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Mastering Container Orchestration with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

Mastering Container Orchestration with Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)

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Nate
·Jan 22, 2023·

6 min read

Table of contents

  • Getting started with AKS
  • Deploying and scaling applications
  • Managing and Monitoring
  • Real World Scenarios
  • Extending AKS Capabilities
  • Summary

Containers have become a popular choice for organizations looking to run their applications in a lightweight, portable, and scalable manner. Container orchestration tools such as Kubernetes help to automate the management and scaling of containerized workloads. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is a fully managed Kubernetes service provided by Microsoft Azure that makes it easy to deploy, scale, and manage containerized applications. In this article, we will explore the best practices and techniques for mastering container orchestration with AKS.

Getting started with AKS

To get started with AKS, you first need to create an AKS cluster. This can be done through the Azure Portal, Azure CLI, or Azure PowerShell. Once the cluster is created, you can deploy your containerized workloads to the cluster using Kubernetes manifests.

Here's an example of how to create an AKS cluster using Azure CLI:

az aks create --resource-group myResourceGroup --name myAKSCluster --node-count 3

Deploying and scaling applications

Once your AKS cluster is up and running, you can deploy your containerized applications to the cluster using Kubernetes manifests. A Kubernetes manifest is a YAML file that defines the desired state of your application, including the resources needed and the configuration settings.

Here's an example of a simple Kubernetes manifest for deploying a containerized web application:

apiVersion: apps/v1
kind: Deployment
metadata:
  name: mywebapp
spec:
  replicas: 3
  selector:
    matchLabels:
      app: mywebapp
  template:
    metadata:
      labels:
        app: mywebapp
    spec:
      containers:
      - name: mywebapp
        image: myregistry/mywebapp:latest
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
        env:
        - name: ENV_VAR_1
          value: "value1"
        - name: ENV_VAR_2
          value: "value2"
        resources:
          limits:
            memory: "256Mi"
            cpu: "500m"
          requests:
            memory: "128Mi"
            cpu: "250m"
      - name: mydb
        image: myregistry/mydb:latest
        ports:
        - containerPort: 3306
        env:
        - name: MYSQL_ROOT_PASSWORD
          value: "password"

This manifest defines a deployment called "mywebapp" that consists of 3 replicas of a container running the image "myregistry/mywebapp:latest" on port 80, and another container running the image "myregistry/mydb:latest" on port 3306. It also sets some environment variables and resource limits for the containers. This is just an example of a simple manifest, but in a real-world scenario, it could include additional configurations such as volumes, liveness and readiness probes, and service discovery, among others. Once the manifest is applied to the cluster using kubectl apply -f mywebapp.yaml, the deployment and its replicas will be created on the cluster, and the environment variables and resources limits will be applied to the containers.

Scaling the application is as simple as modifying the replicas field in the manifest and reapplying it to the cluster using kubectl apply -f mywebapp.yaml. You can also use kubectl scale command to scale your application:

kubectl scale deployment mywebapp --replicas=5

Please Note:

It is generally not considered best practice to hardcode sensitive information, such as passwords, in a Kubernetes manifest file. This is because the manifest file is often stored in version control systems and could be accessed by unauthorized individuals. Additionally, if the manifest file is used to deploy the application to multiple environments, the same password will be used in all environments, which could be a security risk.

Instead, there are several methods to securely manage sensitive information when deploying to Kubernetes, such as:

  • Using Kubernetes Secrets: Kubernetes Secrets allow you to store sensitive information, such as passwords, securely and then reference them from within your manifests.

  • Using Environment Variables: You can use environment variables to store sensitive information, and then reference them from within your manifests.

  • Using External Secret Management Systems: External systems such as Hashicorp Vault, AWS Secrets Manager, or Azure Key Vault can be used to store sensitive information and then reference them from within your manifests.

It's important to note that the method you choose will depend on your organization's security requirements and infrastructure. The example I provided in the article is a simple example with the idea of illustrating how to use environment variables in a Kubernetes manifest, but in a real scenario, it's important to use one of the methods above.

It's also important to note that you should use security best practices to protect sensitive information, such as encryption, access controls, and monitoring.

Managing and Monitoring

Once your applications are deployed to the cluster, you can use Kubernetes tools such as kubectl and Azure Monitor for Kubernetes to manage and monitor your applications. You can use kubectl commands such as kubectl get pods and kubectl describe pod to view the status and details of your pods. You can also use Azure Monitor for Kubernetes to monitor the health and performance of your applications. Azure Monitor for Kubernetes provides built-in Kubernetes metrics, log collection, and alerts.

Real World Scenarios

While the concepts of deploying and scaling containerized applications with AKS may seem straightforward, understanding how to apply them in real-world scenarios can be more challenging. Here are a few examples of common scenarios where AKS can make a significant impact:

  • A retail company is running multiple microservices on-premises, and they want to migrate to the cloud, with AKS they can deploy and manage their microservices on the cloud, making their infrastructure more scalable and reliable.

  • A gaming company is running multiple game servers and wants to scale their infrastructure to handle the increased traffic during peak hours. With AKS, they can easily scale their game servers horizontally by adding additional replicas to the cluster.

  • An e-commerce platform is running multiple applications, each with different dependencies. With AKS, they can deploy each application in its own container, ensuring that the dependencies are isolated and that the applications are running in the optimal environment.

  • A startup is developing a new mobile application that uses AI and machine learning. To train their models, they need to create a powerful virtual machine with a high-performance GPU. To optimize costs, they use AKS with GPU support to spin up and down the VM as needed.

These are just a few examples of how AKS can make a significant impact in real-world scenarios. By understanding how to apply these concepts to your own workloads, you can ensure that your applications are running in the optimal environment and that you are maximizing your cloud savings.

Extending AKS Capabilities

To further optimize the use of AKS, you can also use other Azure services such as Azure Container Registry, Azure Container Instances and Azure Functions.

  • Azure Container Registry allows you to store and manage your container images in a private registry within Azure. This makes it easy to deploy and manage your containerized applications.

  • Azure Container Instances allows you to run containers directly on Azure without the need for orchestration. This can be useful for development and test scenarios or for running small, ephemeral workloads.

  • Azure Functions allows you to run serverless functions within AKS, which can be useful for running event-driven workloads and for breaking down monolithic applications into smaller, more manageable services.

Summary

In summary, mastering container orchestration with AKS can provide many benefits such as improved performance and cost-efficiency. AKS makes it easy to deploy and manage containerized applications, and provides the flexibility to use other Azure services to further optimize your infrastructure. By following the best practices and techniques for mastering container orchestration with AKS, you can ensure that your applications are running in the optimal environment and that you are maximizing your cloud savings.

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