Published Dec 25, 2023 ⦁ 16 min read
Kubernetes Orchestration Example: Workflow Breakdown

Kubernetes Orchestration Example: Workflow Breakdown

When managing containerized applications, most teams would agree that orchestration is critical for coordinating deployments across infrastructure.

In this post, we'll walk through a detailed Kubernetes orchestration example covering how to set up and manage a multi-container application workflow from start to finish.

You'll see how to leverage Kubernetes architecture and tools to define pods and services, implement auto-scaling, roll out application updates, and configure advanced features like ConfigMaps, Secrets, and jobs. We'll also showcase Kubernetes orchestration in action by deploying a sample Python app and monitoring its performance.

Introduction to Kubernetes Orchestration

Kubernetes is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. It helps orchestrate and manage containers, which package up code and all its dependencies so the application runs quickly and reliably from one computing environment to another.

Orchestration refers to coordinating and managing the workflows and interactions between the components of complex distributed systems. As applications become larger with multiple components and containers, orchestrating and managing them manually becomes challenging. This is where Kubernetes comes in - it provides an automated way to deploy, manage, and scale containerized applications through its orchestration capabilities.

Understanding Kubernetes Orchestration

Kubernetes provides a framework to run distributed systems resiliently. It takes care of scaling and failover of containers and services, which allows developers to focus on writing code.

Key capabilities of Kubernetes orchestration include:

  • Automatic binpacking - It assigns containers based on resource requirements to make optimal use of infrastructure
  • Service discovery and load balancing - Containers can be automatically exposed through services which balance load and optimize resource utilization
  • Storage orchestration - It simplifies storage management of stateful applications
  • Automated rollouts and rollbacks - It supports rolling updates and rollbacks for applications with no downtime
  • Self-healing - It kills and restarts containers automatically when they fail health checks
  • Secret and configuration management - It stores and manages sensitive data like passwords, tokens, keys etc

The Role of Kubernetes in Container Orchestration

The main benefits Kubernetes provides for container orchestration are:

  • Increased efficiency and resource utilization - It ensures high resource utilization by binpacking containers.
  • Easy scaling - Applications can be quickly and easily scaled to handle increased loads due to scaling capabilities.
  • High availability - With features like self-healing, multiple replicas and auto-restart, apps can stay resilient.
  • Reduced developer workload - Kubernetes handles most operational aspects like scaling, failover, rollout etc automatically.

This makes Kubernetes well-suited for deploying and running multi-container applications with minimal effort.

Exploring Kubernetes Architecture and Components

The main components of Kubernetes architecture are:

  • Pods - The smallest deployable units which encapsulates containers
  • Services - Logical sets of pods with a policy to access them
  • Deployments - For declaring desired state for pods and replica sets
  • ReplicaSets - For scaling number of pod replicas
  • Nodes - The virtual/physical machines Kubernetes runs on

Other components like kube-scheduler, kube-controller-manager, kube-apiserver and etcd provide cluster management and control plane functionalities.

These components give the building blocks for Kubernetes to deploy applications, scale them, roll out updates, monitor health, and manage failover & backups.

Kubernetes Orchestration Tools and Patterns

Some key tools and patterns used for Kubernetes orchestration are:

  • Helm charts - For creating reusable, configurable deployments
  • Deployments and Services - For deploying and exposing applications
  • ConfigMaps and Secrets - For injecting configurations without rebuilding images
  • Jobs and CronJobs - For running batch and scheduled tasks
  • Horizontal Pod Autoscaler - For automatically scaling pods based on metrics
  • Readiness and liveness probes - For healthchecking containers and restarting/rescheduling them when needed

Using these in a declarative way through manifests allows managing applications robustly.

What is orchestration in Kubernetes?

Kubernetes orchestration refers to the automated configuration, coordination, and management of Kubernetes clusters and containerized applications. It handles deploying containers across nodes, scaling and load balancing, rolling updates, health monitoring, and more.

Some key things Kubernetes orchestration provides:

  • Automated container deployment and management - Kubernetes can deploy containerized applications packaged as pods on a cluster, maintaining the desired state of replicas. The control plane handles scheduling pods to optimal nodes.

  • Service discovery and load balancing - Kubernetes groups sets of pods into services, which get their own IP addresses for easy discovery. Services load balance requests across pods.

  • Storage orchestration - Kubernetes allows you to mount storage volumes to be used by pods and persist data beyond the pod lifecycle.

  • Automated rollouts and rollbacks - Kubernetes deployment objects allow you to easily roll out new versions or configurations of your applications. You can monitor and halt rollouts and quickly rollback if issues arise.

