What Kubernetes is, what it isn’t, and How Can It Benefit Me?

So just what is Kubernetes?  Well first off, Kubernetes has to do with containers.  The official Kubernetes website defines it as Kubernetes (K8s) is an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications. Containers have been a buzzword for a while now as many companies have transformed into a container-centric infrastructure to host their applications.  By doing so, it leaves behind the dependency on an underlying OS that adds complexity to virtualized host environments.  Segregated within its container, the application operates under the illusion that it is getting its own dedicated OS instance.  It’s also isolated from other applications hosted on the same server host.  Containers offer more than just application segregation.  Because container-based applications are independent of their host environment, you can distribute their self contained ecospheres around the world quickly and easily.  Containerization is based on a three-part strategy:

  • Transform an idea into a software application and package it
  • Distribute it where you want in a scalable fashion
  • Run it in its own isolated playground so it doesn’t interfere with other applications

Kubernetes is not a replacement for Docker

So let’s start out by saying what Kubernetes isn’t.  Kubernetes is not a replacement for Docker.  Kubernetes doesn’t create the actual containers themselves.  It provides a platform to manage them.   You don’t implement Kubernetes to create a container-centric infrastructure presence as Kubernetes is not a container hosting solution.  That’s what Docker does.  Docker is an open-source technology that makes it possible to run many applications on the same servers.  It also makes it easy to package and ship applications.  Millions of applications today reside within containers across the world and Docker has become the default container format.  Like Docker, Kubernetes is a portable, extensible, open-source platform.  What it does is make Docker better.  Because they operate in tandem, the two often become incorrectly infused together.  Kubernetes is a collaborative solution that you implement along with Docker.  It is important to note that Kubernetes will work with any containerization technology, but we will use Docker as the de facto example.  

Kubernetes is an Orchestrator


So how does Kubernetes make Docker better?  Well, a key difference between the two is that Docker is a containerizing technology that makes applications easily shippable.  It provides a container based foundation for your application environment.  Kubernetes provides added features that are necessary in more complex multi-node environments.   

Kubernetes is an orchestrator in the same way that software defined networking or virtual server farms need a cluster to operate.  In fact, the name Kubernetes originates from Greek, meaning helmsman or pilot.  A big part of its orchestration is resource management.  Operating under a common resource management model, the components that makeup Kubernetes can work in conjunction to ensure that resources are neither underutilized nor oversubscribed.  The Kubernetes orchestrator also ensures proper load balancing in order to uniformly spread the application load across multiple cluster nodes.  

Who Needs Containerization?

If you have a stand-alone container environment with stable traffic, you may not have a need for Kubernetes.  If however, you have a large enterprise with mission-critical apps residing on multi-node clusters, then Kubernetes can help you overcome challenges that inevitably occur in any complex application enterprise environment.  For instance, let’s say one of your nodes goes down within your cluster.  Suddenly you need to failover containers in order to avoid workload disruption.  This is where Kubernetes takes over and saves the day.  Kubernetes can help you multiple ways including:

  • automate container provisioning
  • ensure optimized load balancing
  • automate failover and recovery
  • ensure efficient scalability within large enterprises

Kubernetes Vocabulary


To better understand Kubernetes, let’s review some of the primary components that make up the vocabulary and architecture of it.

  • Pod – this is the smallest unit and serves as the basic building block of Kubernetes, which represents a running process on your cluster.  A pod encapsulates one or more application containers along with its storage resources, IP address, and whatever options that it needs in order to function in your environment.  It represents a single instance of an application.
  • Worker Node – this can be either a virtual machine or a bare metal server.  Worker nodes host the pods.
  • Master Node – this is the managing node.  The master node assigns pods to worker nodes.

The master node serves as the orchestrator that runs control plane components of the Kubernetes cluster.  It makes global decisions concerning cluster operations and responds to cluster events.   If suddenly you need many more containers fired up to satisfy an unexpected surge in demand for your hosted application, the master node takes charge of this.  Not only does it spin up new containers, but assigns pods to containers in a way that maximizes efficiency and resources.  In other words, it doesn’t just place containers, it places them in the ideal spot to ensure your application runs optimally.  The same level of intelligence-based automation holds true if a node goes down.  The master node also manages the scheduling of pods.  By default, it schedules pods on nodes in a random fashion as resources are available.  Kubernetes can take care of all of these governing functions far more effectively than human intervention.  This makes your application infrastructure far more robust, able to overcome any possible disruption so that it doesn’t actually become one.  

