Building IoT Applications with Kubernetes

Kubernetes is a service used for deploying cloud native applications. As cloud applications are associated with our IoT devices and products, that is where we get requirement of building IoT Applications with Kubernetes.

IoT analytics is moving from the cloud to the edge because of security, latency, autonomy, and cost. However, distributing and managing loads to several hundred nodes at the edge can be a complex task. So a requirement arises to distribute and manage the loads on edge devices is to use a lightweight production-grade solution such as Kubernetes.

What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes or K8s is a container-orchestration system that helps application developers in deploying, scaling, and managing cloud-native applications in a hassle-free manner. Besides, containerization helps simplify the lifecycle of cloud-native applications. 

How Kubernetes works:

When we have the deployment of a working Kubernetes, we typically refer to it as a cluster. A Kubernetes cluster can essentially be thought of as having two parts: control plane and nodes.

In kubernetes, each node is its own Linux environment. There is flexibility in that it could either be a physical machine or a virtual one. Each node in kubernetes runs pods which comprise containers.

The control plane mainly takes care of the task of maintaining the required state of the cluster, such as the types of applications that are running, and which container images are being used by them. It is worth noting that Compute machines are actually responsible for running the applications and workloads.

Kubernetes gets executed on top of an operating system, Linux for example, and communicates with pods of containers that run on the nodes.

The Kubernetes control plane accepts the instructions from an administrator (or DevOps team) and then forwards them to the compute machines.

This mechanism works well with a number of services to automatically pick which node is most ideal for the given task. After that, it allocates the necessary resources and delegates the work to the pods in that node.

Building IoT Applications with Kubernetes

Inspired by the container ship analogy, Kubernetes is a Greek word that translates to “captain” or “sailing master,” as in the one in charge of the ship. Hence, the analogy of Kubernetes as the captain or orchestrator of containers through the information technology space.

Imagine Docker containers as packing boxes. The boxes that need to go to the same destination should stay together and loaded into the same shipping containers. In this analogy, the packing boxes are Docker containers and the shipping containers are pods.

What We want for this cargo ship is to arrive safely to its destination and avoid the storms of the seas (internet). Kubernetes, as the captain of the ship, steers the ship along a smooth path which means ensuring all the applications under its supervision are managed.

Kubernetes gives Pods their own IP addresses .iptables allows users to control network traffic.

As shown in the creative, iptables are replaced with eBPF in Kubernetes

Why do we require Load balancing in IoT applications?

Load balancing is the systematic and efficient distribution of network or application traffic across several servers in a server farm. Each load balancer is placed between client devices and backend servers. It receives and then distributes inbound requests to any available server capable of handling the request/work.

The most fundamental kind of load balancing in Kubernetes is consists of load

distribution, which is quite easy to execute at the dispatch level. Kubernetes deploys two methods of load distribution, both of them running through a feature called kube-proxy, which manages the virtual IPs used by services.

The driving force behind adoption of cloud- native platforms such as Kubernetes

Many organizations today are passing through a digital transformation phase. In this phase, their primary aim is to bring about a change in the manner they connect with their customers, suppliers and partners. These organizations are taking advantage of innovations offered by technologies such as IoT platforms, IoT data analytics, or machine learning to modernize their enterprise IT and OT systems. They realize that the complexity of development and deployment of new digital products require new development processes. Consequently, they turn to agile development and infrastructure tools such as Kubernetes

In recent times, Kubernetes has emerged as the most used standard container orchestration framework for the purpose of cloud-native deployments. Kubernetes has become the primary choice of development teams who wish to support their migration to new microservices architecture. It also supports the DevOps culture for continuous integration (CI) and continuous deployment (CD).

In fact, Kubernetes addresses many of the complexity challenges that development teams see when building and deploying IoT solutions. That’s why building IoT Applications with Kubernetes has become a trend.

Kubernetes for IoT Applications

why developing IoT Applications with Kubernetes is needed?

