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Docker, OpenShift or Kubernetes: Which Platform to Choose for Hyperledger Fabric Network Orchestration

If you’re into Hyperledger Fabric deployment, then you’re most likely aware of the term ‘Container Orchestration’. In case you haven’t yet heard about it despite being involved in the Blockchain space, then you’re probably living under a metaphorical rock — or perhaps up in the privileged clouds.

In this blog post, we’ll cover the following aspects:

  1. An introduction to container orchestration and how it makes developers’ lives easier and more efficient
  2. Which are the most efficient container orchestration tools available in the market
  3. An overview of Docker Swarm, OpenShift, and Kubernetes along with their pros and cons
  4. Why Kubernetes stands out from the rest of the competition and is an ideal choice for Hyperledger Fabric deployment

First things first, let’s start with the basic overview of container orchestration. With more and more organizations adopting containers for production, the demand for container orchestration has skyrocketed in the past few years. In technical terms, container orchestration is the process of automating the deployment, management, scaling, networking, and availability of your containers, especially in large and dynamic dev environments. IT and DevOps teams around the world use this technique for multiple purposes and tasks like:

  • To control and automate deployment, redundancy, and availability of containers;
  • To scale up or remove containers in order to spread application load evenly across host infrastructure;
  • To track the movement of containers from one host to another in case of resource shortage in a host;
  • To effectively allocate resources between containers;
  • To ensure load balancing of service discovery between containers;
  • To run and monitor routine automated health checks of containers and hosts; and
  • To manage the configuration of an application in relation to the containers running it.

Now that you’re familiar with what container orchestration is and how enterprises around the world are using it to their advantage, let’s move further to the next part, i.e. which are the best container orchestration platforms for your specific business needs. So, without any further delay, let’s get on with it.

Three of the most popular open-source container 0rchestration platforms being widely used in production by companies worldwide are Docker Swarm, Kubernetes, and OpenShift.

Now to help you decide between these main contenders, let’s review them one by one and understand their pros and cons thoroughly.

Docker Swarm

Overview: A platform used for clustering and scheduling (hosting and managing) docker containers across different host machines. While Docker orchestration tools facilitate the complete Software Development Lifecycle (SDLC) from development to production, the Docker Swarm platform looks after cluster management. To top it all, Docker Swarm provides fast, scalable, and seamless production possibilities for distributed applications. It is enormously popular among the developers’ community and is ranked as the “most wanted”, “loved”, and “widely used” platform, according to a survey conducted by Stack Overflow.

Architecture: The key components of Docker Swarm architecture include Swarm, Service, Manager Node, Worker Nodes, and Task, and shown below.

Key Features:

  • Gives authority to DevOps professionals to develop windows applications using Docker Engine and Docker Datacenter.
  • Provides the necessary tools and resources to help IT and DevOps teams build, ship, and run distributed systems at a much faster pace.
  • Builds a well-equipped DevOps environment to assist developers, testers, and the entire deployment team.
  • Empowers developers and other teams involved in the SDLC to migrate applications to the cloud without any hassle.
  • Requires no additional software for operating; a simple and straightforward process.

Downsides:

  • Persistent data storage is complicated.
  • Not all applications benefit from containers.
  • Suitable primarily for those who are already familiar with Docker Compose.
  • Does not have advanced functionalities like built-in logging and monitoring.
  • More suitable for small scale organizations that are just getting started with containers.
  • Some container products don’t work with other containers, especially due to the competition between the companies that back them.

OpenShift

Overview: A RedHat-backed containers platform particularly used for developing and hosting enterprise applications. To be more specific, OpenShift is a PaaS (Platform as a Service) solution that aims to help IT and DevOps professionals to effectively improve, host, and calibrate applications in a cloud setting. It shortens the application development lifecycle while allowing you to deploy the application in your preferred environment (to the cloud or your own datacenter), thereby ensuring a secure operation.

Architecture: OpenShift has a microservices-based architecture of smaller, decoupled units that work collectively. Here’s the key highlight: it runs on top of a Kubernetes cluster, with the object data being stored in etcd, i.e. a strongly consistent, distributed key-value store that provides developers with a reliable way to store data that needs to be accessed by a distributed system or cluster of machines.

Besides core Kubernetes features, OpenShift offers out of the box components for container management and orchestration.

Key Features:

  • Comprises a Web console where developers can browse and manage their applications with integrated SCM and CI/CD workflow.
  • Comes with built-in support for Node.js, Ruby, Python, PHP, Perl, and Java, thereby allowing you to develop your own application using your chosen language and tools.
  • Provides users with the total management of the entire application development lifecycle.
  • Allows DevOps and IT professionals to scale their application by enabling clustering and adding additional instances of their app.
  • Promotes one-click deployment which empowers users to deploy their application in the click of a button or by entering a “Git push” command.

Downsides:

  • Freemium plan comes with very limited features, and technical support is only included in the premium plan.
  • Lacks support for legacy applications.
  • To make the most out of OpenShift, one needs to be tech-savvy and have a sound knowledge of the market.
  • Your application must implement Kubernetes pattern design.
  • Doesn’t support multi-cloud implementations.

