App development and deployment is an ever-evolving and highly competitive industry. These days, that means looking at ways to ensure apps work across a variety of platforms and devices. This, invariably, means exploring the container environment, where products like Kubernetes and Docker rule. But what is Kubernetes? Is it just another version of Docker, or something completely different?

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Kubernetes: The Basics

Kubernetes, also known as Kube or K8s, is a creation of Google and began life in 2013 and went open source in 2014. A team within Google pitched the idea of taking Borg, their ultra-competitive task scheduler, and expanding upon it to create an external, open source system for container management.

It helps to understand that Google used containers for over a decade before this. They created Borg to run the literal thousands of jobs needed to make Google services efficient and useful. Turning this into an open source project was a way to help users of the Google Cloud Platform and Google Compute Engine make the most of their services without having to rely on virtual machines (VMS). VMs can take up a lot of space, both virtually and physically, so being able to move away from this way of working had numerous benefits.

Kube started out life as Seven of Nine, an homage to its ancestor, Borg. That name lives on in the current logo, which is a seven-spoked ship’s wheel. The final name, Kubernetes, means Pilot or Helmsman in Ancient Greek, and indeed, for many developers, this system helps get them where they need to be.

What you can do with Kubernetes

Kubernetes allows users to schedule and run containers via clusters of machines, whether physical or virtual. Developers use Kubernetes patterns to make cloud-native apps using the system as a runtime platform. Some of the tasks developers use Kubernetes for include:

  • Container orchestration when containers exist across multiple hosts
  • Staying in control of application updates via automated tasks
  • Autoscaling and autoreplication
  • Scaling containerized applications on the go
  • Maximizing hardware resources

Kubernetes works with a range of other container-related services and software to fully unlock its potential. The focus is on automating a range of tasks to make running apps via multiple containers as painless as possible, and to reduce the amount of work that has to happen manually and in real time.

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Kubernetes Pros and Cons

Kubernetes might be the go-to system for managing containers across clusters, but are there any downsides to using it? And what are the real benefits?

Pros

  • Stay future proof by embracing containerized technology
  • Most competitors are using Kubernetes technology at their core anyway
  • Widely used across the industry so heavily supported
  • It can self-heal using a variety of functions
  • Allows one administrator to manage multiple containers
  • No limits to the type of applications supported
  • Can provide individual IP addresses or a single DNS name for single pods or a set of pods

Cons

  • In simpler systems, Kubernetes might be overly complex
  • Using the system for simple systems might compromise efficiency
  • Some developers have stated that there is a steep learning curve with the system
  • This means transitioning to K8x can be a slow process, depending on the training and knowledge base available

Clearly, Kube exists to support development projects which need the functionality of multiple containers. It will be up to your business and your business’s devops team to decide which container-based solution is right for you. Talking to an expert like Iron.io can help you to understand which containerized technologies are right for the scale of your project.

Kubernetes
docker logo

Kubernetes vs Docker

Although this is a much-considered question, asking which is better, Kubernetes vs Docker, doesn’t really make sense. As we’ve explored in this blog, Kubernetes and Docker do different tasks, and when used correctly, can actually complement each other. It’s not a case of one or the other, but one or both.

Microsoft quirkily coined this question as “comparing apples to apple pie,” and that’s actually a great metaphor. K8s and Docker can work together to build, deliver, and scale your containerized apps. Docker is about creating images that, when run, become containers that run securely either on your premises or via the cloud. K8s is more about the “how, when, and where,” allowing developers to control and orchestrate multiple containers across a range of hosts. Docker is about creating and running your containers, whereas Kube is about looking after them and keeping them all in check.

Docker Swarm is closer in definition to Kubernetes, and focuses on managing multiple Docker containers using the Docker ecosystem and API. However, it is both common and desirable to utilize the advantages of both Docker and Kube to get the most out of the Docker environment.

IronWorker

IronWorker and Containers

IronWorker is the container management software with the edge of a thorough understanding of the modern cloud and the services that work best on it. You can streamline your business’s processes to make life simpler for you and your staff, by running a range of tasks asynchronously in the background. We utilize Docker, Kubernetes, and a range of other services that help maximize your digital presence and experience.

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