Sep 28, 2020

An intro to Kubernetes: the future is containerised

Harry Menear
3 min
Courtesy of Kubernetes
Welcome to Data Centre Magazine’s crash course in Kubernetes, the platform that powers the modern data centre...

Kubernetes - a name which means helmsman or pilot in the original Greek - is one of the most powerful, scalable and widely-used platforms for running production workloads in the world. Thousands of enterprises use it to automate functions, and manage containerised workloads. Kubernetes is one of the most vital software elements present in most modern data centres, but what is it? 

This week, Data Centre Magazine is bringing you a crash course in Kubernetes to help you better understand and operate your data centre software. 

The Best of Both Worlds (Part 1)

The Kubernetes platform is based on Google’s own internal platform, Borg. In fact, the seven spokes in the Kubernetes logo are a reference to its original name: Project Seven of Nine. 

So, setting aside the fact that the world is run by nerds (something we should probably be grateful for), what is Kubernetes?

The Kubernetes project was originally launched in 2014. In simple terms, the platform is an open source container orchestration tool that allows developers to automate many of the processes when deploying and running applications in a software architecture. 

Containers are a way of packaging an application, along with all its runtime dependencies. This basically separates the application from the wider software architecture, ensuring that it displays the same behaviours each time it’s run, since without containers, changes elsewhere in the host infrastructure can have some seriously screwy effects on the outcome of running an application. 

A traditional deployment would have no way of defining resource boundaries for applications in a physical server. The Kubernetes blog notes that, “For example, if multiple applications run on a physical server, there can be instances where one application would take up most of the resources, and as a result, the other applications would underperform.” 

With the addition of containers and virtual machines to enterprise networks, IT teams have access to increased agility, continuous deployment and increased transparency into their networks. 

What can you do with Kubernetes?

As a data centre operator or colocation services provider, you have to oversee and execute hundreds - if not thousands - of workloads every day. Updates are a regular occurrence and uptime is non-negotiable. Kubernetes’ containerisation software allows you to introduce an unparalleled level of resilience and scalability into your system when managing operations and the virtual machines that make up a cloud or hybrid data centre. 

In the same way that virtual machines replaced physical servers over the last decade, the Kubernetes style container is now replacing the virtual machine as the foundation of the modern IT business model. The landscape that this container-first approach is creating is already well-populated by public cloud platforms with the potential to completely restructure the way that the modern data centre operates. 

Google Kubernetes Engine, Azure Kubernetes Service, IBM Cloud Kubernetes Service, Amazon Elastic Container Service for Kubernetes, Pivotal Container Service, VMware Kubernetes Engine, and the grandfather of all containerised platforms Red Hat's OpenShift Online, are all helping deliver containers-as-a-service (CaaS) as the future of IT architecture. 

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Jun 6, 2021

Unlocking the next chapter of the digital revolution

Tim Loake
5 min
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies highlights the importance of often-overlooked digital infrastructure

As the world retreated to a hybrid world in 2020, our reliance on technology took the spotlight. But it was the jazzy new social and video calling platforms that took the encore. Behind the scenes, our servers worked overtime, keeping us connected and maintaining the drumbeat of always-on newly digital services.  Let’s take a moment to pay our respect to the unsung technology heroes of the pandemic – the often-forgotten IT infrastructure keeping us connected come what may. After all, as we look ahead to more resilient futures, they will be playing a central role.

Servers could be likened to our plumbing – vital to well-functioning homes but rarely top of mind so long as it is functioning. Never seen, rarely heard – our servers do all the graft with little praise. But it is essential to reflect on the incremental advances in GPU and CPU power, which have paved the way for new workloads that previously were not possible. Chatbots and native language processing that provide essential customer touchpoints for businesses across the retail and banking sectors rely on powerful servers. They also keep businesses competitive and customers happy in an always-on world. 

Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies
Tim Loake, Vice President, Infrastructure Solutions Group, UK at Dell Technologies

Serving workplace transformation

But, as businesses grappled with pandemic disruptions, the focus was largely on adopting connected devices – and awe at the rapid increase in the datasphere.  As they reined in their budgets and attempted to do more with less, one aspect was perhaps overlooked—those hard working servers.

When it came to building resilience into a newly remote workforce, the initial concern was focused on the device endpoints – keeping employees productive.  Many companies did not initially consider whether they had the server infrastructure to enable the entire workforce to log in remotely at the same time. As a result, many experienced a plethora of teething problems: virtual office crashes, long waits to get on servers, and sluggish internet connectivity and application performance, often rendering the shiny new PC frustrating and useless.

Most businesses only had a few outward-facing servers that could authenticate remote workers – a vital gateway as the vector for cyber hacks and attacks increased exponentially. That’s not to mention the fact that many business applications simply weren’t designed to work with the latency required for people working from home. What businesses discovered at that moment was that their plumbing was out of date.  

Business and IT leaders quickly realised that to stay ahead of the curve in the hybrid working world, a renewed focus on building agile, adaptable, and flexible IT infrastructures was critical. More importantly, it accelerated the inevitable digital transformation that would keep them competitive in a data-driven economy. It is now abundantly clear to businesses that they need IT infrastructure to meet the demands of diverse workloads – derive intelligent insights from data, deploy applications effectively, and enhance data management and security.  

Ripe for a digital revolution

Unsurprisingly, IDC noted that there was an increase in purchases of server infrastructure to support changing workloads. However, it also forecasts this uptick will be sustainable and last beyond the pandemic. As the economy begins to reopen, business leaders are looking ahead. IT will continue to play a crucial role in 2021 and beyond – and we have already set the foundations for the digital revolution with next-generation servers. 

As we enter the zettabyte era, new innovative technologies are coming on stream, with 5G turbocharging IoT and putting edge computing to work.  Exciting new services improved day-to-day efficiencies, and the transformation of our digital society will be underpinned by resilient IT infrastructures.  By embracing the technological innovations of our next-generation servers, businesses keep pace with the coming data deluge.

The next generation of server architecture promises more power with less heat, thanks to improved, directed airflow, and direct liquid cooling, resulting in reduced operational costs and environmental impact. As we rebuild post-pandemic, manufacturers and customers alike strive to achieve ever more challenging sustainability goals. With this in mind, a focus on environmentally responsible design is imperative for the servers of tomorrow -  uniquely designed chassis for adaptive cooling and more efficient power consumption will be critical, improving energy efficiency generation over generation.

The most notable evolution is the configuration of these next-gen servers around more specific organisational needs. Unlike clunky and often unstable legacy infrastructure, the infrastructure of tomorrow will be sturdier and more modular. The next iteration is streamlined, and in this modular form, can be more easily tailored to business needs. This equates to essential cost savings as businesses only pay for what they use.  

Resolving the problem of the future, today

Tomorrow's IT challenges will focus on response times and latency as Edge and 5G technologies go mainstream. As businesses develop new and innovative services that utilise supercharged connectivity and real-time analytics, staying on top of these challenges will give them a competitive edge. For example, in the world of retail, automation will power new virtual security guards and even the slightest delay in the data relay could result in financial loss. 

Similarly, in the smart cities of tomorrow, the network must be responsive. With city-centre traffic lights controlled by an AI-powered camera that monitors pedestrians, delays in data transfers could cost the life of an elderly pedestrian who has fallen in the road. The stakes are far higher in a 5G-enabled world. As our reliance on technology deepens, the margins for error narrow, placing greater emphasis on the efficiency of those critical underpinning technologies.

Fully enabling the hybrid work model today is just a stepping-stone towards more fluid, tech-enabled lives. A work Zoom call from an automated vehicle on-route to an intelligent transport hub is a highly probable vision of our future. But it requires incredible amounts of compute and seamless data transfers to make it possible. These glossy snapshots need super servers to come to life, making that IT plumbing glisten with next-gen innovation essential. Without exemplary server architecture, we risk future tech advances and the human progression that it enables. 

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