Published Apr 17, 2024 ⦁ 16 min read
Container Orchestration with Kubernetes: Getting Started

Container Orchestration with Kubernetes: Getting Started

Getting started with container orchestration and managing clusters can seem daunting for beginners.

This post will guide you through setting up your first Kubernetes cluster step-by-step and teach you how to effectively orchestrate containers at scale.

You'll learn Kubernetes basics like Pods and Services, try out simple container deployments, and explore best practices around cluster architecture, availability, security, and more.

Introduction to Container Orchestration with Kubernetes

Container orchestration tools like Kubernetes help automate deploying, managing, and scaling containerized applications. This beginner's guide will provide an introductory overview of container orchestration concepts using Kubernetes.

Understanding Container Orchestration and Kubernetes

Container orchestration refers to the automated arrangement, coordination, and management of containers and services across clusters of hosts. Kubernetes is the most popular open-source container orchestration system. It handles scheduling containers, managing application availability, scaling, networking, storage, secrets, config management, rolling updates, and more. In a nutshell, Kubernetes orchestrates containers.

The Advantages of Kubernetes in DevOps

Kubernetes brings several key advantages for DevOps teams building cloud-native and microservices-based applications:

  • Automates container deployment, networking, availability and scalability
  • Enables faster developer onboarding with standardized patterns
  • Allows effortless multi-cloud portability between environments
  • Simplifies rollouts/rollbacks with health checks and auto healing
  • Offers built-in monitoring, logging and debugging tools
  • Provides service discovery and load balancing out-of-the-box

By handling most operational aspects through declarative configuration, Kubernetes enables DevOps engineers to focus more on shipping code rather than infrastructure management.

Setting the Stage: Kubernetes Basics and Goals

This guide aims to provide Kubernetes beginners with the fundamentals to:

  • Set up a simple single-node Kubernetes cluster locally
  • Understand core Kubernetes concepts like pods, deployments, services
  • Create Kubernetes manifests with YAML declarations
  • Run stateless applications and access them
  • Add health checks, commands and environment variables
  • Perform simple scaling and updates of deployments

With these basics, readers can start on the path towards production-grade Kubernetes.

What is container orchestration with Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration platform that automates deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications. Here is a quick overview of some key concepts:

  • Containers - Lightweight, standalone packages that bundle application code together with libraries, dependencies, and a mini-OS into a standardized unit.

  • Container orchestration - The automated deployment, management, scaling, and networking of containers. Kubernetes handles container orchestration.

  • Kubernetes clusters - Groups of nodes that run containerized applications. A Kubernetes cluster consists of a master node that manages the cluster and worker nodes that run applications.

  • Pods - The smallest deployable units in Kubernetes. Pods contain one or more tightly coupled containers that share resources.

  • Deployments - Declarative definitions of pods and replication controllers for pods. Deployments allow easy scaling of pods.

  • Services - Abstract way to expose applications running in pods to other applications or external users. Handle load balancing for pods.

In summary, Kubernetes provides a framework to run distributed systems resiliently. It takes care of scaling and failover of your applications, provides deployment patterns, and more. This enables you to focus on writing your application code.

Key benefits include:

  • Automatic binpacking
  • Self-healing
  • Horizontal scaling
  • Automated rollouts and rollbacks
  • Storage orchestration
  • Secret and configuration management

With these built-in capabilities for containerized workloads, Kubernetes has become the de facto standard for container orchestration.

Which tool is commonly used for container orchestration?

Kubernetes has become the most widely used platform for container orchestration. As an open-source system, Kubernetes provides automation and management for containerized applications across private, public, and hybrid clouds.

Some key highlights of using Kubernetes for container orchestration:

  • Highly extensible architecture - Kubernetes has a very modular architecture that is easy to extend with custom controllers, operators, adapters, etc. This makes it great for managing container workloads at scale.

  • Supports hybrid and multicloud - Kubernetes can run in the cloud (like GKE or EKS) or on-premises. This provides a consistent way to manage containers across environments.

  • Large ecosystem - There is a massive open ecosystem of tools that integrate with Kubernetes for added functionality like service meshes, monitoring, security, storage, networking, etc.

  • Portability - Kubernetes provides portability across infrastructure and clouds. Applications can be migrated across clusters with minimal code changes.

  • Automation - Kubernetes enables infrastructure automation through its API-driven architecture. This allows programmatically managing applications through code.

In summary, Kubernetes has become the dominant choice for container orchestration due to its modular architecture, automation capabilities, portability, and large ecosystem. It replaces previous tools like Docker Swarm by providing production-grade capabilities for running containerized workloads at scale.

