Getting Started with Kubernetes

Posted by Graham Smith on February 1, 2018No Comments (click here to comment)

If you've been following the containers story you'll probably know that 2017 was a big year for Docker. You may also know that 2018 looks set to be a big year for Kubernetes, "an open-source system for automating deployment, scaling, and management of containerized applications". There are several systems competing in the same space as Kubernetes but for many the jury has voted and Kubernetes is the winner.

For many of us ‘containerized applications' means applications that have been containerised using Docker, and if you've been learning and working with Docker then learning Kubernetes is an obvious next step. I've been learning Kubernetes for a couple of months now and in this post I share some of the resource links that I've found most useful and provide pointers to the different ways I've created Kubernetes environments to provide practical hands-on experience.

Learning Resources

Run Kubernetes on your Development Machine Using Minikube

A quick and easy way to get started with Kubernetes is to install Minikube on your development machine. Minikube is a tool that runs a single-node Kubernetes cluster on a virtual machine running on your laptop or workstation. You can find the installation guide here and the getting started guide here. I installed Minikube on my Windows 10 workstation running Hyper-V and the minikube start command just worked. Don't forget you'll need to install kubectl as well as Minikube. As part of the installation process a kubeconfig file is created at %userprofile%\.kube\config (config is the actual file) which ‘connects' kubectl to Minikube. If you are connecting to different Kubernetes installations from your development machine you'll need to manage kubeconfig files—see later for more details.

If you've got Minikube installed and working you might be wondering what next, especially if you are a Windows user as the documentation isn't hugely Windows-friendly. If you are in this situation head over to this Getting Started with Kubernetes on your Windows Laptop with Minikube tutorial. Skip past the installation instructions to Starting our Cluster and follow on from there.

Run Kubernetes in Microsoft Azure

If you have a Microsoft Azure subscription or are prepared to sign up for a free trial it's ridiculously easy to start working with Kubernetes in Azure. There's actually a couple of ways to do it but the easiest is to create an Azure Container Service (AKS) cluster as this service abstracts away much of the complicated cluster stuff leaving you to focus on Kubernetes itself.

The Deploy an Azure Container Service (AKS) cluster walkthrough gets you up-an-running in no time with an actual app that you can run in your browser. Using Azure Cloud Shell is the easier way to use the Azure CLI although it does have an annoying habit of timing out on you. If you do switch to using the local version of the CLI watch out for the az aks get-credentials --resource-group myResourceGroup --name myK8sCluster comand which will merge connection information about the cluster you are creating with any previously created %userprofile%\.kube\config file that might be present (after installing Minikube for example) which may not be what you want.

Run Kubernetes on a Raspberry Pi Cluster

If you want to take your knowledge a step further and learn how to perform a bare-metal installation of Kubernetes then one option is to create a Raspberry Pi cluster and install and run Kubernetes on it. I've gone down this route and have had great fun doing so. There are a couple of key resources that will help you get this project off the ground:

My cluster ended up looking like this:

Some familiarity with Raspberry Pi obviously helps with this sort of project however I wouldn't say it's a definite prerequisite as there is plenty of help out there for anyone getting started with Raspberry Pi. You do really need to start off with at least three Pis so there is a modest cost involved but if you don't want your cluster to be portable then you don't need to hook it up to a switch or a router and WiFi works fine for me. A tip worth mentioning is that the 6-port RAVpower USB charger is slightly smaller than the 6-port Anker USB charger and fitted my enclosure much better.

Dealing with Multiple Kubernetes Instances

If you end up managing more than one instance of Kubernetes with the same instance of kubectl you'll somehow need to manage the issue of multiple kubeconfig files. There is detailed guidance about this here. My needs are very modest and at the moment I simply save different kubeconfig files with different extensions and then remove the extension of the one I want to work with. Not very elegant but it serves my simple needs for the moment.

And There's More...

The three techniques I've described for working with Kubernetes are only the tip of the iceberg. Google has a similar offering to Microsoft Azure with its Google Kubernetes Engine for example as does CodeFresh. I haven't tried these services but the point is that there are lots of options if none of the ones I've covered takes your fancy.

One particularly exciting development that I haven't tried yet but will soon is Kubernetes running in Docker for Windows. Scott Hanselman has a nice walkthrough here as does Stefan Stranger here. Enjoy!