I've been asked about hosting cloud applications in Kubernetes. People seem to assume that Kubernetes is the best practice for hosting containerized workloads in all cases. While I love Kubernetes and have used it successfully in numerous applications, It shouldn't be the default, out-of-hand, hosting solution for containerized workloads.
Kubernetes is far from the simplest solution for hosting containerized workloads. Even with cloud vendors making Kubernetes clusters more integrated and easier to manage, they are still very complex and take highly specialized administration skillsets. If you're using Azure, Containerized Instances is a comparatively more straightforward method than AKS for deploying containerized workloads. In fact, Azure has several different ways to deploy containerized workloads. Most are easier than AKS/Kubernetes.
If you're using AWS, ECS or Lambda is comparatively easier than Kubernetes. In fact, AWS has at least 17 ways to deploy containerized workloads. Incidentally, with any cloud, it's possible to create a virtual machine and run a containerized workload on it: I don't recommend this. Bottom line: Kubernetes AWS ECS, and Azure Containerized Instances are application runners.
If you adopt Kubernetes as a hosting mechanism, the benefits should pay for the additional complexity. Otherwise, the additional maintenance headaches and costs of Kubernetes are not a wise investment. That begs the question, what types of applications are most appropriate for Kubernetes? Which application types should adopt a more straightforward hosting mechanism?
As an aside, containerizing your applications is the mechanism that separates the concern of hosting from the functionality of your application. Cloud vendors have numerous ways to deploy and run containerized applications. Vendor lock-in usually isn't an issue with containerization.
Workloads Well-Suited for Kubernetes
Applications with dozens or hundreds of cloud-native services often benefit from Kubernetes. Kubernetes can handle autoscaling and availability concerns among the different services with less set-up per service. Additionally, cloud vendors have integrated their security and monitoring frameworks in a way that generally makes management of Kubernetes-hosted services homogenous with the rest of your cloud footprint.
Applications servicing multiple customers that require single-tenant deployments often benefit from Kubernetes. For these applications, there is one deployment of a set of services per "customer". For example, if there are 1000 customers, there will be 1000 deployments of the same set of services for each one. Given that the number of deployments grows and shrinks as customers come and go, Kubernetes streamlines the setup for each as well as provides constructs to keep each of the customer deployments separate.
Applications requiring custom Domain Name Services (DNS) resolution that can't be delegated to the enterprise custom DNS often benefit from Kubernetes. This is because Kubernetes has configurable internal networking capabilities. Often this happens more as a result of organizational structure than technical reasons. In many enterprises, DNS is managed by infrastructure teams and not application teams.
Applications in enterprises where IP address conservation is necessary can benefit from Kubernetes. For applications with internal services that only Kubernetes-hosted services needs access to, Kubernetes internal networking model called kubenet provides an internal network not visible outside the cluster. For example, an application with hundreds of microservices may only need to expose a small fraction of those services outside the cluster. The kubenet networking model conserves IP addresses as internal services don't need IP addressability outside the cluster.
In the cloud, we think of IP addresses as "free" and without charge. For firms with a large existing on premises network, IP address space is often not free. In most firms I've seen, on premises networks are tarballs without sensible IP address schemes. Often, nobody understands the entirety of what network CIDRs are in use and for what. Additionally, routing is often manually configured, making CIDR block additions labor-intensive.
Not every application should be hosted in Kubernetes. Simple applications with small transaction volume often don't require the additional complexity Kubernetes brings.
Thanks for taking the time to read this post. I hope this helps.
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