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Demystifying OpenShift Operator

By Swapnil Kanthale posted Fri April 05, 2024 05:20 AM

  

    In this blog we will have a look at the evolution of operators and will demonstrate the journey of it also will exhibit the use cases and its benefits along the way. We will also touch base on the core features of Operators.

With the evolving landscape of cloud-native technologies, Kubernetes has established itself as the de facto standard for container orchestration. However, managing complex applications on Kubernetes clusters efficiently requires more than just basic orchestration capabilities. This is where OpenShift Operators step in, offering advanced automation and management functionalities, enabling organizations to streamline their operations and enhance productivity.

A Kubernetes Operator is a method of packaging, deploying and managing a Kubernetes-native application. A Kubernetes-native application is an application that is both deployed on Kubernetes and managed using the Kubernetes APIs and kubectl tooling.

    The Operator is a piece of software running in a Pod on the cluster, interacting with the Kubernetes API server. It introduces new object types through Custom Resource Definitions, an extension mechanism in Kubernetes. These custom objects are the primary interface for a user; consistent with the resource-based interaction model on the Kubernetes cluster.

    Evolution of Kubernetes Operators

    To understand OpenShift Operators, it's essential to grasp the concept of Kubernetes Operators first. Operators are a method of packaging, deploying, and managing a Kubernetes application. They follow an application-specific operational logic to automate tasks like deployment, scaling, backup, and recovery. Initially introduced by CoreOS (now part of Red Hat), Operators utilize custom controllers to extend Kubernetes' capabilities beyond its built-in features.

    The 3 pillars of Operator :

    1.OPERATOR SDK :

    The Operator SDK provides the tools to build, test and package Operators. Initially, the SDK facilitates the marriage of an application's business logic (for example, how to scale, upgrade, or backup) with the Kubernetes API to execute those operations. Over time, the SDK can allow engineers to make applications smarter and have the user experience of cloud services. Leading practices and code patterns that are shared across Operators are included in the SDK to help prevent reinventing the wheel(build-test-iterate).

 A diagram of a test with a cluster

Description automatically generated

    2.OPERATOR LIFECYCLE MANAGER:

     Once built, Operators need to be deployed on a Kubernetes cluster. The Operator Lifecycle Manager is the backplane that facilitates management of operators on a Kubernetes cluster. With it, administrators can control what Operators are available in what namespaces and who can interact with running Operators. They can also manage the overall lifecycle of Operators and their resources, such as triggering updates to both an Operator and its resources or granting a team access to an Operator for their slice of the cluster.

    3.OPERATORHUB.IO : At OperatorHub.io, developers and Kubernetes administrators can find curated Operator-backed services for a base level of documentation, active communities or vendor-backing to show maintenance commitments, basic testing, and packaging for optimized life-cycle management on Kubernetes.

    OpenShift Operators:

    Elevating Kubernetes Management OpenShift, Red Hat's enterprise Kubernetes platform, takes the Operator pattern a step further with OpenShift Operators. These are specialized Kubernetes Operators tailored specifically for OpenShift environments. They leverage Kubernetes custom resources and controllers to automate the management of complex stateful applications, middleware, and other services.

    Key Features of OpenShift Operators:

    Automated Lifecycle Management:

     OpenShift Operators automate the entire lifecycle of applications, from deployment and scaling to backup and recovery. This reduces manual intervention, minimizes errors, and ensures consistency across environments.

    Intelligent Day 2 Operations:

    Operators empower administrators with intelligent day 2 operations, such as self-healing, auto-scaling, and rolling updates. They continuously monitor the application's health and adjust resources dynamically to maintain desired performance levels.

    Enhanced Security and Compliance:

    With built-in security policies and compliance checks, OpenShift Operators help organizations enforce best practices and regulatory requirements seamlessly. They ensure that applications adhere to security standards throughout their lifecycle.

    Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs):

    OpenShift Operators utilise Custom Resource Definitions (CRDs) to extend Kubernetes' API and define custom resources for managing applications. This enables developers to interact with complex applications using familiar Kubernetes primitives.

    OperatorHub Integration:

    Red Hat provides OperatorHub, a marketplace for discovering, distributing, and managing OpenShift Operators. It offers a wide range of certified Operators developed by Red Hat and its partners, simplifying the deployment of various applications and services.

    Use Cases and Benefits:

    OpenShift Operators find applications across various industries and scenarios:

    Database Management:

    Operators simplify database deployment, configuration, and scaling, enabling organizations to manage databases like PostgreSQL, MySQL, and MongoDB effortlessly.

    Middleware Services:

    Operators automate the management of middleware services such as messaging queues, application servers, and API gateways, ensuring optimal performance and reliability.

    AI/ML Workloads:

    With Operators, organizations can deploy and manage AI/ML workloads efficiently, leveraging advanced automation for model training, inference, and monitoring.

    DevOps Automation:

    OpenShift Operators streamline DevOps workflows by automating

CI/CD pipelines, testing, and deployment processes, enabling faster time-to-market and improved collaboration between development and operations teams.

    Conclusion

    OpenShift Operators represent a significant advancement in Kubernetes orchestration, offering advanced automation and management capabilities tailored specifically for OpenShift environments. By simplifying application lifecycle management, enhancing security and compliance, and enabling intelligent day 2 operations, Operators empower organizations to unlock the full potential of Kubernetes and accelerate their digital transformation journey. As enterprises continue to embrace cloud-native technologies, OpenShift Operators will play a crucial role in driving innovation, efficiency, and agility in modern IT environments.

If you have any questions regarding any of the points mentioned above or want to discuss this further, feel free to get in touch with us.

Author: Swapnil Kanthale (Swapnil.kanthale1@ibm.com)

Reviewer: Boudhayan Chakrabarty (bochakra@in.ibm.com)

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