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Kubernetes Containerization and Orchestration in Private Cloud Environments

John Jainschigg - December 06, 2023
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Containerization and container orchestration have become standards in the world of app development. Containerization has become the preferred approach for application development, and orchestration makes it more manageable for IT teams. Learn more about these concepts to empower your cloud management strategy and take development to the next level.

What Are Containers, Containerization, and Container Orchestration?

Containers, containerization, and container orchestration are all important concepts when talking about modern application development. Understanding these key terms is the first step to learning about Kubernetes.

What Is a Container?

A container is a package of software that contains everything an application needs to run, such as code, an application runtime, and libraries. These units are lightweight and highly portable, so they can easily run on different computers and operating systems. Containers can run in both private cloud and public cloud infrastructure. 

Containers are lightweight, portable, and isolated execution environments for applications with everything needed for the apps to run--everything except for the OS kernel, which is shared with the host OS. Containers are sometimes compared to virtual machines (VMs) because they help make applications portable and environments reproducible, minimizing “it worked on my machine” issues. The difference, however, is that VMs virtualize the OS kernel and hardware as well, and carry a heavier footprint as a result.

Isolating software like this has become a common practice in DevOps as more teams work across diverse environments. Many developers rely on containers for their improved performance and reduced size. Greater portability also makes containers easy to use across multiple devices or in the cloud.

What Is Containerization?

Containerization is the action of packaging software code and dependencies needed for an application to run. Teams create “container images” that serve as a snapshot of all the necessary code, libraries, and other essential materials for the application to run. Container images may be shared online--a user or system can simply download the image and use a container engine to run a container based on the image.

One of the most well-known and used containerization technologies today is Docker, which encourages common, minimal, and open standards for container technology. The Docker API is at the heart of Mirantis Container Runtime and Mirantis Kubernetes Engine, which provide container technology for enterprise users.

The Benefits of Containerization

By using containers, DevOps teams can:

  • Increase productivity: Developing code for applications across environments can be complex because of the various helper applications, special packages, and more that are needed to run your code. Containerization reduces the need to modify code for different environments, allowing developers to achieve more in less time. Containerization can improve application development speed and shorten time to deployment.

  • Enhance efficiency: When containers run, they share access to the same OS kernel without needing a VM, making them lightweight. This fact means containers consume fewer resources than other methods, making IT assets go further, and they can start in seconds rather than minutes when compared to VMs. Plus, one system can run multiple containers — potentially hundreds.

  • Improve portability: Containers allow a team to create a standard environment for an app that can be used for development and testing anywhere. Then, apps can easily be moved to production environments to run.

What Is Container Orchestration?

Container orchestration is the automation of operations needed to run containerized applications at scale. While a container engine alone is sufficient to run a small number of containers, enterprises running modern applications that require high availability and scale need a way to automate operations such as assigning container workloads to appropriate nodes, handling failover, and facilitating complex networking between microservices or application components. 

Kubernetes is far and away the most popular container orchestration platform. Kubernetes is an open source project that originated at Google--today it is governed by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation.

Orchestration is directed by writing manifests — declarative descriptions of how containers should be deployed and managed. The orchestrator, like Kubernetes, then works to automate this continually. For example, it will automatically restart a failed container, or restart elsewhere all containers that were running on a node that suffers a hardware fault.

This automation encompasses processes like:

  • Provisioning and deployment

  • Managing storage for containers and enabling connectivity between and among them

  • Scaling up or down

  • Health and performance monitoring

The Importance of Container Orchestration

Teams turn to containerization for its potential efficiency gains, but the complexity of container management at scale can completely counteract this benefit. With so many businesses relying on robust DevOps teams to make their operations work, efficient solutions are a must to stay agile.

Core processes that container orchestration automates include:

  • Provisioning

  • Scaling containers up or down

  • Deployment

  • Resource allocation

  • Load balancing

  • Configuration and scheduling

  • Monitoring container health

The Benefits of Container Orchestration

Container orchestration offers major advantages to DevOps teams, including:

  • Reduces complexity: Managing containers becomes increasingly complex, especially for large businesses with hundreds or thousands of containers running simultaneously. Commonly, a workload involves many containers with different jobs, and orchestrators can scale each type of container when there's a traffic spike, and know how many copies of each to keep running all the time. Ultimately, container orchestration reduces DevOps responsibilities without sacrificing container performance. This reduction in repetitive tasks can also boost productivity for IT teams.

  • Improves security: Through container orchestration platforms, teams can manage security policies across environments for more consistent data protection. Automation, containerization and microservices also support regular updates that reduce attack surfaces and isolate application processes. With less human involvement in these updates, the chance for errors and subsequent vulnerabilities is also lower.

