The Comprehensive Kubernetes Glossary

The Comprehensive Kubernetes Glossary

If you’re working with Kubernetes and the thought of searching for each new term you come across seems exhausting, you’ve come to the right place! This glossary is a comprehensive list of Kubernetes terminology in alphabetical order.  

Jump to:

A | C | D | E | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W

Admission controller – A security feature native to Kubernetes that allows users to configure the objects allowed on a cluster. Admission controllers regulate how each cluster gets used. An admission controller quickly checks each request with the Kubernetes server prior to letting any objects run.

Affinity – A set of rules hinting at the placement of pods. There are two types:

  • Node
  • Pod-to-pod

Depending on how strict a scheduler must perform, these rules can be either preferred or required.

Aggregation Layer – an aggregation layer lets you extend Kubernetes with other APIs in addition to what’s available in basic Kubernetes APIs. You can use APIs that are tailored and ready-made, like service-catalog, or you can use APIs you’ve developed yourself. 

AKS – Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is an open-source, fully managed container planning service that debuted in 2018. AKS is offered in the public Microsoft Azure cloud and can be used for deployment, scaling, and management of Docker containers and other containerized apps working in clusters. For all resources, AKS provides as required or on-demand:

  • Provisioning
  • Scaling
  • Upgrading

You’ll see no cluster downtime and you don’t need a deep understanding of container organization to work with AKS.

Amazon EKS (EKS) – Amazon’s Elastic Kubernetes Service, or EKS, lets you run Kubernetes on Amazon Web Service (AWS) without the need for installation, operation, or maintenance of your own control plane/nodes.

Annotation – A value assigned to the metadata of an object.

API group – A group of related paths within the Kubernetes API.

API server – Part of the control plane that reveals the Kubernetes API. The front end of the control plane. This lightweight application allows you to create and extract API data from other data without needing customized development procedures.

Applications – The layer where containerized apps run. Applications are containerized solutions.

cgroup – container group – A group of processes native to Linux that have optional isolation of resources, accounting, and/or limits. A kernel feature limiting, accounting for, or isolating resource use for a specific set of processes. cgroups let you allocate various resources such as:

  • System memory
  • Bandwidth
  • CPU time
  • A combination of the above

cgroups also let you allocate these resources amongst any task groups or processes running within the system that have been user-defined. You can also:

  • Monitor any cgroups you’ve configured.
  • Deny certain resource access to specific cgroups.
  • Dynamically reconfigure specific cgroups.

CIDR – Classless Inter-Domain Routing (CIDR) is a mask for IP addresses. Also referred to as supernetting, CIDR assigns IP addresses to improve address distribution efficiency, replacing the earlier system that was based on Class A, B, and C networks.

Cloud-controller manager – A cloud controller is a storage tool that moves data from a physical, on-premises storage location to a cloud location. Cloud controllers use either hard drives, SSDs, or a combination for on-premises storage. The cloud-controller manager is a control plane element that allows you to embed specific control logic into the cloud. This tool is structured with a plugin allowing various cloud service providers to integrate, or link up with, Kubernetes. 

Cluster – Kubernetes clusters are sets of node machines that run containerized apps. In other words, if you’re using Kubernetes, you’re using clusters. At the bare minimum, clusters contain the control plane and at least one computing machine, or node. The nodes are responsible for running the apps and workloads.

ConfigMap – A dictionary of your configuration settings. A ConfigMap has strings of key-value pairs. The key-value pairs act as instructions that Kubernetes then provides to your containers. Like other Kubernetes dictionaries, you can see and set the value of the configuration. You can use ConfigMap to keep the application code separate from the configuration. It’s a crucial aspect of 12-factor apps used in creating software-as-a-service applications.

Container – Lightweight, executable image containing software and its dependencies. Containers are software packages that come ready to use. Everything needed to run an app is located in the container, such as:

  • The code
  • Runtime
  • App libraries
  • System libraries
  • Default values for vital settings

Containerd – Concept of kernel features providing relatively high-level interfaces. Other software can use containerd for running and managing containers and images.

