Technology innovation has dramatically increased computing resources, usability, availability, and costs. In the past, there were not many options that allowed multiple users to use a single machine. One of the earliest methods of "sharing" computing resources was through a method called "Time-Sharing". This method allowed multiple users to use a single machine concurrently by processing numerous user requests depending on the machine's scheduling (multi-tasking). Each time a user makes a request, a "slice" is allocated, with the current state of the machine being saved and restored for later requests. Even though resource optimisation was high, the method of "Time-sharing" was deemed unreliable because if a single machine were to fail, it could destroy an entire team's productivity.
A new type of virtual technology called "virtual machines" grew from the limitations of timesharing. Separating software from hardware by creating a virtual version of a computer with it’s own allocation of resources (CPU, memory, and storage). Now, a single machine could "host" multiple virtual machines, completely independent from one another, which can be distributed to its users. Businesses utilise virtual machines increasing the scalability of their applications allowing them to reduce the cost of purchasing and maintaining multiple machines. A piece of software called a "hypervisor" enables the separation between hardware and software. Every virtual machine would need a hypervisor to be created, and every hypervisor would need an operating system installed onto it.
However, as revolutionary as virtual machines were, they were still too resource-intensive due to the overhead of running an operating system. To overcome this limitation, containers were developed. A container is very similar to a virtual machine in the sense that it is a virtualisation technology used to isolate processes from the rest of the system. The unique characteristic of containers is that they do not depend on a hypervisor, meaning there is no overhead in storing and running an operating system for every container. Only dependencies of the application (the software packages needed to run the application) are stored.
Microservices utilise the "lightweight" features of containers. Entire large-scale applications can be broken down and containerised into smaller applications. Each containerised application can run on any machine, regardless of the machine's "environment". Microservices can now be scaled up or down depending on their demand. Multiple replica containers can be created to make the microservice more reliable. Some microservices will run hundreds of containers, with some containers communicating. This large number of containers must be orchestrated for the microservice to operate as intended.
Due to the rising adoption of containerisation technology, a new demand for container orchestration technologies was introduced. The most popular of them is Kubernetes.
Kubernetes is an open-source container orchestration program developed by Google that will manage containerised workloads and services. Communication, scaling, and deployments of containers can be automated. Kubernetes uses a declarative approach to create and manage its services. A template on how the service should behave needs to be defined in order for the deployment, of the service, to always run as intended.
Some of the benefits of Kubernetes are:
Kubernetes has been adopted in the telecommunication industry. In O-RAN compliant cellular towers, xApps (applications that define how the cellular tower operates) are deployed onto a Kubernetes cluster. This allows O-RAN compliant cellular towers to be more flexible in their usage as the xApp installed onto them can be configured to meet possible changes in its requirements.
It is evident that when demand increases, so does technological innovation to meet that demand. Container orchestration programs are essential to deploy, run and scale enterprise-level applications.
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