  • Increases availability: If one out of hundreds of containers fails, it might go unnoticed—or a server can fail and stop hundreds of containers at once. Container orchestration platforms can identify the failure as soon as it happens and restart the container, or shift workloads to a different node. With this quick response to problems, teams maintain application availability and increase uptime across the board.

  • Optimizes container usage: While container engines increase capacity, each container may need individual management, like a VM.  IT teams don't want to be focused on repetitive management tasks for containers. Container orchestration empowers DevOps teams to develop more applications and apply strategies like microservices architecture and CI/CD.

  • Improved resilience: Container orchestration systems like Kubernetes can automatically restart and scale containers and clusters when required. This automation keeps your applications more resilient as your operational needs change.

  • Increased service uptime: Automation can detect and fix issues with containers faster. While they can find these problems more quickly than a human, they can also resolve them before they lead to excess downtime.

  • Improved app quality: The repetitive management processes in containerization are challenging to handle manually, and app quality may suffer as your DevOps team tries to keep up with issues, updates, and scaling. Automation handles the factors that impact quality and leaves users more satisfied with application performance. 

  • Optimized employee productivity: Your DevOps team has better things to do than manage containers. When repetitive processes are taken care of, your team can focus on being productive on the projects that matter most. 

The Relationship Between Containerization and Container Orchestration

Containerization and orchestration are typically brought up together. Containers provide an approach to application development and deployment, and they can be used with or without an orchestration tool. Container orchestration is often a preferred method for the ease it brings to the container management process. 

Think of these concepts in terms of a warehouse operation. Each pallet is a containerized application with all dependencies included. These pallets can be transported anywhere without the contents changing, but they need to be managed in the warehouse itself. While this can be done manually with a pallet jack, there's a more efficient way. 

Container orchestration is an automated forklift that organizes these pallets on the warehouse racks. In this example, leading container orchestration tools, like Kubernetes and Swarm, are the automated forklift. As this tool moves the pallets to their rightful place on the racks and ensures the operation runs smoothly, the floor workers — the DevOps team — can focus on stocking new pallets and propelling their operation forward.

What Is Multi-Cloud Container Orchestration?

A multi-cloud computing strategy involves using services from two or more third-party cloud providers. This approach to cloud computing can help DevOps teams create the right environments for different processes. For example, one cloud infrastructure may focus on machine learning, while another specializes in data transfer. Cloud orchestration in this context involves managing containers across multiple cloud environments rather than managing them in a single infrastructure. 

Containers are isolated from their environments, so being able to use them in different cloud infrastructures is a major advantage. However, this adds another layer of complexity to management. Container orchestration helps DevOps teams track and monitor performance across these environments. Multi-cloud container orchestration can be beneficial for:

  • Reducing the risk of vendor lock-in.

  • Optimizing cloud costs.

  • Expanding scaling opportunities.

  • Improving infrastructure performance.

How to Get Started With Container Orchestration

The first step to getting started with container orchestration is finding the right platform. Container orchestration platforms are designed to streamline the process, so you reduce responsibilities for your team. Kubernetes is the leading choice and has become a standard for orchestration across industries, offering an extensive list of capabilities including:

  • Rollouts

  • Deployment

  • Storage provisioning

  • Load balancing and scaling

  • Self-healing

  • Service discovery

The open source Kubernetes project is implemented in a variety of commercially supported forms such as Mirantis Kubernetes Engine, as well as downstream open source distributions like k0s

Kubernetes is not, however, the only option available. Smaller organizations may wish to explore Swarm, a simpler orchestrator that is built into the Moby project underlying the Docker Engine. Swarm's ease-of-use makes it a good option for smaller teams new to containers (and it is also available in commercially supported form through Mirantis Kubernetes Engine). Kubernetes, meanwhile, boasts a much larger community and portfolio of open source extensions. Learn more about how to choose the right container orchestrator (or make effective use of multiple orchestrators) here

Learn About Kubernetes Solutions From Mirantis

Mirantis empowers DevOps teams with Mirantis Kubernetes Engine. Our enterprise Kubernetes solution allows your team to deploy containers at scale and supports Swarm for ultimate usability. Run Mirantis Kubernetes Engine on any cloud environment, avoid vendor lock-in, and leverage the full benefits of open source. Get in touch with us today to learn more.

Leverage Container Orchestration Solutions With Mirantis

Having access to the right resources is critical to your cloud strategy.Mirantis Kubernetes Engine is a simple, flexible, and scalable container orchestration platform backed by our experts. Manage your containerized platforms with ease and focus on app development instead of infrastructure. Use it alongsideMirantis Container Cloud and leverage the full benefits of our purpose-built tools and deep knowledge.

Contact us today to learn more orget started with a free trial. 

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