Container environment variables – “Name equals value” pairs that offer insight into the containers that run within a pod. Container environment variables provide application-specific, required information to each container about such resources as:

  • System details
  • Container information
  • Service endpoints

Container network interface (CNI) – a project by the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, a CNI is comprised of libraries and specifications regarding the writing of plugins that configure the network interfaces within Linux containers. In Kubernetes, CNI acts as the interface between a network provider and networking pods. 

Container runtime – The software that’s responsible for running the containers. This software executes each container and manages it on a node. Container runtime interface, or CRI, lets Kubernetes use several types of container runtimes without having to recompile. Theoretically, Kubernetes can use any given container runtime that uses CRI to manage its pods, containers, and images.

Container runtime interface (CRI) – A container runtime API that joins with kubelet on a node.

Container storage interface (CSI) – Offers a standardized interface between containers and storage systems, enabling customized storage plugins to cooperate with Kubernetes without the need to add each storage system to the Kubernetes repository.

Control plane – The layer in which container deployment, definition, and management occur. Some of the components of the control plane include etcd, Scheduler, and Controller Manager.

Controller – Loops that oversee the cluster’s state, making and requesting changes as necessary to move the cluster’s current state closer to the cluster’s most desired state. Some controller’s loops may run within the control plane if they are necessary for operations. For instance, the namespace controller runs inside kube-controller-manager.

CRI-O – CRI-O is an operation in Kubernetes’ container runtime interface (CRI) that lets you enable compatible runtimes that use Open Container Initiative, or OCI. If Docker, Moby, and rkt aren’t as lightweight as you need, CRI-O is a good alternative. It lets you use any runtime as the Kubernetes runtime to run pods. It also supports runc and other container runtimes that are OCI-compliant. CRIO sustains any OCI image and it can draw from all container registries as directed. 

Custom controller – In some instances, Kubernetes’ core controllers may not provide the necessary control. A custom controller allows the user to extend Kubernetes core functionalities without having to change core code.

CustomResourceDefinition (CRD) – The customized code for a custom controller, used when the Kubernetes core controllers don’t provide the necessary functionality.

DaemonSet – The system’s daemons (log collectors, monitoring agents, etc.) usually must run on each node. A DaemonSet makes sure a Pod copy is functional across a group of nodes within a cluster.

Data plane – The layer that holds such working aspects as the CPU, memory, and storage for the containers to run. The data plane helps containers connect to a specific network.

Deployment – An API resource object providing updates to various applications. The deployment manages pod scheduling, management, updates, rollbacks, horizontal scaling, and lifecycles.

Device plugin – Run on nodes providing pods access to various resources. Specific setups or initializations for vendor-specific applications use device plugins to operate. A device plugin can be deployed as a DaemonSet or installed directly on each necessary node.

Disruption – An event that causes a pod (or multiple pods) to go out of service. This can have negative consequences on deployment and other resources necessary for workloads as it affects the pods required.

Docker – The software technology, Docker, or Docker Engine, provides virtualization at the operating system level in the form of containers.

Dynamic volume provisioning – Using the StorageClass API object, users can automatically provision storage volumes rather than needing pre-provisioned volumes. You can create storage volumes on-demand with dynamic volume provisioning. Without this tool, a cluster administrator must manually call the cloud to create a new storage volume, afterward creating PersistentVolume objects that represent those calls in Kubernetes. Dynamic provisioning eliminates pre-provisioning requirements. It simply provisions storage automatically as requested.

Endpoints – Endpoints are objects to which individual pod IP addresses are assigned. The endpoint’s object is then referenced by Kubernetes so there’s a record of all internal IP addresses for all pods so that communication can occur.

Endpoint slice – Released with Kubernetes Version 1.16. Endpoint slicing lets you group endpoints within the group using Kubernetes resources. The endpoint houses all pods matching a specific service. If there are hundreds of pods within a service and you make any changes, endpoint objects can become large. Prior to the release of endpoint slicing, every change made altered every object, passing that change to all nodes within the cluster, which caused critical performance and stability issues. Endpoint slicing lets you group similar endpoints, therefore no disruptions occur when changing multiple endpoints.

