I recently was a guest on StreamingClouds. StreamingClouds is a multicloud live stream by Microsoft CSA Kevin Evans and Microsoft MVP Robin Smorenburg. With topics ranging from cloud native to hybrid, security, architecture, strategy, careers, personal development, and more.
StreamingClouds is more than just a live stream podcast its also a diverse community where the members can all learn from each other.
To highlight what we covered in the episode, we discussed how to effectively use Microsoft’s AKS documentation, reference architectures, scripts, and tools for your AKS project. We also touched on GitOps, Fleet Management, Platform Engineering and more.
Here is a full description of what we covered on the episode: Starting an AKS project soon or in the middle of one and lost? Have you tried to use the Microsoft AKS documentation, reference architectures, scripts, and tools but feel stuck on what to use and when to use it? Let’s talk about it and get you the guidance you need. There is a formula and framework to using these AKS artifacts from Microsoft.
In 2022 I wrote a couple of blog posts that give guidance on how to utilize the Microsoft AKS artifacts and tools. In these blog posts I baked in experience from my days delivering AKS projects to Fortune 500 enterprises. We thought it would be a good idea to dive into the content from these live on the podcast talking through these topics to help listeners who are embarking on an AKS journey. Here aforementioned blog posts for reference:
We dove into:
Architecture Design: Baseline architecture for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster AKS Secure Baseline with Private Cluster AKS baseline for multi-region clusters AKS regulated cluster for PCI Advanced Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) microservices architecture
Deployment: AKS landing zone accelerator AKS Construction Helper AKS Baseline Automation Azure Draft for AKS
Operation: Operations management considerations for Azure Kubernetes Service Azure Kubernetes Services (AKS) day-2 operations guide
In February Come Cloud With Us is hosting a Kubernetes panel with some of the industry’s BEST Kubernetes experts. I am honored and humbled to be one of the panelists. This panel consists of K8s experts from Dell, Google, Microsoft, Intercept, United Wholesale Mortgage, and Admincontrol. This is a global panel with panelists and hosts from the United States, Norway, United Kingdom, and Canada. Several of the panelists are also authors, Microsoft MVP’s and CNCF Ambassadors.
Here is a breakdown of the hosts and the panelists:
The panel will discuss Kubernetes and answer attendee questions. This will be a virtual event. This will be an event that you DON’T want to miss! Mark your calendars for the event on Thursday, February 16, 2023 4:00PM-5:30PM CST!
I am kicking off the new year as a guest on the “AzureTalks” podcast by Rolf Schutten. Rolf is a Microsoft MVP based out of the Netherlands. The AzureTalks podcast is a free-form conversation with experts and advocates around the industry discussing various topics on Azure, its services, and integration points with Azure. Some of the topics also get into strategy career, personal development, and more. You can listen to podcast episodes on Google Podcasts, Spotify, and YouTube. You can find the website for this podcast here: www.azuretalks.com
The episode I am a guest on is #004 titled “Containerize apps to AKS with Azure Draft, and Hybrid with Azure Arc“.
In this episode, we discuss how developers can utilize Azure Draft to streamline taking their non-containerized app from code to running on AKS. Azure Draft takes you through the entire process from creating the container, the files needed to run on Kubernetes manifests, Helm charts, or Kustomize, pushing up to an Azure Container Registry, and deploying to AKS.
We also dive into GitHub, GitOps, the differences between push and pull methods with continuous deployment, and even we even touched on hybrid cloud strategies and what role Azure Arc plays in this space. Listen to the audio version of the podcast episode here:
I recently was a guest on Michael Levan‘s Kubernetes Unpacked Podcast on the Packet Pushers network.
This is Kubernetes Unpacked episode #014 it is titled: “Using GitOps And AKS To Build And Deploy Applications“
Michael and I talked about using GitOps and Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) to automate the building and deployment of applications. We also chat about an entire architecture incorporating AKS, GitHub Actions, Azure Container Registry, GitHub, and ArgoCD along with how it all comes together to make a useful stack. Check out the podcast below.
I will be giving the Keynote at the next (MN)NUG (Minnesota Networking User Group) event on December 6th. (MN)NUG is a part of the (US)NUA (US Networking User Association) organization that hosts a vendor-neutral environment to talk networks. With beer.
After my talk, there will be a panel of networking experts from Target, Cologix, Cisco, and Arista Networks.
