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Kubernetes

The Role of Kubernetes in DevOps – Use Cases & Other Tools

kubernetes devops

In this article, we’ll explore the benefits of Kubernetes DevOps strategies and answer some key questions about its use. We’ll also examine how Kubernetes contributes to DevOps best practices, including CI/CD, GitOps, and Infrastructure as Code (IaC).

What we’ll cover:

  1. What is DevOps?
  2. What is Kubernetes?
  3. How is Kubernetes used in DevOps?
  4. Reasons why you should use Kubernetes for DevOps
  5. How does Kubernetes fit with other DevOps tools and best practices?
  6. Kubernetes and DevOps – FAQ

What is DevOps?

DevOps is a software delivery methodology that emphasizes increased integration between development and operations tasks. It combines automation, collaboration, and communication to shorten feedback loops and permit higher throughput without sacrificing quality.

See a DevOps pipeline example below:

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestrator that automates the process of deploying, scaling, and operating production apps as highly available, fault-tolerant microservices. It is one of the tools commonly used to achieve DevOps objectives, which simplifies development work by providing a stable foundation for self-service access workflows, CI/CD pipelines, and centralized management of internal platforms.

How is Kubernetes used in DevOps?

Kubernetes is used in DevOps to manage and automate the deployment, scaling, and operation of containerized applications. Kubernetes enhances DevOps practices by providing a platform that automates key app development, deployment, and maintenance tasks. It allows you to operate your workloads as containerized microservices in a distributed environment, offering high availability and redundancy to improve the reliability of your delivery process.

Deployment consistency

Using containers and Kubernetes also enhances the consistency of your deployments. Developers and operators can be sure a containerized app will behave in the same way, whether it’s running in a local Kubernetes cluster on a workstation or a production environment that includes hundreds or thousands of compute nodes. 

The Kubernetes ecosystem makes systems more modular, reusable, and approachable through tools such as Helm charts and Kustomize that let you deploy multiple instances of an app without duplicating any configuration.

Collaboration

DevOps is all about building tighter feedback loops between development and operations teams, facilitating improved collaboration opportunities. Kubernetes fulfills this by allowing everyone to work in one environment using the same declarative config files. 

Developers can focus on creating apps and the Kubernetes manifests that deploy them while operators provision Kubernetes clusters, perform capacity and reliability optimizations, and monitor for problems. Because both groups are interacting with the same platform, Kubernetes makes it easier to coordinate tasks and observe the effects of changes made by the other team.

Self-service

Kubernetes features such as RBAC, network policies, resource quotas, and namespaces also make it ideal for managing development environments. You can configure Kubernetes for secure multi-tenancy, allowing different Dev and Ops teams to have their own isolated cluster workspaces.

The possibility of safe self-service access also helps devs efficiently interact with relevant resources as they’re needed, shortening the time required to collect logs from production environments or start a new test deployment.

Reasons why you should use Kubernetes for DevOps

There are several reasons why DevOps teams choose Kubernetes to deploy their workloads and manage their software delivery process. Below are some of the main benefits that Kubernetes provides.

1. Scalability

Kubernetes permits effortless scalability. You can increase or reduce an app’s replica count at any time, in response to changes in demand. Horizontal and vertical auto-scaling support means these changes can be fully automated, ensuring optimal cluster utilization that improves efficiency and reduces costs.

These dependable scaling options allow you to maintain consistent performance for your production apps and ensure your clusters can cope with spikes in development activity. For example, if a developer needs to create a new test environment, correct auto-scaling configuration would ensure a new node is automatically provisioned if there’s currently insufficient cluster capacity. This removes obstacles from the DevOps cycle.

2. Declarative IaC

Kubernetes lets you define the state of your resources using a declarative IaC approach. This helps improve the consistency of configuration throughout the DevOps lifecycle. Furthermore, Kubernetes is easy to integrate with GitOps tooling, permitting fully automated deployment based on detected changes to your config files. This removes the need for developers to manually run error-prone scripts or remember complex terminal commands.

