Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS): What Is It and Why Do We Use It?

What is Azure Kubernetes Service?

Microsoft Azure is a world-renown cloud platform for SMBs to large scale business, while Kubernetes is a modern-day approach that is rapidly becoming the regular methodology to manage cloud-native applications in a production environment. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) has brought both solutions together that allow customers to create fully-managed Kubernetes clusters quickly and easily.

AKS is an open-source fully managed container orchestration service that became available in June 2018 and is available on the Microsoft Azure public cloud that can be used to deploy, scale and manage Docker containers and container-based applications in a cluster environment.

Azure Kubernetes Service offers provisioning, scaling, and upgrades of resources as per requirement or demand without any downtime in the Kubernetes cluster and the best thing about AKS is that you don’t require deep knowledge and expertise in container orchestration to manage AKS.

AKS is certainly an ideal platform for developers to develop their modern applications using Kubernetes on the Azure architecture where Azure Container Instances are the pretty right choice to deploy containers on the public cloud. The Azure Container Instances help in reducing the stress on developers to deploy and run their applications on Kubernetes architecture.

To learn more about Kubernetes, check out Cloud Academy’s Introduction to Kubernetes. This is the second course in the Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) Exam Preparation Learning Path and will teach you all about Kubernetes, including what it is and how to use it.

Introduction to Kubernetes

Azure Kubernetes Service Benefits

Azure Kubernetes Service is currently competing with both Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (EKS) and Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE). It offers numerous features such as creating, managing, scaling, and monitoring Azure Kubernetes Clusters, which is attractive for users of Microsoft Azure. The following are some benefits offered by AKS:

  • Efficient resource utilization: The fully managed AKS offers easy deployment and management of containerized applications with efficient resource utilization that elastically provisions additional resources without the headache of managing the Kubernetes infrastructure.
  • Faster application development: Developers spent most of the time on bug-fixing. AKS reduces the debugging time while handling patching, auto-upgrades, and self-healing and simplifies the container orchestration. It definitely saves a lot of time and developers will focus on developing their apps while remaining more productive.
  • Security and compliance: Cybersecurity is one of the most important aspects of modern applications and businesses. AKS integrates with Azure Active Directory (AD) and offers on-demand access to the users to greatly reduce threats and risks. AKS is also completely compliant with the standards and regulatory requirements such as System and Organization Controls (SOC), HIPAA, ISO, and PCI DSS.
  • Quicker development and integration: Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) supports auto-upgrades, monitoring, and scaling and helps in minimizing the infrastructure maintenance that leads to comparatively faster development and integration. It also supports provisioning additional compute resources in Serverless Kubernetes within seconds without worrying about managing the Kubernetes infrastructure.

Azure Kubernetes Service Features

Microsoft Azure offers Azure Kubernetes Service that simplifies managed Kubernetes cluster deployment in the public cloud environment and also manages health and monitoring of managed Kubernetes service. Customers can create AKS clusters using the Azure portal or Azure CLI and can manage the agent nodes.

A template-based deployment using Terraform and Resource Manager templates can also be chosen to deploy the AKS cluster that manages the auto-configuration of master and worker nodes of the Kubernetes cluster. Some additional features such as advanced networking, monitoring, and Azure AD integration can also be configured. Let’s take a look into the features that Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) offers:

Open-source environment with enterprise commitment

Microsoft has inducted the number of employees in last couple of years to make Kubernetes easier for the businesses and developers to use and participate in open-source projects and became the third giant contributor to make Kubernetes more business-oriented, cloud-native, and accessible by bringing the best practices and advanced learning with diverse customers and users to the Kubernetes community.

Nodes and clusters

In AKS, apps and supporting services are run on Kubernetes nodes and the AKS cluster is a combination of one or more than one node. And, these AKS nodes are run on Azure Virtual Machines. Nodes that are configured with the same configuration are grouped together called node pool. Nodes in the Kubernetes cluster are scaled-up and scaled-down according to the resources are required in the cluster. So, nodes, clusters, and node pools are the most prominent components of your Azure Kubernetes environment.

