What is Kubernetes? A Comprehensive Definition for Beginners

Kubernetes has become the de-facto standard for container orchestration in recent years, enjoying widespread adoption by organizations of all sizes. A 2020 survey by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) found that 78% of respondents were using Kubernetes in production environments. In this glossary page, we’ll delve into what Kubernetes is, how it works, its benefits, some use cases, best practices for using it, and the most recommended books to help you learn more about this powerful and versatile tool.

“Kubernetes is like magic that allows us to manage and scale our applications effortlessly. It’s the rocket fuel behind today’s modern infrastructure.” – Kelsey Hightower

What is Kubernetes? Definition of K8s

Kubernetes, which is Greek for “helmsman” or “pilot”, is an open-source container orchestration platform developed by Google. It automates the deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications, making it easier for developers to manage and scale distributed applications. In a world driven by microservices and the movement towards breaking monolithic applications into smaller components, Kubernetes plays a critical role in facilitating seamless deployments and providing a stable platform for these components to operate.

ℹ️ Synonyms: K8s, Container Orchestration, Container Management Platform, Container Platform, Container Scheduler, Container Cluster Manager, Container Deployment, Container Lifecycle Management.

How it Works

Kubernetes achieves its functionality by arranging containers into groups called “pods”. A pod is the smallest and simplest unit in the Kubernetes object model, and it typically contains one or more containers. Kubernetes provides a declarative approach, allowing users to define the desired state of their application in a YAML or JSON file. The Kubernetes control plane, which consists of several components such as the API server, etcd, the controller manager, and the kube-scheduler, then work together to ensure that the actual state of the cluster matches the desired state.

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Key components of Kubernetes

  • Nodes: These are the worker machines that run containers. A Kubernetes cluster can have multiple nodes, providing high availability and scalability.
  • Pods: A pod is a group of one or more containers that share storage and network resources.
  • Services: These are a way to expose pods to the network, either within the cluster or externally. Services provide stable IP addresses and DNS names, enabling communication between different components.
  • ConfigMaps and Secrets: These components allow users to decouple configuration and sensitive data from application code, making it easier to manage and update without rebuilding container images.
  • Deployments, ReplicaSets, and StatefulSets: These higher-level abstractions help manage the desired state and scaling of applications, ensuring high availability and fault tolerance.

Benefits of using Kubernetes

  • Automated deployment and rollout: Kubernetes simplifies the deployment of containerized applications by managing their deployment, scaling, and updates automatically.
  • Scaling: Users can manually scale their applications or let Kubernetes do it for them based on predefined rules, ensuring application performance stays optimal as demand fluctuates.
  • High availability: Kubernetes is designed to automatically manage the availability of applications and infrastructure. It can tolerate node failures, maintain application uptime, and distribute containers across different nodes to ensure high availability.
  • Self-healing: Kubernetes detects and replaces failed containers, ensuring applications continue to run smoothly.
  • Declarative approach: Users can define the desired state of their applications and let Kubernetes take care of reaching and maintaining that state.

Kubernetes use cases

Kubernetes can be invaluable in a wide range of use cases, such as:

  • Managing microservices and distributed applications
  • Facilitating the deployment and scaling of machine learning models
  • IoT and edge computing, where managing and updating distributed devices is crucial
  • Running stateful applications, like databases, alongside stateless services in a single platform
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Best Practices

When employing Kubernetes, be sure to follow best practices, such as keeping YAML manifests and application code in separate repositories, using namespaces to separate different environments and applications, leveraging Kubernetes built-in health checks, and applying resource limits to prevent resource contention. Ensure that all cluster components and applications are secure by applying the principle of least privilege, using network policies, and securing sensitive data through the use of Kubernetes secrets. Monitoring and observability are crucial to managing your Kubernetes deployments effectively, so use appropriate logging, monitoring, and tracing tools to gain insights into your applications’ performance and troubleshoot any issues that may arise.

Most recommended books about Kubernetes

If you’re looking to deepen your understanding of Kubernetes, here are some highly recommended books:

  • Kubernetes: Up and Running by Kelsey Hightower, Brendan Burns, and Joe Beda
  • Kubernetes in Action by Marko Luksa
  • Kubernetes Patterns by Bilgin Ibryam and Roland Huß
  • The Kubernetes Book by Nigel Poulton
  • Managing Kubernetes by Brendan Burns and Craig Tracey

Conclusion

Kubernetes has emerged as an essential tool in the modern software development landscape, offering a flexible and powerful solution for container orchestration. By developing a deep understanding of Kubernetes and following best practices, developers can effectively deploy, manage, and scale their applications to meet any demand. The recommended books and resources mentioned in this glossary can serve as a starting point for those looking to deepen their knowledge and skills in Kubernetes. 

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Back in 2013, I founded Echo with the simple business idea: "Connect great tech companies around the globe with the brightest software engineers in Eastern Europe." We've employed hundreds of talents so far and keep going.
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li-url Lou Reverchuk

IT Entrepreneur

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