Here is my talk info:
Networking is more relevant than ever in a cloud-native world (cloud & Kubernetes)
Folks are often so focused on the new and shiny stuff in modern technology such as cloud, Kubernetes, and DevOps, however, core skills such as networking are as relevant as ever and one of the top skills one should have when working with these modern technologies. In this session, Steve is going to explore why you should start with networking when embarking on a journey into the cloud or Kubernetes.
Here is the full schedule:
4:30pm – 5:00pm Check-In / Open Mingle
5:00pm – 5:50pm Keynote Presentation Networking more relevant than ever in a cloud-native world (cloud & Kubernetes)
I will be speaking at Tech Summit Nigeria 2022. This event is to be held in Lagos, Nigeria at the Microsoft ADC center. It is an event for Cloud & Mixed- Reality professionals & enthusiasts. The website for the is https://www.techsummitnigeria.com.
My session title is: “K8s is complex! Simplify its Deployment & Configuration“.
The abstract is: Understanding Kubernetes is complex. Designing its architecture is complex. Deploying it is complex. And Configuring it is complex. K8s in general are complex. Spend less time on getting your Kubernetes up and running and more time running your containerized apps!
In this session, Steve Buchanan will take you on a journey utilizing a tool named the AKS Construction Helper that can simplify your AKS Deployment & Configurations.
It was a fun session with an engaged audience! Here are some pictures from the session.
If you missed my session you can watch the replay here:
Yesterday a new article titled “Build and deploy apps on AKS using DevOps and GitOps” was published. This is an article I was working on for a while and it is the first item of work that I can share publicly since joining Microsoft. I am working on many other things I can’t share publicly at the moment. :-)!
The article is a part of the Azure Architecture Center. This article is about modernizing end-to-end app build and deploy using containers, continuous integration (CI) via GitHub Actions for build and push to an Azure Container Registry, as well as GitOps via Argo CD for continuous deployment (CD) to an AKS cluster.
The article explores deploying a Python and Flask based app via two CI/CD approaches push-based and pull-based (GitOps). It is complete with a pros and cons comparison of both approaches and architecture diagrams for each that you can download. Here is a screenshot of the pull-based (GitOps) architecture:
The technologies used in this article and scenario include:
One of the top concerns I see from companies when architecting AKS is running out of IP addresses. This is commonly known as IP exhaustion. This concern would come up when selecting the network model for AKS specifically with Azure CNI.
Companies would lean towards Azure CNI at first but quickly opt for Kubenet. Azure CNI provides benefits on Azure. It has deeper integration between Kubernetes and Azure networking. With Azure CNI you don’t have to manually configure routing for traffic to flow from pods to other resources on Azure VNets. Pods get full network connectivity and can be reached via their private IP address. Supports Virtual Nodes (Azure Container Instances), it supports either Azure or Calico Network Policies and Windows containers. Azure CNI does however require more IP address space. The traditional Azure CNI assigns an IP address to every Pod from a subnet reserved for pods or pre-reserved set of IPs on every node. This method can lead to exhausting available IPs.
The alternative to Azure CNI with AKS is Kubenet. A lot of companies opt for Kubenet to avoid IP Exhaustion as it conserves IP address space. Kubenet assigns private IP addresses to pods. It does not have routing to Azure networking. In order to route from pods to Azure VNets you need to manually configure and manage user-defined routes (UDRs). With Kubenet a simple /24 IP CIDR range is able to support up to 251 nodes in an AKS cluster. This would give you support IPs for up to 27,610 pods (at 110 pods per node).
With Azure CNI the same /24 IP CIDR range would be able to support up to 8 nodes in the cluster supporting up to 240 pods (default max of 30 pods per node w/Azure CNI. Allocation of 31 IP address; 1 for the node + 30 for Pods.).
Here is a side by side breakdown of Kubenet and Azure CNI:
Capacity using ‘/24’ address range
251 nodes / 27,610 pods (110 pods / node)
8 nodes / 240 pods (30 pods / node)
Max nodes per cluster
400 (UDR max)
1,000 (or more)
NAT’ed / UDR /
Slightly greater (NAT hop)
Calico community support
Supported by Azure support and the Engineering team
Out of the Box Logging
/var/log/calico inside the container
Rules added/deleted in IPTables are logged on every host under /var/log/azure-npm.log
Best w/limited IP space Most pod comms within cluster UDR management is acceptable
Available IP space Most pod coms outside cluster No need to manage UDR Need advanced features
As you can see you can get a lot more pods on Kubenet and you will burn through a lot more IP’s with Azure CNI. One would think when using Azure CNI to just assign a large CIDR for the subnets like /16 instead of /24. This would work however most IT teams in the enterprise that are connecting AKS to existing networks don’t have that option based on the existing IP design and are stuck working with smaller IP address ranges they can use.