3. Rolling updates

Kubernetes supports rolling updates for improved deployment safety. You can also use tools like Argo Rollouts to simplify the implementation of advanced rollout strategies, such as canary and blue-green deployments. 

The core Argo Rollouts workflow is as follows:

argo rollouts diagram

This provides more opportunities to conduct tests in production-like environments, report the findings to developers, and fix issues before they’re discovered by users.

4. Support for development and production use cases

Kubernetes is most commonly cited as a tool for operating production systems, but its use as a developer tool is quickly growing, too. You can use Kubernetes to standardize your infrastructure configuration across all environments, allowing developers and operators to align around a single common toolchain.

This ensures development work benefits from the same scalability, safety, and ease of management advantages as your production deployments. Because developers use the same tools as the ops teams who maintain production, it’s also easier to anticipate the potential cause of problems—regardless of where they’re first experienced.

5. Extensible platform and Kubernetes environment

Kubernetes is an extensible system that you can use to build your own development platform. Custom resources allow you to register unique objects with the Kubernetes API, while the operator model helps to automate the deployment of complex apps from minimal configuration. This lets you transform Kubernetes from simply orchestrating containers to fully managing your services and DevOps delivery process.

Let’s take a look at an example. This is a Postgres Operator, which you can use to apply the manifest to start a Postgres deployment with 1 Gi of persistent storage, automatic service discovery, and a preconfigured database user account:

apiVersion: acid.zalan.do/v1
kind: postgresql
metadata:
  name: postgres-cluster
spec:
  volume:
    size: 1Gi
  numberOfInstances: 3
  users:
    demo-user:
      - superuser
      - createdb
  databases:
    demo-user: demo-db
  postgresql:
    version: "15"

This operator creates a StatefulSet, Service, and Volume for the deployment. The administrator doesn’t need to be aware of these details; only supply the relevant parameters to configure the Postgres instance.

6. Cross-discipline collaboration

Kubernetes untangles cross-discipline collaboration between developers, operators, and other stakeholders such as security and compliance teams. Everyone can interact with the same infrastructure resources to deploy apps, monitor for problems, and conduct security scans. Standardization facilitates more efficient DevOps, where teams can work closely with their neighbors to analyze problems and design optimal solutions.

7. Self-service and on-demand infrastructure

Kubernetes is the ideal platform for providing on-demand, self-service infrastructure access. Allowing developers to create isolated virtual clusters to build and test changes reduces the time spent dealing with deployment-related issues on local hardware.

Devs can also easily open up access to their peers and other teams, making it easier to collect feedback without having to create individual deployments each time. Kubernetes features, including RBAC and admission policies ensure it’s possible to tightly enforce what users can do in the Kubernetes cluster, maintaining correct security and compliance guardrails.

How does Kubernetes fit with other DevOps tools and best practices?

Kubernetes pairs with other tools to facilitate the implementation of DevOps best practices. By providing a consistent platform for your development and operations tasks, it’s easier to achieve key workflows, including:

CI/CD pipelines

Continuous integration and delivery pipelines automate the process of taking code from commit to deployment. You can use Kubernetes to host your pipeline’s jobs, improving their scalability and reliability.

Although Kubernetes can be complicated to get started with, you can simplify your experience using Spacelift. Spacelift is an IaC management platform that provides CI/CD for Kubernetes, allowing you to provision new Kubernetes clusters and apply changes straight from your GitHub pull requests. This makes it easier to access the benefits of Kubernetes within your DevOps workflow.

Your team can collaborate on infrastructure changes right from your pull requests. Spacelift lets you visualize your resources, enable self-service access, and protect against configuration drift.

Use Spacelift to manage your Kubernetes clusters without directly interacting with your cloud providers or IaC tools like Terraform, OpenTofu, Pulumi, or CloudFormation. For example, you can create a Spacelift stack that provisions a new AWS EKS cluster with Terraform, giving team members the ability to safely test their changes on demand.

Infrastructure as Code (IaC)

IaC lets you define your infrastructure’s configuration as versioned files in a source repository. Kubernetes provides IaC for your app’s components through its use of declarative resource manifest files, while you can use external IaC tools like Terraform to automate Kubernetes cluster provisioning.

