Containers and Kubernetes Observability Tools and Best Practices

Containers and Kubernetes are popular technologies for developing and deploying cloud-native applications. Containers are lightweight and portable units of software that can run on any platform. Kubernetes is an open-source platform that orchestrates and manages containerized workloads and services.

Containers and Kubernetes offer many benefits, such as scalability, performance, portability, and agility. However, they also introduce new challenges for observability. Observability is the ability to measure and understand the internal state of a system based on the external outputs. Observability helps developers and operators troubleshoot issues, optimize performance, ensure reliability, and improve user experience.

Observability in containers and Kubernetes involves collecting, analyzing, and alerting on various types of data and events that reflect the state and activity of the containerized applications and the Kubernetes clusters. These data and events include metrics, logs, traces, events, alerts, dashboards, and reports.

In this article, we will explore some of the tools and best practices for observability in containers and Kubernetes.

Tools for Observability in Containers and Kubernetes

There are many tools available for observability in containers and Kubernetes. Some of them are native to Kubernetes or specific container platforms, while others are third-party or open-source solutions. Some of them are specialized for certain aspects or layers of observability, while others are comprehensive or integrated solutions. Some of them are:

  • Kubernetes Dashboard: Kubernetes Dashboard is a web-based user interface that allows users to manage and monitor Kubernetes clusters and resources. It provides information such as cluster status, node health, pod logs, resource usage, network policies, and service discovery. It also allows users to create, update, delete, or scale Kubernetes resources using graphical or YAML editors.
  • Prometheus: Prometheus is an open-source monitoring system that collects and stores metrics from various sources using a pull model. It supports multi-dimensional data model, flexible query language, alerting rules, and visualization tools. Prometheus is widely used for monitoring Kubernetes clusters and applications, as it can scrape metrics from Kubernetes endpoints, pods, services, and nodes. It can also integrate with other tools such as Grafana, Alertmanager, Thanos, and others.
  • Grafana: Grafana is an open-source visualization and analytics platform that allows users to create dashboards and panels using data from various sources. Grafana can connect to Prometheus and other data sources to display metrics in various formats such as graphs, charts, tables, maps, and more. Grafana can also support alerting, annotations, variables, templates, and other advanced features. Grafana is commonly used for visualizing Kubernetes metrics and performance
  • EFK Stack: EFK Stack is a combination of three open-source tools: Elasticsearch, Fluentd, and Kibana. Elasticsearch is a distributed search and analytics engine that stores and indexes logs and other data. Fluentd is a data collector that collects
    and transforms logs and other data from various sources and sends them to Elasticsearch or other destinations. Kibana is a web-based user interface that allows users to explore and visualize data stored in Elasticsearch. EFK Stack is widely used for logging and observability in containers and Kubernetes as it can collect and analyze logs from containers pods, nodes, services, and other software.
  • Loki: Loki is an open-source logging system that is designed to be cost-effective and easy to operate. Loki is inspired by Prometheus and uses a similar data model and query language. Loki collects logs from various sources using Prometheus service discovery and labels. Loki stores logs in a compressed and indexed format that enables fast and efficient querying. Loki can integrate with Grafana to display logs alongside metrics

Best Practices for Observability in Containers and Kubernetes

Observability in containers and Kubernetes requires following some best practices to ensure effective, efficient, and secure observability Here are some of them:

  • Define observability goals and requirements: Before choosing or implementing any observability tools or solutions, it is important to define the observability goals and requirements for the containerized applications and the Kubernetes clusters These goals and requirements should align with the business objectives, the user expectations, the service level agreements (SLAs), and the compliance standards. They should also specify what data and events to collect, how to analyze them, how to alert on them, and how to visualize them.
  • Use standard formats and protocols: To ensure interoperability and compatibility among different observability tools and solutions, it is recommended to use standard formats and protocols for collecting, storing, and exchanging data and events. For example, use OpenMetrics for metrics, JSON for logs, OpenTelemetry for traces, CloudEvents for events. Containers and Kubernetes Observability Tools and Best Practices. These standards can help reduce complexity, overhead, and vendor lock-in in observability.
  • Leverage native Kubernetes features: Kubernetes provides some native features that can help with observability For example, use labels and annotations to add metadata to Kubernetes resources that can be used for filtering, grouping, or querying. Use readiness probes and liveness probes to check the health status of containers. Use resource requests and limits to specify the resource requirements of containers. Use horizontal pod autoscaler (HPA) or vertical pod autoscaler (VPA) to scale pods based on metrics. Use custom resource definitions (CRDs) or operators to extend the functionality of Kubernetes resources These features can help improve the visibility, control, and optimization of containers and Kubernetes clusters.