Summary


Kubernetes works very well within Azure application environments.  In fact, all of the major cloud service providers support Kubernetes.  At Xcelacore, we have years of experience working with container-based applications.  Whether it’s creating software to be run in the most complex of environments or conducting extensive QA testing for multi-node container-based applications, we have the experience and expertise to ensure your applications achieve the performance and value that you expect. 

Why RPA is Ideal for Today’s Remote Workforce

It seems that a multitude of people are writing blogs about how their company has a solution to help you implement a remote work program. Remote work has undoubtedly been one of the top buzzwords for businesses over the past three months. Another buzzword that we hear with increasing frequency is densification. Not only is the maximum capacity of your favorite restaurant or cruise ship likely to be reduced for the foreseeable future, but densification analysis is being discussed throughout corporate boardrooms. That is because businesses cannot afford another disruption of this magnitude and scale. No longer will all employees be clustered in dense capacity within any given location. Companies are beginning to look at incorporating resilient architectures into their personnel workflows in the same way they created redundant computer networks. While some employees will return to their assigned office at some point later this year, many will not, thanks to the advanced technologies of today. So here is a possible solution, Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

RPA is the New Buzzword

You may not be as familiar with the concept of RPA as the concept of remote work, but the interest in RPA was growing long before COVID-19. According to Gartner, the RPA software market grew by 63 percent in 2018, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market. AT that time, Gartner expected for RPA software revenue to reach $1.3 billion in 2019. According to Forrester, that figure will rise to $2.9 billion by 2021.  

All of these stats and figures, however, were made before the remote work movement that the recent pandemic environment fast-tracked overnight. As a result, the interest in RPA is surging at an accelerated pace as well. That’s because RPA enhances the feasibility of remote work. RPA technology makes it easier and more effective for even highly essential employees to operate from remote workspaces.

What is Remote Process Automation?

We have written about RPA in past blogs. RPA is a technology that allows you to configure computer software, or software bot, to perform mundane digital tasks traditionally performed by humans that are required to execute a given business process. RPA tools can emulate and mimic the way that humans interact with software. For instance, no one enjoys the task of logging into an application and moving files and folders or performing endless copy/paste rituals on the computer. If you watched the software interaction taking place on the monitor itself, you would conclude a human was conducting the session. The automation of tedious manual tasks as well as rule-based business processes not only enhances the involved processes but also enriches the work experience of human workers, enabling them to dedicate their time and talents on more value-added projects. RPA can also interpret events and data to trigger responses as well as communicate with other systems.

How RPA Enhances the Remote Work Experience

While many of your employees might be working from home, there usually has to be someone in the back office attending to business processes that must be performed onsite. Also, many remote workers are required to come back to the office at some point to perform some trivial tasks that cannot be performed from the safety and convenience of home. With software bots attending to such matters back at the home office, employees can remain undaunted at their remote site. RPA tools can integrate with your collaboration software to streamline meetings and keep team members informed and up to date. Software bots can check the calendar updates of teammates and issue emails summarizing daily meetings. Take an example of a new employee who is unfamiliar with the company’s CRM software or other complex application. Rather than acquiring assistance from another employee for help, an RPA enabled bot can perform all of the necessary mouse clicks and keystrokes to navigate to where they need to be within the application.  

Other Benefits

As stated earlier, the value of robotic process automation was recognized long before the recent remote work paradigm. That’s because RPA brings a lot of value regardless of whether employees work in or out of the office. Productivity is the most significant advantage of RPA. RPA enabled bots never have to sleep or take breaks so that work can be performed on a 24/7 basis without simple interruptions. Tasks are performed with perfection and precision every time. Just think about how often a user types in the wrong password by accident. All of those little errors add up over time, and time is money. RPA results in greater reliability and reduced risk for your given processes as well. Plus, employee turnover is a thing of the past when you have bots working for you.

Xcelacore Can Help

The dawning of remote work is here, making companies even more reliant on technology. At Xcelacore, we believe that technology is the doorway to endless possibilities. We invite you to speak with our technology subject matter experts to show you how RPA and other technologies can augment and solidify your remote work strategy.