Simplifying Kubernetes Cluster Management with Effective Configurations

Roman Glushach
4 min readAug 31, 2023
Kubernetes Configuration Management

In Kubernetes, configuration management refers to the process of defining, maintaining, and updating the desired state of a cluster.

This includes specifying the desired state of nodes, pods, services, and other resources that make up the application environment.

The goal of configuration management is to ensure that the actual state of the cluster matches the desired state defined by the configuration files.

Kubernetes uses a declarative configuration model, which means that administrators define what they want the system to look like, rather than how to achieve it.

This approach allows for more flexibility and automation in managing complex systems.

Configuration in Kubernetes can include:

  • Cluster-level configuration: such as cluster size, node labels, network policies
  • Application-level configuration: such as deployments, services, ingresses, configmaps, secrets
  • Resource-level configuration: such as pod spec, environment variables, volumes

Key Concepts

  • Declarative vs Imperative APIs: Declarative APIs specify what needs to be done, whereas imperative APIs tell the computer exactly how to do it. Kubernetes uses a declarative API, meaning that developers describe their desired state and Kubernetes figures out how to get there
  • Configuration Files: Kubernetes stores its configuration data in human-readable text files written in YAML. These files contain metadata about the objects managed by Kubernetes, such as pods, services, and deployments.
  • Object Specifications: Object specifications are the definitions of the objects managed by Kubernetes, such as pods, services, and deployments. These object specifications are defined in the configuration files mentioned above
  • Desired State: Desired state refers to the intended condition of the system, as described by the developer. Kubernetes compares the actual state of the system with the desired state and makes necessary changes to bring the system back in line with the desired state

Kubernetes Control Plane Components

The Kubernetes control plane is responsible for managing the configuration of the cluster.

The Kubernetes control plane components work together to ensure that the current state of the cluster matches the desired state defined in the configuration file.

The main components of the control plane are:

  • etcd: etcd is a highly available, distributed key-value store that serves as the backing store for Kubernetes’ configuration data. It is responsible for storing and retrieving the configuration data, as well as providing a way for clients to watch for changes to the data
  • API Server: The API server acts as the entry point for accessing Kubernetes’ configuration data. Clients send HTTP requests to the API server, which then queries etcd for the requested data. The API server also handles authentication and authorization for incoming requests.
  • Controller Manager: The controller manager is responsible for watching the state of the system and making sure that it matches the desired state. It runs controllers, which are programs that continually check the state of the system and make necessary changes to bring it back in line with the desired state.
  • Scheduler: The scheduler is responsible for scheduling the placement of pods onto worker nodes. It takes into account factors such as resource availability, hardware requirements, and affinity rules

Workflow

Here’s a high-level overview of the Kubernetes configuration management workflow:

  1. Defining the Configuration: Users define the desired state of their applications and infrastructure by creating or modifying configuration files. These files include specifications for objects such as pods, services, deployments, and more
  2. Applying the Configuration: Users apply the configuration files to the Kubernetes cluster using the kubectl command-line interface. Kubectl sends a request to the Kubernetes API server, which validates the configuration and stores it in the etcd data store
  3. Controller Manager Processing: The Kubernetes controller manager continuously monitors the cluster’s current state and compares it with the desired state defined in the configuration files. If there are any discrepancies, such as pods not running or a mismatch in resource requirements, the controller manager takes corrective actions
  4. Reconciliation Loop: The controller manager follows a reconciliation loop to bring the cluster back to the desired state. It creates, updates, or deletes objects as necessary to align with the desired configuration. For example, if the desired state specifies three replicas of a pod, but only two are currently running, the controller manager will create a new pod to match the desired state
  5. Continuous Monitoring and Updates: Kubernetes continuously monitors the cluster to ensure that the desired state is maintained. If there are any changes in the configuration files or the cluster’s state, the controller manager makes the necessary updates to align them. This allows for dynamic scaling, rolling updates, and self-healing capabilities
  6. Rollbacks and Updates: Kubernetes supports rolling updates and rollbacks, allowing users to safely deploy new configurations. If a new configuration introduces issues or fails to meet expectations, users can roll back to a previous configuration with minimal downtime

Concepts

Configuration management in Kubernetes involves 2 main concepts:

  • Resources: objects that represent the state of the system, such as pods, services, deployments, configmaps, secrets
  • Controllers: processes that monitor and update the resources to ensure that they match the desired state

Types of Controllers in Kubernetes

Tools for Configuration Management

Approaches

Conclusion

Kubernetes configuration management is a complex and evolving topic that requires careful consideration and evaluation. There is no one-size-fits-all solution that works for every use case and scenario. The key is to find the right balance between simplicity and flexibility, automation and control, transparency and abstraction, intelligence and optimization for your application configuration.

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Roman Glushach

Senior Software Architect & Engineer Manager at Freelance