What is difference between Docker and Kubernetes?

While Docker is a container runtime, Kubernetes is a platform for running and managing containers from many container runtimes.

Key Differences

Here are some of the key differences between Docker and Kubernetes:

  • Docker is a container runtime that allows you to package, ship, and run applications in isolated containers. Kubernetes is a container orchestration platform that helps manage containerized applications across clusters of hosts.
  • Docker focuses on running containers on a single host. Kubernetes helps coordinate containers across multiple hosts in a cluster.
  • Kubernetes provides additional features beyond what Docker offers out of the box - things like:
    • Service discovery and load balancing
    • Storage orchestration
    • Automated rollouts and rollbacks
    • Batch execution
    • Self-healing
    • Secret and configuration management
  • Kubernetes supports Docker containers, but can also work with other container runtimes like containerd and CRI-O. Docker only works with the Docker container runtime.

So in summary:

  • Docker = container runtime
  • Kubernetes = container orchestration platform

Kubernetes supports numerous container runtimes including Docker, containerd, CRI-O, and any implementation of the Kubernetes CRI (Container Runtime Interface). This allows flexibility to use different runtimes based on your needs.

How does Kubernetes work with containers?

Kubernetes works with containers by providing a way to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications. Here is a brief overview of how Kubernetes interacts with containers:

Containers run in pods

  • The basic unit that Kubernetes manages is a pod. A pod encapsulates one or more containers that make up an application.
  • All containers in a pod share the same resources and network namespace. This allows the containers to easily communicate with each other.

Pods run on nodes

  • Nodes are the workers that run pod containers. Nodes can be physical or virtual machines.
  • The Kubernetes master controls and manages nodes. It decides which pods should run on which nodes based on available resources.

Containers are pulled from registries

  • Container images are stored in container registries like Docker Hub.
  • When a pod is scheduled on a node, the kubelet agent on that node pulls the required container images from the registry to create the containers.

Kubernetes manages container lifecycles

Kubernetes handles starting, stopping, and replicating containers based on declared desired state:

  • A deployment controls pod replicas and updates to new versions.
  • A service provides networking between pods across the cluster.
  • An ingress routes external traffic into the cluster to access services.

So in summary, Kubernetes provides the orchestration layer on top of container runtimes like Docker to deploy, connect, scale, update, and manage containers across a cluster.


Diving Into Kubernetes Architecture

Kubernetes is a popular open-source container orchestration system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. At its core, Kubernetes follows a client-server architecture, consisting of various components that work together.

Introduction to Kubernetes Architecture

The main components of Kubernetes architecture include:

  • Nodes - The machines (VMs, physical servers, etc.) that run containerized applications.
  • Pods - Abstraction layer for running one or more tightly coupled containers.
  • Services - Logical sets of pods with a policy to access them.
  • Control Plane - Cluster brain for managing everything.

These components form the fundamental building blocks of any Kubernetes cluster. Understanding how they fit together is key to leveraging Kubernetes effectively.

Exploring Kubernetes Pods

Pods represent the smallest deployable units in Kubernetes. A pod encapsulates one or more tightly coupled containers that share resources like volumes and network interfaces. This allows containers in a pod to easily communicate with each other.

Pods provide two main benefits:

  • Resource sharing - Containers can share storage volumes and networking without extra configuration.
  • Manageability - You can control, replicate, and horizontally scale pods as a single unit.

Due to their ephemeral nature, pods provide flexibility to compose and schedule containerized applications across a Kubernetes cluster.

Understanding Kubernetes Services and Networking

Kubernetes services enable communication between various components within and outside the cluster. They allow pods to receive traffic over the network.

Some types of Kubernetes services include:

  • ClusterIP - Exposes pods internally within the cluster.
  • NodePort - Makes pods accessible via port mapping on cluster nodes.
  • LoadBalancer - Provisions external load balancers to route traffic into the cluster.

Kubernetes manages virtual networking for enabling pods to communicate with each other and the outside world. Features like network policies provide granular control over traffic flows.

The Control Plane: Kubernetes' Brain

The Kubernetes control plane is the central management unit that oversees everything in the cluster. It includes these core components:

  • kube-apiserver - Primary management component exposing the Kubernetes API.
  • etcd - Highly-available key-value store persisting cluster configuration.
  • kube-scheduler - Schedules pods onto cluster nodes.
  • kube-controller-manager - Runs core control loops governing state.

Additional components like the Container Network Interface (CNI) and container runtimes integrate with the control plane to enable networking and run containers.

Together, the control plane components automate administration of the Kubernetes cluster and workloads running within it.