Ephemeral container – A type of container that can be run temporarily within a pod. If a pod shows signs of an issue, running an ephemeral container allows the user to diagnose the problem without affecting the entire workload. An important note is that this type of container has no resource or schedule guarantee and should not be used to run the actual workload.

Etcd – A storage configuration management tool, etcd is crucial to Kubernetes execution. It must always be consistent and available so services are scheduled and operate properly. Etcd data is critical, so having a cluster backup is highly recommended.

Extensions – Software elements that “extend”, deeply integrating with the Kubernetes platform in support of new hardware types. Cluster admins can install one or more extensions rather than authoring a brand-new instance.

Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE) – GKE offers a managed environment to deploy, manage, and scale containerized apps using Google’s infrastructure. This environment has several machines, such as Compute Engine that, grouped together, form a cluster.

Helm Chart – Helm Charts are YAML manifests that are combined into one package that can be presented to Kubernetes clusters. After packaging, placing a Helm Chart within your cluster is as simple as executing a helm install. The purpose of a Helm Chart is to simplify the deployment of any containerized apps. 

Horizontal pod autoscaler – Also known as HPA, a horizontal pod autoscaler automatically scales the number of replica pods. Rather than using CPU power or memory thresholds to control the amount of replicated pods, the autoscaler does so. HPA can also be set for custom thresholds.

Host aliases – If a pod host file is specified, this optional mapping can be input into the host file. It is an optional map between an IP address and a hostname. Host aliases will only work in an non-host network pod.

Image – A stored container instance holding a software set that’s required for an application to run. An image is a packaging method for software allowing it to be stored in the container’s registry, sourced by a local system, and executed as an application. Metadata offers information regarding what to run, who built the application, and other information.

Ingress – This API object exposes both secure and non-secure routes (HTTPS and HTTP, respectively) beginning outside a cluster to the services running inside the cluster. An ingress provides external access to internal services. Types of ingresses include single service and load balancing, among others.

Init container – An initialization, or init container is comparable to a regular container, but an init container must run through to completion prior to another container having the ability to start. An init container must run in sequence with all other init containers before the next container may begin. 

Istio – Istio, a service mesh, is a modern networking layer for transparent, language-independent automation applications for network functions. This service mesh sustains microservice communications and allows for data sharing.

Job – A Kubernetes Job object is a basic function or instruction for pod creation and termination. As Jobs are created, a Job controller then creates the pods necessary and makes sure pods are terminated successfully. As each pod terminates, the Job controller tracks the number of successfully completed pod tasks. 

Kubeadm – This tool helps you dictate to Kubernetes that kubeadm init and kubeadm join are the best pathways to create Kubernetes clusters. Kubeadm takes care of the necessary actions to get a viable cluster working. Kubeadm was designed to only care about bootstrapping, not machine provisioning. 

Kube-controller-manager – A component of the Control Plane running controller processes. To ease complexities, each process is rolled into one binary and run as one.

kube-apiserver – See API server.

kubectl – Command line tool that creates, inspects, updates, and deletes objects by communicating with the Kubernetes API server.

Kube-scheduler – One of the components of the Control Plane responsible for cluster management. Kube-scheduler looks for pods that have yet to be scheduled, assigning them to nodes by certain specifications, such as resource availability. As pods are assigned to nodes, each node’s kubelet gets triggered, creating the pod and its containers.

Kubelet – A mini application running on every node within a cluster. It requires a set of instructions, or PodSpecs, and uses these specifications to ensure each container is working properly. Kubelets execute the actions sent to each container from the master node.

kube-proxy – This is the network proxy for Kubernetes. This service runs on each node, handling request forwarding. kube-proxy’s main role is creating rules for iptables. Pods don’t have the same IP addresses, but with kube-proxy, the user can connect to any specific pod in Kubernetes. This is especially crucial for such actions as loan balancing enablement.

Kubernetes API – The app serving Kubernetes functionality. It operates in a RESTful interface, storing the cluster state. In other words, all Kubernetes resources and intent records get stored as objects and then modified according to RESTful orders to the API. The Kubernetes API lets the user declare management configuration. The user can interact with the API directly or with a tool such as kubectl. The Kubernetes API’s core is flexible and allows for extension into custom resources.