  • Self-healing - Kubernetes detects unhealthy containers, restarts them, replaces dead nodes, and reschedules pods, providing automated healing.

  • Horizontal scaling - You can configure Kubernetes to automatically scale out your application by adding pods/containers to handle increased load. Kubernetes handles scheduling the additional resources.

In summary, Kubernetes handles all the complex tasks around deploying, networking, scaling, updating, and monitoring multi-container applications, allowing developers to focus on building application logic. It provides powerful orchestration out-of-the-box.

What are the examples of container orchestration?

Other popular container orchestration tools besides Kubernetes include:

  • Docker Swarm: Docker's native orchestration tool that is simple to set up and integrates natively with other Docker components. Key features include clustering, scheduling, and scaling of containers.

  • Apache Mesos: An open source cluster manager that efficiently manages CPU, memory, storage, and other resources across data center and cloud infrastructure. It uses containerization technologies like Docker and rkt.

  • Amazon ECS: A fully-managed container orchestration service by AWS that supports Docker containers. It simplifies running and scaling containerized applications on AWS.

  • HashiCorp Nomad: An easy-to-use, flexible orchestration platform focused on scheduling batch and service workloads across on-prem and clouds. Nomad supports containerized, non-containerized, and data processing workloads.

The key value of container orchestration is automating the deployment, scaling, networking, availability and interactions of containerized applications across clusters of hosts. This frees developers to focus on building applications without worrying about infrastructure.

Containers package code with dependencies to abstract away OS differences, while orchestrators like Kubernetes automate operating containers at scale. Together they streamline developing and running modern applications.

What is an example of an orchestration system?

Kubernetes (often abbreviated as K8s) is a prime example of a modern orchestration system, designed primarily for containerized applications. In Kubernetes, you define the desired state of your system (e.g., “I want three instances of Service A always running”).

Some key things that Kubernetes handles in managing a containerized application:

  • Deployment: Kubernetes allows you to easily deploy and update applications by defining Deployments. A Deployment controls a set of identical Pods (running containers), making sure the specified number of Pods are running at all times.

  • Scaling: You can scale the number of Pods in a Deployment up and down as needed, either manually or automatically based on metrics like CPU usage. Kubernetes handles starting/stopping Pods seamlessly.

  • Service Discovery: Kubernetes groups sets of Pods into Services, which get a static IP address. This provides a unified endpoint to access the Pods behind it, handling load balancing and failover automatically.

  • Storage: Kubernetes allows you to attach storage devices and volumes to be used by your containers. This persists data beyond the lifecycle of individual Pods.

  • Config and Secrets: You can store configuration data and sensitive credentials as Kubernetes objects. These get mounted into your Pods so code can use them.

  • Health Checks: Kubernetes constantly checks the health of your Pods and containers, restarting or rescheduling them if they fail health checks. This handles failures automatically.

  • Batch Jobs: In addition to long-running Services, Kubernetes can manage batch Jobs that run to completion (e.g. cron jobs).

So in summary, Kubernetes handles all the infrastructure and plumbing around deploying, running, networking, scaling, and managing containerized applications. You define applications as Kubernetes object configurations rather than provision infrastructure yourself. This makes it easier to focus on your application logic rather than infrastructure.


Is Docker an orchestration?

Docker Swarm provides basic orchestration capabilities that allow you to deploy, scale, and manage a cluster of Docker containers. However, Docker Swarm has limited features compared to full-fledged orchestration platforms like Kubernetes.

Here are some key differences between Docker Swarm and Kubernetes:

  • Service Discovery - Kubernetes has native support for service discovery using DNS. Docker Swarm relies on an overlay network which can be more complex.

  • Scaling - Kubernetes makes it easier to scale deployments and do rolling updates. Docker Swarm scaling relies more on overlay networking.

  • Features - Kubernetes has far more features including storage orchestration, batch job processing, service accounts, resource quotas, etc. Docker Swarm focuses mainly on container deployment.

  • Ecosystem - The Kubernetes ecosystem is much richer with more integrations and community support. Docker Swarm has fewer 3rd party integrations.

So in summary:

  • Docker Swarm provides basic orchestration, but lacks many advanced features.
  • Kubernetes is production-grade, full-featured, and designed purely for orchestration.

Docker Swarm is useful for getting started, but most organizations migrate to Kubernetes for complete container orchestration at scale. So while Docker Swarm technically performs orchestration, many don't consider it a full-fledged alternative to Kubernetes.