Getting Started with a Local Kubernetes Cluster

Kubernetes is a powerful open-source container orchestration system that automates deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications. To get hands-on experience with Kubernetes, let's walk through setting up a local development cluster using minikube.

Installing Minikube and Kubernetes CLI Tools

To get started, you'll need to install the following on your machine:

  • Minikube - Runs a single-node Kubernetes cluster locally for development and testing. Installers available for Linux, macOS, and Windows.
  • kubectl - Kubernetes command-line tool for interacting with the cluster.

Here are the commands to install minikube and kubectl on different OSes:

  • Linux:
curl -LO
sudo install minikube-linux-amd64 /usr/local/bin/minikube

curl -LO "$(curl -L -s"
sudo install -o root -g root -m 0755 kubectl /usr/local/bin/kubectl
  • macOS:
brew install minikube
brew install kubectl 

Launching Your First Kubernetes Cluster

With minikube and kubectl installed, open a terminal and enter:

minikube start

This will initialize a local single-node Kubernetes cluster using a VM. To verify it's running:

kubectl cluster-info

The cluster is now ready for interacting with Kubernetes!

Configuring kubectl and Understanding kubeconfig

kubectl uses a configuration file called kubeconfig to connect to clusters. When starting minikube, an entry for the local cluster is automatically added.

Check the config file location by running:

kubectl config view

The default file is located at ~/.kube/config. This contains cluster access credentials and API server details.

Cluster Management: Stopping and Deleting Clusters

To stop the minikube cluster:

minikube stop

And to completely delete it:

minikube delete

This removes the local state and VM. We can always recreate clusters as needed for development/testing.

Deploying and Managing Containers on Kubernetes

Kubernetes provides a powerful platform for deploying and managing containers at scale. This section will walk through creating your first Kubernetes deployment, accessing running containers, updating deployments, and scaling for high availability.

Creating Your First Kubernetes Deployment

To get started, we'll deploy a simple Nginx container to see Kubernetes in action.

First, create a deployment YAML file such as:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: my-nginx
      run: my-nginx
  replicas: 2
        run: my-nginx
      - name: my-nginx
        image: nginx:1.7.9
        - containerPort: 80

This configures a deployment called my-nginx that runs the nginx:1.7.9 image, with 2 replicas for high availability.

Next, apply this deployment:

kubectl apply -f nginx-deployment.yaml

That's it! Kubernetes will now schedule 2 Nginx pod replicas onto nodes in the cluster. We can verify the deployment:

kubectl get deployments

And see the pods:

kubectl get pods

Accessing and Monitoring Running Containers

We can access the Nginx containers using kubectl port-forward:

kubectl port-forward pod/my-nginx-5c689d88bb-k7qqd 8080:80

Then open localhost:8080 in a browser to view the Nginx output.

For monitoring, Kubernetes has native support for metrics, logging and tracing. Key tools include Prometheus, Grafana, ElasticSearch and more.

Updating and Maintaining Deployments

To update our deployment with a new Nginx version, we can simply apply a new YAML file with an updated image tag:

- name: my-nginx  
  image: nginx:1.9.1

Kubernetes handles rolling out the update, minimizing downtime.

Regular updates are crucial for security and reliability. Monitoring tools help ensure high availability.

Scaling Deployments for High Availability

We can horizontally scale the deployment to run more replicas:

kubectl scale deployment my-nginx --replicas=4

This increases redundancy and availability. Kubernetes will automatically distribute these replicas across nodes.

In this way, Kubernetes empowers running containers reliably at scale with minimal overhead.

Advanced Kubernetes Management and Monitoring

Kubernetes provides powerful capabilities for container orchestration and management. However, as applications grow in complexity, additional tools and techniques are needed to effectively operate Kubernetes in production. This section covers advanced management concepts and monitoring capabilities to run robust, resilient Kubernetes clusters.

Utilizing Namespaces for Resource Isolation

Namespaces are a way to divide cluster resources between multiple users and teams. Here are some key benefits:

  • Organize clusters into virtual sub-clusters. Namespaces provide isolation for deployments, services, and more. This prevents naming collisions between teams.

  • Assign resource quotas. Limit memory, CPU, and object counts per namespace to prevent teams from hogging shared resources.

  • Role-based access control (RBAC). Restrict team access to only their own namespaces and resources.

To create a namespace:

kubectl create namespace <name>

You can now add resources like pods and deployments to live within that namespace:

kubectl create deployment nginx --image=nginx -n <namespace> 

Managing Configurations with ConfigMaps and Secrets

ConfigMaps and secrets decouple configuration artifacts from container images:

  • ConfigMaps store non-sensitive data like settings, properties, etc.
  • Secrets securely store sensitive data like passwords, API keys, etc.

