation’s 2020 survey, 91% of respondents said they used Kubernetes, up from 78% in 2019 and 58% in 2018.
It is important to understand the factors that led to this trend and the impact it has had on the market.
Four big reasons why Kubernetes has grown so quickly
Kubernetes offers many reasons for engineering teams to migrate from their traditional non-containerized deployment configurations. Some of the main reasons are discussed below.
1. It makes container orchestration effortless
It would be an understatement to say “Kubernetes can orchestrate containers” as it does and a lot more.
With Kubernetes, you no longer need to interact with raw containers. You don’t have to worry about load balancing incoming requests or monitoring resource consumption to avoid overuse. Box co-founder Sam Ghouds discusses how Kubernetes simplified Box’s DevOps workflows – deploying a new microservice used to take six months, but with K8s it takes less than five days.
Gone are the days when you had to manually integrate a new machine into your server cluster and extend your workload there. Kubernetes does all of this automatically.
Since Kubernetes is an abstraction of your available hardware resources, you can quickly request more compute capacity based on your needs and availability. Juggling resource limits between teams is a matter of a few clicks; Kubernetes does the dirty work of moving containers and pods for you. Babylon used this property to build a self-service AI training platform on top of Kubernetes.
2. It is very profitable
In addition to facilitating container orchestration, Kubernetes also shines in maximizing cost-to-value for businesses. According to a 2021 study by Pure Storage, 55% of IT pros surveyed expect Kubernetes to reduce their annual costs by 20% or more. This is due to two important reasons.
The first is that containers are lightweight and require fewer resources to run than virtual machines. It is much easier to provision resources for a container because it is just an application surrounded by environment data. In the case of virtual machines, you must also manage the resources of the underlying kernel and other drivers.
The second reason is that Kubernetes enables teams to make the best use of available resources with container orchestration. Kubernetes can take advantage of the fact that containers can be provisioned and retired faster than virtual machines, and intelligently shut down containers that are not in use. Besides autoscaling, Kubernetes’ efficient packaging has also helped companies reduce costs.
As the world’s largest retail equity investment platform, Zerodha cut IT costs by 50% after switching to Kubernetes and Prometheus. With Kubernetes, “we are able to use cloud resources more efficiently”. said Kailash Nadh, chief technology officer of Zerodha Tech.
3. Receive regular updates and innovations
One of the main reasons that Kubernetes has been able to dominate its market is that it has been the subject of aggressive development. The Kubernetes ecosystem has regularly updated with the changing demands of the market.
Even today, Kubernetes receives major releases every two to three months. The latest major version of K8s (v1.23.0) received changes under thirteen themes. This is an excellent indicator of the activity of the development team. Each new release gives developers greater control over how their applications are deployed.
Over the years, major cloud providers, including AWS, GCP, and Microsoft Azure, have deployed tools and services that help to better start and manage Kubernetes. The introduction of more and more enterprise tools into the field indicates that Kubernetes has had a significant impact in the industry and that these tech giants believe Kubernetes is here to stay.
4. Has a large community that supports him
By keeping corporate involvement aside for a while, Kubernetes has also received tremendous support from the open source community. According to the Kubernetes Community Annual Report 2020, the K8s community has over 52,000 active contributors and 24 special interest groups (SIGs) and has crossed over 100,000 pull requests / issues on their main GitHub repository (Kubernetes / Kubernetes). Examples like Helm and Tilt show how the community has sometimes stepped in to solve common development issues.
There are many open source tools available for the technology that make Kubernetes fairly straightforward to use. The fact that this community keeps growing only makes things better; more and more minds are working together to share knowledge and solve each other’s problems. This has acted as a catalyst in the adoption of Kubernetes across the industry.
What is the impact of Kubernetes and container orchestration on the market?
Kubernetes has had a striking effect on the way businesses build and evolve their applications. Kubernetes made distributed architectures possible and popular. Many companies have reduced their operating costs and made the most of their resources.
Kubernetes has made DevOps easier and provided software teams with more precise control over how their applications are deployed. For example, Bitmovin was able to simplify Canary multi-step testing and since then the development-to-product lifecycle has been faster.
Ten years ago, an app like Pokémon Go would have struggled to keep up with initial traffic 50 times higher than expected. OpenAI was able to do a few months of work in a few weeks. None of this would have been possible without a framework as resilient as Kubernetes.
What does the future look like for Kubernetes and container orchestration?
While Kubernetes has had a rich past, its future also looks bright. Giants like AWS are already experimenting with orchestrating microVM with Kubernetes. MicroVMs are lightweight virtual machines that provide virtual machine isolation and security, but are comparatively faster and can be easily scaled.
Businesses can also expect better security and lightweight distributions from Kubernetes in the future. Kubernetes is experimenting with IoT and smart systems, an entirely new and unexplored horizon for technology.
Overall, there is a lot more that can be improved and introduced into the tool, and there is no limit to the intuitiveness of these updates.
Kubernetes has revolutionized how modern DevOps works. It has helped reduce costs and optimize performance for a wide variety of applications and projects. While there are other container orchestration technologies, none challenge Kubernetes due to its large community and corporate support.
The future of Kubernetes seems to be full of new possibilities and innovations. It would be safe to say that Kubernetes will continue to reach new heights in the years to come.
Nate Matherson is the co-founder and CEO of ContainIQ. Nate is a second founder, building his second venture-funded startup. Outside of work, Nate is also an angel investor having invested in 28 startups and is a board member of Blankets of Hope, a 501 (c) 3 nonprofit.
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