Setting Up a Kubernetes Orchestration Example

Defining the Multi-Container Application Workflow

Kubernetes excels at deploying and managing multi-container applications. As an example, we will look at a common three-tier architecture comprising a front-end web app, backend API, and database.

The frontend is a simple React app that makes requests to the backend API. The backend is a Node.js application that retrieves and stores data in MongoDB. Each component runs in a separate Docker container.

To deploy this on Kubernetes, we need to define pods, services, deployments, and more. Pods are groups of one or more containers that share resources. Services expose pods over the network. Deployments manage pod scaling and updates.

Creating Kubernetes Pods and Services

First, we configure YAML files to create pods and services for each component:

# frontend pod
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod 
  name: frontend
    app: frontend
  - name: frontend
    image: myapp/frontend
    - containerPort: 3000

# frontend service   
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  name: frontend 
    app: frontend
  - port: 80
    targetPort: 3000

This exposes the frontend on port 80. Similar configs create backend and database pods and services.

Managing Deployments and ReplicaSets

To scale pods and roll out updates, we use deployments. Deployments manage replica sets which directly supervise pods:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
  name: frontend
  replicas: 3
      app: frontend
        app: frontend
      - name: frontend
        image: myapp/frontend

This runs 3 frontend pod replicas. If any crash, the replica set replaces them.

Implementing Auto-Scaling with Horizontal Pod Autoscalers

To scale pods automatically based on demand, we can add horizontal pod autoscalers (HPA):

apiVersion: autoscaling/v1
kind: HorizontalPodAutoscaler
  name: frontend-hpa
    apiVersion: apps/v1
    kind: Deployment
    name: frontend
  minReplicas: 2
  maxReplicas: 10
  targetCPUUtilizationPercentage: 50  

This scales the frontend deployment from 2-10 pods to maintain 50% CPU.

Rolling Out Updates with Kubernetes Deployments

Finally, Kubernetes deployments allow rolling out application changes gradually:

kubectl set image deployment/frontend frontend=myapp/frontend:v2

This updates the frontend image, rolling out pods with the new version one by one to avoid downtime.

Kubernetes provides powerful abstractions for multi-container management. This example walked through deploying a sample app using pods, services, deployments, HPA, and more.

Configuring Advanced Kubernetes Orchestration Features

Kubernetes provides several advanced features that enable more sophisticated orchestration scenarios beyond basic container deployments. These features allow you to better manage application configurations, sensitive data, scheduled jobs, and overall cluster operations.

Utilizing ConfigMaps and Secrets in Orchestration

ConfigMaps and Secrets allow you to decouple configuration artifacts and sensitive data from container images.

  • ConfigMaps store non-confidential data like configuration files, command-line arguments, environment variables, etc. ConfigMaps allow you to dynamically inject this configuration data into containers at runtime.
  • Secrets securely store sensitive data like passwords, OAuth tokens, SSH keys, etc. Secrets decouple this data from container images to avoid image sprawl.

Using ConfigMaps and Secrets enables you to build portable container images that work across environments. Containers remain agnostic to where they run.

Automating Jobs and CronJobs

In addition to long-running containerized applications, you may need to run one-off Jobs or recurring CronJobs within your Kubernetes cluster:

  • Jobs execute a task until completion, then terminate. Use cases include data migrations, batch jobs, machine learning training, etc.
  • CronJobs run Jobs on repeating schedules - useful for backups, report generation, scheduled maintenance, etc.

Jobs and CronJobs integrate natively with other Kubernetes resources like ConfigMaps, Secrets, Volumes, etc. Enabling full-lifecycle automation.

Managing Cluster Operations with Kubernetes Components

Several key components manage the orchestration of containers across worker nodes:

  • kube-scheduler assigns Pods to Nodes based on resource requirements and policies
  • kube-apiserver serves the Kubernetes API - the frontend for cluster control plane functionality
  • kube-controller-manager runs core control loops governing state replication and resilience
  • kube-proxy handles network communication inside and outside the cluster

Understanding these components helps when debugging orchestration issues or tuning cluster performance.

Ensuring High Availability with etcd

etcd is a consistent and highly available key-value store used to persist Kubernetes cluster state and configuration data. It ensures scheduling decisions and desired state are maintained even during failures. Properly securing and backing up etcd is critical for resilience.

These advanced features demonstrate Kubernetes' extensive orchestration capabilities - far beyond just running containers. Mastering these features unlocks new possibilities for application delivery and operations automation.