Kubernetes Operations (Kops) – Kops is a fast, easy, open-source method of setting up clusters. Technically, it’s the “kubectl” cluster setup method. Kops lets you deploy available clusters on Amazon Web Service (AWS) and Google clouds (GCP).

Label – Assigns meaningful, relevant identifying attributes to objects. Labels organize objects and select subsets.

Limit range – Assigned within namespace, the limit range allows resource consumption of containers and pods to be constrained, or limited. If only a certain number of object types are needed, limit range limits the number of resources that a container or pod within the namespace can request or consume.

Logging – The recording of events within a cluster or application. System and app logs help the user understand what happens within a cluster. Logs are especially useful in monitoring activity within clusters and debugging problems.

Manifest – A plan for the desired state of a specific object. When the user applies the manifest, Kubernetes maintains that desired object state. Every configuration file can hold several manifests. A manifest in Kubernetes illustrates all resources, you wish to create, such as:

  • Deployments
  • Services
  • Pods

The manifest also lets you dictate how those resources should run within a cluster.

Master node – As the name suggests, this node holds Kubernetes objects in control of the cluster, its data on cluster state, and its configuration. Kubernetes objects in the Master Node include etcd, kube-controller-manager, kube-apiserver, kube-scheduler, and cloud-controller manager.

minikube – Allows users to run Kubernetes locally. A single-node cluster within a virtual memory file on the user’s computer. minikube allows you to run a cluster with just one node on your own PC, whether you’re running, Windows, macOS, or Linux. minikube is perfect for users and developers who simply want to take Kubernetes for a spin or to perform daily developmental work.

Mirror pod – An object used by a kubelet that represents a static pod. If kubelet finds static pods within the configuration, it attempts to create a pod object for it in the Kubernetes API server. The user will be able to see the pod on the API server but will not be able to control it there.

Name – A user-provided string referring to a specific object within a URL. No two objects of the same type can have the same name at the same time. If the user deletes the object, however, a new object using that name can be created. 

Namespace – An abstract placeholder name Kubernetes uses to support several virtual clusters atop the same physical cluster. This helps organize cluster objects and lets the user divide that cluster’s resources. Resource names must be unique within a specific namespace in a cluster but can be used in other namespaces.

Network policy – Kubernetes pods have the ability to communicate with other pods and get traffic and information from other sources by default. This Kubernetes resource indicates how groups of pods can communicate with other pods and network endpoints. With the use of labels, pods are chosen and allowable traffic configured.

Node – A worker machine. Nodes can be either virtual or physical, depending on the individual cluster. Nodes have local daemons needed to run the pods. Nodes are managed on the Control Plane. Daemons on nodes include:

  • kubelet
  • kube-proxy
  • Container runtime

Node Pressure Eviction – If a node appears to be failing, node-pressure eviction lets the kubelet terminate pods beforehand so as to reclaim needed node resources. If a workload resource, like StatefulSet, Deployment, or others) manages your pods and checks for pods that need replacing, your control plane (or kube controller manager) will create a new pod for each evicted pod. 

Object – A system entity. The entities represent the cluster’s state. Objects are records of intent. Once a user creates an object, the Control Plane ensures the existence of the actual item the object represents. Objects represent to the system what your cluster’s workload should look like or the desired state of the cluster.

Persistent Volume (PV) – A cluster storage resource. Kubernetes doesn’t only manage containers that run an app; it also manages cluster application data. Persistent Volume (PV) abstracts data storage from existing storage infrastructure and can actually outlive the pod itself. Due to this feature, PV can create stateful pods.

Persistent volume claim (PVC) – A request for storage access. PVCs get mounted within a container and specify the storage amount required, how it can be accessed, and how to reclaim the resource.

Pod – The smallest object in Kubernetes representing a set of containers running on a cluster. Typically, a pod runs one primary container, but sidecar containers can also be added for additional features, such as logging. These objects are usually managed by a deployment.