Kubernetes (aka k8s)

Overview: A Google-backed open-source container orchestration platform designed particularly for automating deployments, scaling, and managing containerized applications across clusters of hosts. K8s makes it enormously easy for development teams to deploy and operate applications in a microservices architecture by creating an abstraction layer on top of a group of hosts. In the present scenario, Kubernetes has the largest customer base (almost four times of other available options) and is the most popular choice among the developers’ community, especially DevOps.

Architecture: The key components of the Kubernetes architecture include Master Node, Worker Node (Minion), Pods, Deployment, Kubelet, DaemonSet, ReplicaSet, and Service.

Key Features:

  • Supports automated deployment, scalability, rollouts, and rollbacks.
  • Provides comprehensive enterprise-grade container and cluster management services.
  • Comes with easy-to-understand, extensible documentation which helps developers to get started with the platform with minimal hassle.
  • Promotes scalable tracking of network endpoints in a Kubernetes cluster.
  • Manages your batch and CI workloads while replacing containers that fail, based on your requirement.
  • Regulates the workload without making any changes in the application.
  • Enhances portability because of container isolation.

Downsides:

  • K8s is mostly recommended for highly complex distributed applications; it can be an overkill for simple apps.
  • Working with Kubernetes is not everyone’s cup of tea; it can be an intimidating practice to begin.
  • It could adversely affect the preset timelines of the organization and can potentially plummet productivity.
  • Considering its constant innovation and copious additions, the landscape of Kubernetes can be potentially confusing for new users.
  • It has a steep learning curve and requires extensive training for its implementation.

Why Kubernetes for Hyperledger Fabric Deployment?

As you might already have figured out by now that each container orchestration platform explained above comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. As far as their adoption is concerned, the competition goes down-the-wire as all these tools are being used by many organizations for their production workloads. Unless we know the exact requirements and the complexity of the application, it is oblivious to choose one over the other.

However, Kubernetes leads the race when it comes to Hyperledger Fabric deployment, thanks to its countless valuable attributes, which include:

  • Its unswerving support for rapid, iterative software development and its ability to deploy applications across different production environments, from on-premises to the public cloud (or multiple private clouds).
  • Its comprehensive, intuitive dashboard, i.e. a web-based Kubernetes monitoring tool for managing tasks such as discovery, load balancing, and monitoring.
  • Its distinct ability to scale your application up and down using a single command, with a UI, or automatically based on CPU usage

Hyperledger Fabric gives its users the flexibility to choose their preferred database technology (LevelDB/CouchDB), type of endorsement policy they want, which organizations or enterprise-level stakeholders they would like to include in their network, number of peers for each organization, and the right to keep the network data either public or private. All of this leads to a very complex network setup which is extremely difficult to deploy on production environments.

This is where Kubernetes comes in and saves the day! Since Hyperledger Fabric is an open-source technology, there are ways to deploy complex or intricate Hyperledger Fabric networks using other open-source tools such as Kubernetes and Google Cloud. As already mentioned above, one of Kubernetes’s standout features is its compatibility with Docker containers. In case you didn’t know, Docker is used in most Hyperledger Fabric tutorials for creating and managing Hyperledger Fabric networks. Kubernetes provides a myriad of benefits that can decrease overheads and diminish complexity. Some of these include autoscaling, service discovery and load balancing, storage orchestration, service health checks, fault tolerance, secret and configuration management, automated rollouts and rollbacks, etc.

Conclusion

Containers are meant to be short-lived, and when it comes to container orchestration, you need to consider a plethora of factors before deciding upon a suitable platform (be it OpenShift, Docker Swarm or Kubernetes) for your organization, which include networking, high availability, ease of deployment, and good service discovery. The best part about container orchestration tools is that you can use them in any dev environment in which you can run your containers. For your understanding, containers these days can run in just about any kind of environment, be it traditional on-premise servers or public cloud instances running in AWS, Google Cloud or Microsoft Azure.

As far as Kubernetes is concerned, you can effortlessly run it in Google Cloud Platform (GCP), considering its extraordinary tech support, a wide variety of tools provided, free master nodes (which allows you to only pay for worker node instances), easy upgrades, and overall affordability in comparison to other cloud providers. However, that doesn’t mean you’re restricted to using just Google Cloud for Kubernetes-based container applications; there are various other cloud service providers that you can choose from (which provide Kubernetes support) including Amazon Web Services (AWS), Digital Ocean, Microsoft Azure, etc.

If you’re looking for a suitable solution that gives you the power to securely deploy a Hyperledger Fabric network on your preferred cloud environment using Kubernetes, then look no further than our innovative Blockchain-powered enterprise network management solution “FabDep”. From multi-cloud flexibility to customized Certificate Authority to smart contracts management, out tool is jam-packed with new and exciting features to make Hyperledger Fabric deployment less cumbersome and more automated. For deeper insights into our tool, visit www.fabrideployer.com

For a free consultation, call at 1–703–537–5009 or drop a line at fabdep@debutinfotech.com

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A full-service digital product development company that leverages Blockchain, AI, and other cutting-edge technologies to develop world-class solutions.

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Harpreet Singh

Harpreet Singh

A pioneer in Mobile, Blockchain, Managed Services, Oracle, and AI/ML Development

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