CI/CD Kubernetes: How GitOps, K8s, and CI/CD Pipelines Work Together

What Is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, also known as K8s, serves as a highly-efficient open-source platform, fundamentally designed for the orchestration of microservices and containerized applications across various cloud infrastructures, including public, private, and hybrid models. Esteemed cloud providers like Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud have fully embraced Kubernetes for its robust features.

As a unique attribute, Kubernetes leverages containers that coexist on a shared operating system installed on host machines. Despite their shared environment, these containers remain isolated, ensuring a high level of security unless a manual connection is established. However, the real power of Kubernetes comes to light with its automated operations that bring immense convenience to IT administrators, software developers, and DevOps engineers.

With Kubernetes, professionals can effortlessly declare the desired state in a language that’s easily parsed, allowing them to apply it across the platform. The result is the efficient deployment of resources across a cluster, aligning perfectly with the stipulated desired state. Thus, Kubernetes streamlines the processes of deploying, maintaining, scaling, operating, and scheduling application containers across extensive clusters of nodes, marking a paradigm shift in container management.

CI/CD with Kubernetes

Containerization and Kubernetes are improving the consistency, speed, and agility of software projects. They offer a common declarative language for writing applications, operating jobs, and running distributed workloads.

In a Kubernetes environment, you create and apply a desired state in declarative YAML, Kubernetes parses it, and deploys resources in a cluster to achieve that desired state. For example, it can scale applications up or down, provision storage resources, and even add more physical machines (nodes) to a cluster via cloud platforms. Kubernetes handles the full lifecycle of applications, for example, healing application instances when their pod or container shuts down or malfunctions.

However, with all the power of Kubernetes, it still requires practicing the same continuous integration / continuous delivery (CI/CD) principles. You still need a robust CI system, which must be integrated with your container repository to automatically create new versions of container images. Within Kubernetes, you need automated tools that can help you establish a continuous delivery process. Most of these tools will be based on GitOps principles.

What is GitOps and How is it Used in Kubernetes?

GitOps is a way to achieve continuous deployment of cloud-native applications. It focuses on a developer-centric experience using tools that developers are already familiar with, such as Git version control repositories.

Triggering CI/CD pipelines with Git-based tasks has several benefits in terms of collaboration and ease of use. All pipeline changes and source code are stored in a unified source repository, allowing developers to review changes and eliminate bugs before deployment, and easily roll back in case of production issues.

Benefits of Kubernetes for Your CI/CD Pipeline

A CI/CD pipeline needs to ensure that application updates occur quickly and automatically. Kubernetes provides capabilities for automation and efficiency, helping solve various problems, including:

  • Time to release cycles—manual testing and deployment processes can cause delays, pushing back the production timeline. A manual CI/CD process can result in code-merge collisions, extending the release time of patches and updates.
  • Outages—a manual infrastructure management process requires teams to remain alert around the clock if a power outage or traffic spike occurs. If an application goes down, businesses can lose customers and money. Kubernetes automate updates and patches to provide a quick and efficient response.
  • Server usage efficiency—applications that are not efficiently packed onto servers can incur overhead in capacity fees. It may happen whether the application runs on-premises or in the cloud. Kubernetes helps maximize the server usage efficiency to ensure capacity is balanced.
  • Containerize code—Kubernetes enables you to run applications in containers deployed with all the necessary resources and libraries. Containerizing code makes applications portable between environments and easy to scale and replicate.
  • Deployment orchestration—Kubernetes provides automation capabilities for managing and orchestrating containers. It can automate container deployment, monitor their health, and scale to meet changing demands.

The capabilities provided by Kubernetes help reduce the amount of time and effort required to deploy applications via a CI/CD pipeline. It provides an efficient model to monitor and control capacity demands and usage. Additionally, Kubernetes automates application management to reduce outages.

Related content: Read our guide to continuous deployment

Kubernetes CI/CD Best Practices

Containers Should Be Immutable

Docker allows you to rewrite tags when pushing containers. A common example is the latest tag. This is a risky approach because it represents a situation in which you may not know what code is running in the container. 

A better approach is to ensure that all tags are immutable. You can associate a tag with a commit ID, a value that is unique and immutable in your codebase, to remove any doubt that the container is directly tied to the code from which it was created. 

Leverage the Blue/Green Deployment Pattern

A CI/CD pipeline typically deploys code to production after passing certain tests and requirements. A robust CI/CD pipeline will usually result in successful deployments, but failed deployments do happen, and in some cases the application may deploy successfully but not fully satisfy end user requirements. 

Therefore, a best practice is to use blue/green deployments, meaning that a new version of an application is deployed alongside the old version, switching over traffic to the new version, but keeping the old version active in case there is a need to roll back.

Learn more in our detailed guide to blue green deployment

Keep Secrets And Config Out Of Containers

Containers should never contain secrets or configurations, because they must be treated as immutable artifacts in the build process. Secrets should be stored as Kubernetes secrets or in a dedicated secrets vault, and settings should be stored in a ConfigMap of the Kubernetes cluster and mounted to a container. This lets you configure container deployments for each environment without changing the containers themselves.

Codefresh: The Kubernetes GitOps Platform

The Codefresh platform is a complete software supply chain to build, test, deliver, and manage software with integrations so teams can pick best-of-breed tools to support that supply chain. Codefresh unlocks the full enterprise potential of Argo Workflows, Argo CD, Argo Events, and Argo Rollouts and provides a control-plane for managing them at scale.

Codefresh provides the following key capabilities:

Single pane of glass for the entire software supply chain

You can easily deploy Codefresh onto a Kubernetes cluster, run one command to bootstrap it, and the entire configuration is written to Git. By integrating Argo Workflows and Events for running delivery pipelines, and Argo CD and Rollouts for GitOps deployments and progressive delivery, Codefresh provides a complete software lifecycle solution with simplified management that works at scale.

Built on GitOps for total traceability and reliable management

Codefresh is the only enterprise DevOps solution that operates completely with GitOps from the ground up. Using the CLI or GUI in Codefresh generally results in a Git commit. Whether that’s installing the platform, creating a pipeline, or deploying new software. The CLI/GUI simply acts as extended interfaces of version control. A change to the desired state of the software supply chain will automatically be applied to the actual state.

Simplified management that works at scale

Codefresh greatly simplifies the management and adoption of Argo. If you’ve already defined Argo workflows and events, they will work natively in Codefresh. Codefresh acts as a control plane across all your instances – rather than many instances of Argo being operated separately and maintained individually, the control plane allows all instances to be monitored and managed in concert.

Continuous delivery and progressive delivery made easy

Those familiar with Argo CD and Argo Workflows will see their configurations are fully compatible with Codefresh and can instantly gain value from its enterprise features. Those new to continuous delivery will find the setup straightforward and easy. The new unified UI brings the full value of Argo CD and Argo Rollouts into a single view so you no longer have to jump around between tools to understand what’s going on.

The World’s Most Modern CI/CD Platform

A next generation CI/CD platform designed for cloud-native applications, offering dynamic builds, progressive delivery, and much more.

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