Pod disruption – Pod disruption occurs in one of two ways:

  • A user or controller destroys a pod
  • There’s been an inevitable hardware, software, or system error

The inevitable, or unavoidable, types of pod disruption are called involuntary disruptions. A few examples of involuntary disruptions include:

  • Hardware failure within the actual, physical machine that backs the node.
  • A cluster administrator accidentally deletes an instance.
  • A failure at the cloud provider occurs.
  • A panicked kernel.
  • A cluster network partition causes a node to disappear.
  • A node runs out of resources and evicts a pod.

Aside from the last example, most users are probably familiar with the other examples. They do not occur only in Kubernetes.

Other disruptions are known as voluntary, and they include actions that can be started by an app’s owner and those started by a cluster admin. Some typical voluntary disruptions include:

  • Deleting a deployment or another controller managing the pod.
  • Updating the template for a deployment pod, which causes a restart.
  • Simply deleting a pod.

Pod disruption budget (PDB) – Lets the user configure how many disruptions a class of pods can tolerate so there is always the correct number available even if a disruption event occurs. When a pod disruption causes a cluster to drop below budget, the operation gets paused till the budget is maintained.

Pod lifecycle – A pod has five distinct phases:

  • Pending
  • Running
  • Succeeded
  • Failed
  • Unknown

The lifecycle of a pod is the order of these states throughout the pod’s existence.

Pod phase – A high-level summation of the point at which a pod is in its lifecycle. The five potential pod phases defined are:

  • Pending: Accepted but waiting for the requisite amount of container images.
  • Running: All containers are created, and the pod is attached to a node. One container at minimum is running, working toward starting, or is restarting.
  • Succeeded: Each container within the pod has terminated successfully and will not restart.
  • Failed: Each container within the pod has terminated, but one or more failed. Exits in non-zero status or system termination.
  • Unknown: Pod state cannot be determined. Usually a failure to communicate with the host pod. 

Pod priority – In production loads, some pods have a higher level of importance. Pod priority allows a user to give certain pods preference over others with less importance.

Pod preset – An API object that allows the user to put information in pods at the time of creation. Presets are then managed by an Admission Controller. The Admission Controller applies the preset at the time of creation request. Some of the most typical presets include:

  • Secrets
  • Volumes
  • Mounts
  • Environmental variables

Pod Security Policy – Pod Security Policies are cluster-level resources controlling sensitive aspects of a pod’s specifications. A PodSecurityPolicy object defines a specific set of conditions that a certain pod must be running for the system to accept it, in addition to defaults for other related fields. 

Preemption – Pods are put in a queue after creation. Pod Priority and Preemption are turned on. As the scheduler grabs pods from this queue, it attempts to schedule them to a node within the cluster. If the pod can’t be scheduled, the scheduler uses the preemption logic to temporarily stop low-priority pods and allow the pending pod to be scheduled.

Proxy – The kube-proxy is the network proxy running on every node within a cluster that implements a piece of the Kubernetes Service model. Kube-proxy supports the network rules within each node. Network rules let the network communicate with your pods, whether the network session is in your cluster or not. 

Quality of Service (QoS) Class – A concept that helps Kubernetes determine pod priority in terms of scheduling or eviction. These classes are assigned at the time of pod creation and determined by their resource requests and limitations. The three Quality of Service classes that can be assigned are:

  • Guaranteed
  • Burstable
  • BestEffort

RBAC – Through Kubernetes API, RBAC manages authorization decisions. This allows users at the admin level to configure dynamic access policies by role. Roles contain permission rules. Role bindings grant each defined permission to a specific set of users.

Replica set – A core Kubernetes controller that is used to ensure that the right amount of replicas are running.

ReplicationController – Controls the number of exact pod copies that should be allowed to run in a cluster. After the admin defines the number of replicas allowed, the Control Plane maintains cluster compliance even if pods fail, get deleted, or if too many started at deployment.

Resource quotas – Places a limitation on how many objects can be created, by type, within a namespace. Also ensures that the amount of computing resources allowed within a project is not exceeded.

Secrets – Security account credentials. Secrets are objects containing small packets of sensitive data. As the name suggests, Secrets in Kubernetes is a tool that allows you to store and manage information of a sensitive nature, such as:

  • Login information
  • OAuth tokens
  • SSH keys

In the absence of Secrets, this sensitive data might be placed in a pod spec or image.