Kubernetes Orchestration Example in Action

Kubernetes provides a powerful orchestration platform for deploying and managing containerized applications at scale. This section walks through a real-world example to demonstrate Kubernetes capabilities in action.

Orchestrating a Python Application with Kubernetes

Here is a simple Python application we will deploy on Kubernetes:

import socket

hostname = socket.gethostname()

print(f"Hello from {hostname}")

To containerize this app, we can build a Docker image and specify a Kubernetes Deployment manifest like so:

# deployment.yaml
apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment 
  name: python-app
  replicas: 3
      app: python-app
        app: python-app
      - name: python-app
        image: python-app:v1
        - containerPort: 5000

This manifest will create 3 replicas of the Python application container. Kubernetes will distribute these pods across the available nodes and ensure they are always running.

We can also create a corresponding Service manifest to expose the application:

# service.yaml
kind: Service
apiVersion: v1
  name: python-app-service
    app: python-app
  - port: 80
    targetPort: 5000

This Service provides load balanced access to the Python app pods on port 5000.

Deploying from GitHub to Kubernetes

For continuous delivery, we can set up a GitHub Actions workflow to build and deploy the application on code changes:

# .github/workflows/deploy.yml
on: push
    runs-on: ubuntu-latest
    - uses: actions/checkout@v2
    - name: Build & push image
      run: | 
        docker build -t${GITHUB_SHA} .
        docker push${GITHUB_SHA}
    - name: Deploy
      uses: deliverybot/k8s-deploy@v2
        manifests: k8s/*.yaml
        images: |

        imagepullsecrets: | 

Now on every Git push, a new Docker image is built and deployed onto the Kubernetes cluster automatically.

Leveraging Helm Charts for Application Deployment

For more complex applications consisting of multiple Kubernetes manifests, Helm charts provide a way to package everything into a single deployable unit.

Here is an example Helm chart structure:


Using the templating capabilities of Helm, we can also parameterize our manifests so the same chart can be reused across environments.

Installing this chart allows deploying the entire application stack in one command. Helm manages versioning, upgrades, rollbacks and dependencies automatically.

Monitoring and Logging in Kubernetes

Once our application is running, we need visibility into its health, performance and logs. Some useful tools include:

  • Prometheus - for scraping and visualizing metrics
  • Grafana - for building metrics dashboards
  • Elasticsearch + Kibana - for storing and analyzing logs
  • Jaeger - for distributed tracing

These can be deployed as managed services on Kubernetes using operators. Metrics and logs from application pods can be automatically scraped, indexed and visualized.

Using these observability tools is key to operating production workloads on Kubernetes effectively.


Summarizing Kubernetes Orchestration Benefits

Kubernetes orchestration provides several key benefits for automating and managing containerized applications:

  • Efficiency - Kubernetes handles scheduling and managing containers across clusters, freeing up developer time to focus on building applications. Features like auto-scaling and self-healing also improve efficiency.

  • Scalability - Kubernetes makes it easy to scale up or down based on application load and traffic. Adding and removing nodes is simplified, allowing applications to flexibly meet demand.

  • Reliability - Built-in features like health checks, auto-restarts, and rolling updates provide increased application resiliency and uptime. Kubernetes improves reliability in container environments.

In summary, Kubernetes delivers simplified container deployment, better resource utilization, and reduced operational burden - ultimately accelerating delivery for containerized applications.

Reflecting on Kubernetes Orchestration Examples

The examples in this article provided practical insights into leveraging Kubernetes for real-world container orchestration:

  • The multi-tier web application example highlighted core Kubernetes resources like Deployments, Services, and Ingresses. It illustrated networking and load balancing containers.

  • The workflow automation example using CronJobs and Jobs showed how Kubernetes can schedule and run batch jobs and processes.

  • The Helm chart example demonstrated the power of a templating engine to package and deploy applications on Kubernetes.

These hands-on examples are designed to give developers a solid grounding in applying Kubernetes orchestration for their own applications. They demonstrate critical capabilities for managing containers at scale.

As Kubernetes matures, we can expect improved integrations with service mesh technologies like Istio for better traffic flow control. Tighter runtime security around pod and container images is also likely. Additionally, Kubernetes may converge with serverless architectures, allowing developers to orchestrate containers and functions. Auto-scaling and cluster optimization using machine learning is another potential advancement on the horizon.

While the core tenets of Kubernetes will persist, there are always new capabilities being developed to further enhance and simplify container orchestration at scale. Kubernetes is likely to remain the industry standard for managing containerized workloads into the foreseeable future.