Role-based access control (RBAC)

AKS easily integrates with Azure Active Directory (AD) to provide role-based access, security, and monitoring of Kubernetes architecture on the basis of identity and group membership. You can also monitor the performance of your AKS and the apps.

Integration of development tools

Another important feature of AKS is the development tools such as Helm and Draft are seamlessly integrated with AKS where Azure Dev Spaces can provide a quicker and iterative Kubernetes development experience to the developers. Containers can be run and debugged directly in Azure Kubernetes environment with less stress on the configuration.

AKS also offers support for Docker image format and can also integrate with Azure Container Registry (ACR) to provide private storage for Docker images. And, regular compliance with the industry standards such as System and Organization Controls (SOC), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and ISO make AKS more reliable across various business.

Running any workload in Azure Kubernetes Service

You can orchestrate any type of workload running in the AKS environment. You can move .NET apps to Windows Server containers, modernize Java apps in Linux containers, or run microservices in Azure Kubernetes Service. AKS will run any type of workload in the cluster environment.

Removes complexities

AKS removes your implementation, installation, maintenance, and security complexities in Azure cloud architecture. It also reduces substantial costs where no per-cluster charges are being imposed on you.

Azure Kubernetes Service Use Cases

We’ll take a look at different use cases where AKS can be used.

  • Migration of existing applications: You can easily migrate existing apps to containers and run them with Azure Kubernetes Service. You can also control access via Azure AD integration and SLA-based Azure Services like Azure Database using Open Service Broker for Azure (OSBA).
  • Simplifying the configuration and management of microservices-based Apps: You can also simplify the development and management of microservices-based apps as well as streamline load balancing, horizontal scaling, self-healing, and secret management with AKS.
  • Bringing DevOps and Kubernetes together: AKS is also a reliable resource to bring Kubernetes and DevOps together for securing DevOps implementation with Kubernetes. Bringing both together, it improves the security and speed of the development process with Continuous Integration and Continuous Delivery (CI/CD) with dynamic policy controls.
  • Ease of scaling: AKS can also be applied in many other use cases such as ease of scaling by using Azure Container Instances (ACI) and AKS. By doing this, you can use AKS virtual node to provision pods inside Azure Container Instance (ACI) that start within a few seconds and enables AKS to run with required resources. If your AKS cluster is run out of resources, if will scale-out additional pods automatically without any additional servers to manage in the Kubernetes environment.
  • Data streaming: AKS can also be used to ingest and process real-time data streams with data points via sensors and perform quick analysis.

Azure Kubernetes Service Pricing

AKS is a free container service where nothing will be charged for Kubernetes cluster management. You’ll have to pay only for the cloud resources such as VMs, storage, and network resources you consume makes it the most cost-effective container orchestration service in the market. Microsoft Azure introduced the Container Services calculator to calculate the estimated cost of the consumed or required resources.

For this, all you need to create a free account, deploy and manage your Kubernetes environment while building microservices apps, deploying Kubernetes cluster, monitoring, and managing Kubernetes environment.

Conclusion

Businesses are transforming from on-premises to the cloud very quickly while building and managing modern and cloud-native applications. Kubernetes is one of the solutions that is open-sourced and supports building and deploying cloud-native apps with complete orchestration. Azure Kubernetes Service is a robust and cost-effective container orchestration service that helps you to deploy and manage containerized applications in seconds where additional resources are assigned automatically without the headache of managing additional servers.

AKS nodes are scaled-out automatically as the demand increases. It has numerous benefits such as security with role-based access, easy integration with other development tools, and running any workload in the Kubernetes cluster environment. It also offers efficient utilization of resources, removes complexities, easily scaled-out, and migrates any existing workload to a containerized environment and all containerized resources can be accessed via the AKS management portal or AKS CLI.

Nisar Ahmad

Written by

Nisar Ahmad

Nisar is a Systems Engineer, double VCP6 (DCV & NV), vExpert 2017-19, and owner of tech blog, myvirtualjourney.com, with 10 years experience of administering and managing data center environments using VMware and Microsoft technologies. He is a passionate technical writer and loves to write on virtualization, cloud computing, hyperconvergence (HCI), cybersecurity, and backup & recovery solutions.


Related Posts