Security Context – A pod or container’s security context outlines the privileges and access controls. Discretionary Access Control restricts access permissions to certain objects, such as files, and is based on a user’s ID and/or group ID. Security context can be set to run as either with or without privileges. 

Selector – Lets users filter lists of resources by labels. A selector in Kubernetes lets you choose resources based on their label values and assigned resource fields. Think of it like the filter you apply when using Excel spreadsheets. Selector lets you filter just the details you want to see of objects with similar labels. 

Service – A conceptual method of exposing applications running on pod sets as a network service. Pod sets targeted by services are (normally) chosen by a selector. If the user adds or removes pods, the pod set that matches the selector changes. The service ensures that the network traffic gets directed to the right pod set.

Service Account – Gives an identity to processes running within a pod. Pod processes accessing the cluster are validated by the server as a specific service account, such as “default”. When a user creates a pod, if a particular service account is not specified, it automatically gets assigned as “default” within that namespace.

Service Catalog – This API extension allows apps that run on Kubernetes clusters to use externally managed software, such as datastore services provided by cloud providers. Service Catalog helps users with listing, provisioning, and binding to externally managed services without having to understand how each specific service is managed or was created. 

Shuffle sharding – A technique to assign queue requests. Shuffle sharding is a nimble technique that does a better job isolating low-intensity flows from high-intensity flows than hashing the number of queues.

Sidecar container – A support extension for a main container. A sidecar container can be paired with as many main containers as necessary, enhancing the capabilities of the main containers. For instance, a sidecar container is a good addition to a main container to assist in processing or monitoring system logs.

StatefulSet – A Kubernetes controller that manages deployment and scaling for a pod set. Pods managed by this controller are provided unique identities. This identity is used if pods need to be rescheduled. 

Static pod – Similar to regular pods, static pods are managed on a node directly by kubelet, instead of on the server. The kube-scheduler ignores static pods, meaning they won’t be terminated or evicted if the node fails.

StorageClass – A way for admins to describe various options available for storage. Important fields in StorageClass specs are:

  • Provisioner
  • Parameters
  • ReclaimPolicy
  • VolumeBindingMode

If a Persistent Volume needs dynamic provisioning, these StorageClass terms can be used.

Systcl – A way for admins to modify or change kernel attributes or settings. sysctl, short for ‘system control’, is a utility in some operating systems that can read and/or modify system kernel attributes, such as:

  • Version number
  • Max limits
  • Security settings

In compiled programs, it’s available as both a system call and administrator command. Sysctl can be used interactively or for scripting.

Taint – Core Kubernetes object. Consists of three necessary properties:

  • Key
  • Value
  • Effect

Taint prevents pods from getting scheduled on nodes or on node groups. Specifically useful when nodes with special hardware are reserved, are not licensed for software already running within the cluster, and other reasons. Taints alert the scheduler that these nodes aren’t available for scheduling. Taints and Tolerations work together for better control over pod-to-node scheduling.

Toleration – Core Kubernetes object. Consists of three necessary properties:

  • Key
  • Value
  • Effect

Opposite of Taints, Tolerations allow pod scheduling on nodes or on node groups. Tolerations allow pods to ignore Taints and are housed within PodSpec.

UID – A string generated by the Kubernetes system for object identification. A unique identifier.

Vertical Pod Autoscaler – This tool adjusts the CPU and memory reserves of your pods so that each application is exactly the right size. These adjustments help clusters use resources more appropriately and also frees up CPU processing and memory for your other pods. 

Volume – A data directory. The volume can be accessed by containers within a pod. Volumes have a lifespan as long as its pod. As a result, volumes outlive containers running in the pod, and the data is preserved throughout container restarts.

Worker node – A Kubernetes node. See node. Kubernetes clusters consist of a worker machine set, also known as nodes. These nodes run the containerized apps. There’s at least one worker node in every cluster. Worker nodes contain the application’s workload pods. The mods and worker nodes in each cluster are managed by the control plane.

Workload – An app that runs on Kubernetes is a workload. It doesn’t matter whether the workload is just one or many components working together. Kubernetes runs the workload within a pod set. A pod is the set of containers running within the cluster. All your clusters represent the workload. 

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