Deploying Kubernetes on Bare Metal

The container ecosystem is booming as organizations work to build flexible environments for accelerated software delivery and easier management of distributed applications. The Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) Survey 2020 reveals that containers are increasingly used in production, with 92% of respondents reporting using containers in production environments in 2020, up from 84% in 2019 and 300% from 2016.

As the most popular orchestration tool, Kubernetes are driving the container revolution. Providing portability and repeatability, they help organizations automate infrastructure management tasks and modernize their IT. 

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Although Kubernetes is often associated with public cloud, it is increasingly deployed in dedicated environments. There are a number of use cases for Kubernetes and there are specific benefits to deploying it on bare metal.

Use Cases for Kubernetes 

In the initial phases of adoption, Kubernetes was primarily geared to non-production use cases. As the technology becomes more mature, it is increasingly used for production workloads requiring multitenancy, scalability and high availability. 

Organizations of all sizes are looking to become cloud-enabled to meet key business objectives and gain a competitive edge. As a path to cloud-native development, Kubernetes is becoming critical technology. In the Kubernetes and Cloud-Native Operations Report 2021 from Ubuntu, about 1,200 respondents reveal what cloud-native use cases they are working on.

  • 36.3% are deploying or managing Kubernetes-as-a-service 
  • 34.0% are re-architecting proprietary solutions into microservices 
  • 26.7% are moving to an open source solution 
  • 25.7% are orchestrating workloads across a multi-cloud setting
  • 25.3% are managing or enabling a hybrid cloud setup 
  • 24.6% are using cloud-native tools 
  • 20.0% are deploying business solutions in different geographies
  • 13.6% none of the above

The increased use of containers in production and for mission-critical workloads also means that application performance, availability and security are becoming vital to developing a container strategy. This is why bare metal becomes more popular as an underlying platform for container deployment. 

Benefits of Deploying Kubernetes on Bare Metal 

The primary difference between bare metal and cloud environments lies in the performance potential. Because it is a shared resource environment, public cloud includes a virtualization layer that separates the physical infrastructure from computing environments. This layer adds a performance overhead which can cause higher latency and performance degradation for latency-sensitive applications. 

Bare metal environments, on the other hand, provide applications with direct access to CPU and RAM resources. This minimizes latency and ensures consistent performance even for demanding workloads. While traditional bare metal systems are configured manually, emerging new models allow for automated provisioning that provides the same levels of flexibility and scalability organizations would get from public cloud.  

Performance

Performance benefits of bare metal environments are enabled through direct application access to CPU and RAM resources. This translates into lower latency, which is particularly important for GPU-intensive or latency-sensitive workloads as they require more compute to run seamlessly. In terms of Kubernetes deployments, bare metal environments enable applications hosted in containers to leverage hardware devices directly, which maximizes resource use and ensures improved performance potential. 

Security

As a fully dedicated environment, bare metal servers eliminate the “noisy neighbor” effect and lower the risk of disruptions caused by other tenants on a shared server. The risk of cyberattacks is also reduced as a single tenant has full control over the configuration and security of its environment. 

Customization

Bare metal servers typically come in a greater diversity of configurations than public cloud instances. This allows for creating workload-optimized environments by choosing configurations with specialized hardware. 

No Vendor Lock-In

An increased challenge with Kubernetes deployment on public cloud is the dependency on vendor tools and technologies. For teams and organizations looking to scale out and have more control over code and hardware, this presents a significant challenge at a point when they outgrow current environments. When a need for specialized hardware emerges, the transition from public cloud can become very challenging due to all the code dependencies. Bare metal addresses this problem by giving full control to development teams over infrastructure and apps. 

Cost

Basic public cloud instances offer a cost-efficient solution for small and medium-sized business that are building apps with predictable scalability. For demanding applications and workloads that would be difficult to predict scale-out, bare-metal environments can provide cost benefits because their advanced hardware is available at lower prices. 

For Kubernetes deployments, these benefits can make a major difference not only in terms of application performance and environment management but also in the organization’s scale-out strategy. Bare metal can better support business growth by allowing for more control and a similar level of integration with popular DevOps tools.

Deploying Kubernetes on Bare Metal 

When it comes to implementation, Kubernetes are often thought to be easier to deploy on public cloud than in bare metal environments. The latter requires some customization, while public cloud provides out-of-the-box solutions. 

However, bare metal deployments can be automated with open source tools like SUSE Rancher, for example. Rancher has emerged as one of the most popular and flexible Kubernetes orchestration tools. One of its key advantages is the fact it enables fast deployment regardless of the platform—public cloud, virtualized environment or on-premises. 

While public cloud remains a popular choice for Kubernetes deployment thanks to its simplicity and cost-efficiency, organizations with more sophisticated application performance needs are increasingly turning to bare metal. Improved integrations enable automated provisioning and programmatic management, which makes the experience similar to public cloud. The added performance gains and improved control can influence business cases where these are key to success. 


To hear more about cloud-native topics, join the Cloud Native Computing Foundation and cloud-native community at KubeCon+CloudNativeCon North America 2021 – October 11-15, 2021

Bojana Dobran

Bojana Dobran is a technology researcher and writer with almost a decade of experience in cloud computing and data center industries. As a Product Marketing Manager at phoenixNAP, Bojana explores industry trends, customer demands and use cases for different infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) solutions.

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