As most modern software developers can attest, containers have provided us with dramatically more flexibility for running cloud-native applications on physical and virtual infrastructure. Containers package up the services comprising an application and make them portable across different compute environments, for both dev/test and production use. With containers, it’s easy to quickly ramp application instances to match spikes in demand. And because containers draw on resources of the host OS, they are much lighter weight than virtual machines. This means containers make highly efficient use of the underlying server infrastructure.

So far so good. But though the container runtime APIs are well suited to managing individual containers, they’re woefully inadequate when it comes to managing applications that might comprise hundreds of containers spread across multiple hosts. Containers need to be managed and connected to the outside world for tasks such as scheduling, load balancing, and distribution, and this is where a container orchestration tool like Kubernetes comes into its own.

An open source system for deploying, scaling, and managing containerized applications, Kubernetes handles the work of scheduling containers onto a compute cluster and manages the workloads to ensure they run as the user intended. Instead of bolting on operations as an afterthought, Kubernetes brings software development and operations together by design. By using declarative, infrastructure-agnostic constructs to describe how applications are composed, how they interact, and how they are managed, Kubernetes enables an order-of-magnitude increase in operability of modern software systems.

Kubernetes was built by Google based on its own experience running containers in production, and it surely owes much of its success to Google’s involvement. Google has some of the most talented software developers on the planet, and it runs some of the largest software services by scale. This combination ensured that Kubernetes would became a rock-solid platform that can meet the scaling needs of virtually any organization. This article explains why Kubernetes is important and why it marks a significant step forward for devops teams.