Spacelift also has you covered when it comes to deploying a cluster and then deploying your application inside it. To learn more, check out: How to Maintain Operations Around Kubernetes Clusters.

GitOps

GitOps is an IaC extension that automates the entire software delivery process based on the content of your source repositories. When content in the repository changes, infrastructure updates, and new app deployments are automatically applied. Purpose-built tools such as Argo CD and Flux CD make it simple to set up GitOps workflows in Kubernetes.

Observability

Effective monitoring is an essential part of DevOps, as you need to detect errors and performance issues affecting your workloads. Kubernetes can be easily integrated with observability suites to collect vital app metrics and logs, such as the popular Prometheus and Grafana stack.

Prometheus and Grafana stack

You can implement these mechanisms without using Kubernetes, but this is often more complex, less consistent, and harder to manage at scale.

Kubernetes DevOps — FAQs

Do you have questions about Kubernetes and DevOps? Here are a few common queries.

What are the components of Kubernetes?

The Kubernetes architecture includes several components that work together to establish a functioning cluster. The control plane is responsible for managing the cluster’s operations; it provides the API you interact with, schedules Pods to Nodes, and stores the cluster’s data. The Nodes are the physical hardware, virtual machines, or cloud instances that provide the cluster’s compute capacity and run your containers. 

An example of a Kubernetes architecture diagram:

kubernetes-architecture-diagram

This distributed architecture means Kubernetes is highly fault-tolerant and adaptable to many DevOps use cases, from production apps to CI/CD pipelines.

Is Kubernetes enough for DevOps?

Many teams use Kubernetes as their main DevOps platform. However, Kubernetes alone isn’t enough to fully implement an effective DevOps workflow. You need to supplement it with cloud accounts, a source control provider, and a CI/CD service to build and deliver your apps. 

Observability solutions such as Prometheus and Grafana should also be used to monitor performance, detect errors, and iterate on your processes.

Is Kubernetes for Developers or DevOps?

Kubernetes is designed for both Developers and DevOps teams. For developers, it provides a seamless environment to deploy and scale applications, allowing them to focus primarily on writing code and improving functionality. Kubernetes abstracts away many of the complexities of infrastructure management, enabling developers to work more efficiently. On the DevOps side, Kubernetes comprehensive tools to manage infrastructure, automate deployments, and ensure high availability, streamlining operations and enhancing system reliability.

Why is Kubernetes complicated?

Kubernetes introduces a significant level of complexity due to the numerous components and configurations required for effective cluster management. Although it offers powerful capabilities for automating deployment, scaling, and operations of application containers, mastering Kubernetes demands a deep understanding of its architecture and best practices. This complexity can be challenging, especially for teams without prior experience in container orchestration.

Read more: Common Kubernetes Pitfalls & Challenges

How is Kubernetes different from Docker?

Kubernetes and Docker are often used together by DevOps teams. They both revolve around containers, but while Docker is used to create and run containers on a single host, Kubernetes is for operating containers in distributed environments that span multiple physical hosts. This provides the redundancy and fault tolerance that are critical for production apps and busy development teams. Kubernetes also provides a simple centralized management experience, including security controls and direct cloud integrations.

Key points

DevOps is a cultural movement that integrates development and operations tasks. Kubernetes supports this objective by offering a unique combination of features that make it easier to manage containers throughout the complete software delivery lifecycle. Kubernetes environments provide a flexible and scalable platform for developing, testing, and deploying Kubernetes applications across multiple cloud and on-premises infrastructures.

You can use Kubernetes to host CI/CD pipelines, configure self-service development environments, combine them with tools for infrastructure automation, and run your production apps with high availability, scalability, and fault tolerance. It also facilitates efficient inter-team collaboration and helps you seamlessly deploy workloads to multiple environments, removing roadblocks from your development cycle.

Don’t forget to test Spacelift for free by creating a trial account or booking a demo with one of our engineers.

Manage Kubernetes Easier and Faster

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