Benefits include:

  • Reusable configurations across environments.
  • Change configs without rebuilding images.
  • No hardcoding settings into apps code.

For example, create a ConfigMap:

kubectl create configmap app-config --from-literal=log_level=debug

And pass to a pod spec:

    - configMapRef:
        name: app-config

Health Checks, Logging, and Observability

Monitoring tools provide cluster visibility:

  • Health checks continually test container readiness.
  • Logging aggregates container logs for analysis.
  • Metrics gather time-series performance data.
  • Tracing follows request flows across microservices.

Popular tools include Prometheus, Grafana, Jaeger, Kiali and more.

For example, view pod resource usage graphs in Grafana, trace requests in Jaeger, and visualize service meshes in Kiali.

Dashboards and Visualization Tools

Dashboards consolidate monitoring data for at-a-glance visibility:

  • Kubernetes Dashboard shows cluster health, resource usage, container logs and more.
  • Grafana provides fully customizable metric dashboards with graphs, gauges and tables.
  • Kiali diagrams the service mesh to display real-time traffic flows between pods.

These tools help engineers quickly visualize cluster activity to speed up troubleshooting and capacity planning.

Securing Your Kubernetes Environment

Kubernetes provides powerful capabilities for deploying and managing containerized applications at scale. However, running a secure Kubernetes environment requires implementing proper security measures. This section covers best practices for securing your Kubernetes clusters, workloads, and data.

Kubernetes Security Fundamentals

Kubernetes security builds on Linux security primitives and access control policies. The principle of least privilege should be applied to limit damage from vulnerabilities or misconfigurations. Key concepts include:

  • Role-based access control (RBAC) to authorize access
  • Network policies to secure pod-to-pod communication
  • Security contexts to set permissions on pods/containers
  • Secrets management for sensitive data like keys, passwords, certificates

By default, Kubernetes does not restrict access. Access controls and policies need to be properly configured.

Implementing Role-Based Access Control (RBAC)

Role-based access control (RBAC) allows administering access policies on Kubernetes resources. RBAC should be used to enforce least privilege. Steps include:

  • Define roles with allowed verbs on resources
  • Bind users/groups/service accounts to roles
  • Continuously refine role definitions as needed

Start with a minimal set of roles, granting additional access as required. Audit policies to detect escalation attempts.

A Layered Approach to Container and Kubernetes Security

Defense in depth using multiple security layers is a best practice, including:

  • Secure container build and image management
  • Mandatory access control (SELinux, Apparmor)
  • Network segmentation with NetworkPolicies
  • Workload isolation using namespaces and cgroups
  • Secure secret management
  • Frequent security monitoring and testing

Additional layers like Istio service mesh further enhance security.

Backup and Recovery Strategies for Kubernetes

Kubernetes does not backup data automatically. Cluster failure can lead to application downtime and data loss. Strategies include:

  • Snapshot controller for etcd backups
  • Velero for cluster resources backup
  • Database/storage provider native backup tools
  • Test restores periodically to validate backups
  • Multi-cluster and multi-region deployments for HA

Follow 3-2-1 rule - 3 copies of data, 2 different storage media, 1 copy offsite.

Conclusion: Wrapping Up and Next Steps

Recapping the Container Orchestration Journey

In this beginner's guide, we covered the key concepts and initial steps for getting started with container orchestration using Kubernetes. We discussed:

  • What containers and container orchestration are
  • The benefits of using container orchestration
  • An overview of Kubernetes and its main components
  • How to set up a simple single-node Kubernetes cluster
  • Deploying sample applications on Kubernetes
  • Managing application deployments

We saw firsthand how Kubernetes makes it easy to deploy, scale, and manage containerized applications. By completing this guide, you now have hands-on experience with the fundamental building blocks of Kubernetes.

Continuing the Kubernetes Learning Path

Here are some recommendations for furthering your Kubernetes education:

  • Explore production-grade multi-node Kubernetes clusters on managed platforms like Google Kubernetes Engine
  • Learn how to design cloud-native applications optimized for containers
  • Study advanced Kubernetes topics like high availability, backup/recovery, security, networking
  • Understand Kubernetes multi-cloud and hybrid cloud strategies
  • Get certified through official Kubernetes training programs

Kubernetes is quickly becoming an essential skill for developers and IT professionals. This guide provided an entry point, but there is much more to learn about Kubernetes and its ecosystem of tools. Continued hands-on practice and learning will help you gain expertise in running containerized applications at scale.