DevOps for IoT app development with Kubernetes

Due to the constant demands from customers and market alike, IoT solutions are required to be able to quickly deploy new features and updates. With Kubernetes, DevOps teams get a unified deployment model that enables them to test and deploy new services quickly and automatically. Kubernetes supports zero-downtime deployments in the form of rolling updates. With this ability, mission-critical IoT solutions, such as those in critical factory operations, can be kept updated with no disruption in processes and minimizing impact on customers/end users.

Scalability of IoT applications

Scalability, defined as the ability of a system to efficiently handle an increasing amount of work by exploiting additional resources, remains a challenge for IoT developers. Scalability, therefore, is a major concern for a good number of IoT solutions. The ability to handle and serve countless device connections, sending huge volumes of data and providing high-end services such as real-time analytics necessitates a deployment infrastructure that can flexibly scale up and down as per the demands of an IoT deployment. With Kubernetes, developers have the ability to automatically scale up and down across multiple network clusters.

Highly available system

There are a number of IoT solutions that are considered business/mission critical systems that need to be highly reliable and available. Take the case of an IoT solution critical to an emergency healthcare facility of a hospital needs to be available at all times. Kubernetes empowers developers to provide the required tools to deploy services that have high availability. The unique architecture of Kubernetes also allows for workloads to run independent of one another. Additionally, they can be restarted with negligible impact on end-users.

Greater efficiency in use of cloud resources

Kubernetes help in achieving greater efficiency through optimum utilization of cloud resources. Being a set of connected services more often than not, IoT cloud integration handle device connectivity and management, data ingestion, data integration, analytics or integration with IT and OT systems, among others. These services will often run on public cloud providers, such as AWS or MS Azure. This makes the efficient use of cloud provider resources an important consideration towards the total cost to manage and deploy these services. Kubernetes creates an abstraction layer on top of the underlying virtual machines. Administrators are able to focus on the deployment of the IoT services across the optimal number of VMs as opposed to a single service on a single VM.

Deployment to the IoT edge

A key trend in the IoT industry is the deployment of IoT services to the edge of the network. For instance, to improve the responsiveness of a predictive maintenance solution, it might be more efficient to deploy the data analytics and machine learning services closer to the equipment being monitored. Running IoT services in a distributed and federated manner creates a new management challenge for system administrators and developers. However, Kubernetes provides a common platform that could be used for deploying IoT services at the edge. In fact, a new Kubernetes IoT Working Group is investigating how it can provide a consistent deployment model for IoT cloud and IoT Edge.

Upcoming Trends in Kubernetes for IoT app development 

Kubernetes in production operation version 2.0

After the success with deployment of kubernetes in productive environments with remarkable levels of agility and flexibility, companies in the production and manufacturing space are looking to further scale up workloads within a Kubernetes cluster to meet varying requirements.  

Kubernetes-native software boom

In the early years of Kubernetes, the software that needed to be run as a part of the containers existed already, with it’s functional role and architectural elements fixed. Yet, if we wish to take full advantage of the kubernetes, we need to adapt and tailor it as per specific needs.  However, to fully exploit the advantages of Kubernetes and to better support modern operating models, adaptations are necessary. At present, kubernetes has reached a definite stage in its evolutionary development, and developers can build their applications directly on Kubernetes. Thus, in the years to come, Kubernetes will attain increasing importance to be an important determinant of the design of modern apps.

Kubernetes on the Edge

KubeEdge is currently an exciting project that will help in the seamless management and deployment capabilities of Kubernetes and Docker. It will also lead to packaged applications being run smoothly on the devices or at the edge.

Thus, we are already seeing the Kubernetes community expanding and advancing rapidly. These advancements have enabled the crafting of cloud-native IoT solutions that are scalable and reliable, and readily deployable in the most challenging environments.

PsiBorg develops IoT Applications with Kubernetes for a wide range of IoT solutions and Products.

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