kubernetes clusters

One important factor when using Kubernetes as the orchestration platform for your containerized environment is correctly configuring and maintaining the K8s cluster. The complexity of a cluster deployment will depend on multiple factors like the cluster architecture, type of service, and required external resources. The larger the cluster, the more complex the management of the Kubernetes environment will be. Infrastructure as Code provides the ideal solution to this issue by allowing users to codify their infrastructure configuration. In this post, we will see how to implement IaC in Kubernetes deployments.

Why utilize Infrastructure as Code Tools?

One may think that utilizing IaC to provision a single Kubernetes cluster will simply increase the management overhead, especially when using a managed service like AWS EKS or Azure AKS. However, it is not the case. Infrastructure as Code tools brings many more benefits than simply codifying the configurations.

IaC enables users to version control their configurations, providing an auditable history of all the changes made to their environments. Assume that you made a change to your infrastructure and suddenly faced a 502 bad gateway error. In that case, IaC allows you to easily identify the modifications made to your environment and troubleshoot whether those changes are the root cause of the error. If required, IaC will also enable users to completely roll back to a previous configuration with minimal downtime of the cluster. It is essential to track all the resources associated with the cluster, with more and more Kubernetes deployments integrating external resources like load balancers, firewalls, and storage services to further augment the functionality of the cluster.

IaC tools enable users to manage all these resources via a single tool, regardless of the scale or platform. Additionally, codification itself will lead to repeatable, faster infrastructure changes with fewer configuration errors overall. It enables users to easily standardize their configurations and directly implement management policies in their environment through IaC. This is especially important in a multi-cluster environment, as users can easily roll out a standardized cluster configuration without individually creating separate configurations for each cluster in the environment.

Infrastructure as Code in Managed Kubernetes Services

One misconception is that you can easily forget IaC and manually manage the Kubernetes clusters if you are using a managed Kubernetes service. Managed Kubernetes services indeed reduce the management overhead of Kubernetes clusters with services like AWS Fargate, which provides serverless compute services, making even node management a thing of the past.

However, users will still have to manage the managed service itself and configure it to match the user requirements. Users can easily provision these managed Kubernetes services through an IaC tool as most IaC tools integrate with prominent cloud service providers. It enables users to gain all the advantages of IaC while still using a managed service to further simplify overall management requirements. Another factor is that you will need additional resources from the cloud platform, like network configurations and monitoring, to unlock the full potential of these managed services. You can also bundle these changes with the cluster configurations without any manual intervention since IaC can provision any resource within a specific platform.

Infrastructure as Code and GitOps

GitOps was created to simplify the Kubernetes deployment and application deployment process. With Git as the single source of truth, all cluster configuration changes and deployments are pushed to a git repository and automatically deployed to the targeted cluster. It eliminates the need for separate deployments, further streamlining the development and deployment processes.

Infrastructure as Code can also be seamlessly integrated into the GitOps process. Assume that you need to make an infrastructure-level change in a GitOps-based CI/CD pipeline, like adding a new node to a cluster or creating an external firewall for a new ingress point. In that case, developers can make the necessary configuration changes and push the code to an independent git repo for IaC configurations. Then it can be configured to first validate these infrastructure changes and make the necessary configurations when a pipeline is executed. Finally, you can carry out the remaining steps of the pipeline to successfully complete the Kubernetes deployment.

This process eliminates the common bottleneck of developers having to wait for infrastructure changes to continue their deployments and better aligns both the dev and ops teams. With multi-cloud environments becoming commonplace, having combined pipelines to manage both configurations and deployments is invaluable for reducing the overall management overhead.

Conclusion

Using IaC to manage Kubernetes clusters enables you to gain all the benefits of infrastructure management via IaC. These benefits will be further enhanced with the orchestration capabilities of Kubernetes, leading to a better management experience. Cluster configurations are becoming increasingly complex and spread across multiple environments. Thus, the scalable infrastructure management capabilities offered by IaC have become a must-have in any production Kubernetes environment.

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