Microsoft has built a solution to the IP exhaustion problem. The solution is Azure CNI Overlay. Azure CNI Overlay for AKS has been around for a while but was recently released into public preview on 9/4/22. Azure CNI Overlay for AKS helps us avoid IP exhaustion with our AKS clusters. It does this by assigning using a private /24 IP CIDR range and assigning IPs from this for pods on every node.
After designing and architecting AKS the next step is to deploy your cluster/s. It is ideal to build your AKS deployments out as code.
This means taking your Azure infrastructure & AKS cluster/s design and scripting them as IaC (Infrastructure as Code). Scripting the AKS deployment vs manually deploying gives you documentation as code, standardization, & a templatized deployment for repeatability. You can deploy this code as is, place it in a pipeline for ease of deployment, in inner-source, or in a service catalog for access by multiple teams.
Microsoft has built a tool named the AKS Construction helper to accelerate building out your IaC for AKS. This tool is not as well-known as it should be. I wanted to blog about this tool to share this great resource that will save you tons of time. The AKS Construction helper was originally launched by Keith Howling of Microsoft. The core contributors to this tool have been Gordon Byers and Keith Howling with contributions from others as well.
The tool lets you select Operations Principles or Enterprise-Scale path for configuring the options.
This helps narrow down the overall design requirements of your AKS deployment.
The next section of the AKS Construction helper is to fine-tune your AKS deployment. This gives you the chance to tweak things like the cluster name, K8s version, resource group, region, to be created, IP and Cider, initial RBAC, SLA, autoscaling, upgrade configuration, cluster networking, add ons such as an ingress controller (App Gateway, NGINX, etc), monitoring such as Azure Monitor, Azure policy, service mesh, secret storage, Keda, GitOps with Flux, and even has a few options to deploy some sample apps. This is done across 5 tabs in the Fine tine and Deploy section.
After you have set all of the configurations for your cluster there is code available for you to copy on the Deploy tab. Again you have options for Az CLI, a Github Actions workflow, Terraform scripts or an ARM Template Parameters file. Running the deployment code will deploy your AKS cluster exactly how you have it configured in the AKS Construction helper tool.
NOTE:As with all of my blog posts the views and opinions on this post are my own and are not that of my employer.
The goal of this blog is to serve as Guidance on Microsoft AKS Enterprise Documentation.
Before joining Microsoft, I was in the F500/F100 consulting world. I was focused on Azure, DevOps, and Kubernetes. Many organizations had an interest in utilizing a managed Kubernetes service. This would often lead them to Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). We spent time guiding organizations on how to get started with AKS including the design of the architecture, deployment, and operation of it.
Like with Azure and other platforms that have a lot of moving parts, AKS has many design areas that need to be covered as a part of the design and implementation. The core areas are:
IAM (Identity and access management)
Networking (topology, IP addressing, Ingress, load balancing, service mesh, Web App Firewall, etc.)
Management and Operations (monitoring, backup, DR, etc.)
Automation and DevOps (Orchestration, service discovery, Configuration, Autoscaling, CI/CD/GitOps, etc.)
These are in addition to the core but come into play with the apps that will run on top of Kubernetes:
In order to simplify Kubernetes projects, you can funnel them down to three phases; Design, Deploy, and Operate.
This is a lot of ground to cover on top of gaining a solid understanding of Kubernetes itself. Microsoft has created a set of resources that can simplify and accelerate the adoption of Kubernetes. This is a set of resources that help you build out landing zones for AKS and some for Azure. These resources live in the Azure Architecture Center (AAC). The AAC is where you get guidance for architecting solutions on Azure using established patterns and practices.
I highly recommend any team and organization that plans to adopt Kubernetes utilize these artifacts from Microsoft to help you along your journey. This will ensure your AKS clusters are enterprise ready. When starting with AKS it can be confusing when and in what order to use these resources.
Again, the goal of this blog post is to give you a guide on how to use these resources. I will list these resources here in order with a brief description of them, when to use them, and how to use them:
Part #1 is to start with architecting. You will need to start with designing your AKS architecture. There are several documents that can assist with this as you work through your AKS architecture design. You will want to start with the Baseline architecture for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) document. This document is core for designing AKS, however, there are some additional AKS documents that you will want to utilize in addition to the Baseline architecture for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS). These additional documents will depend on your organization’s specific use case.
Baseline architecture for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster
What it is:
The AKS baseline gives you detailed recommendations for networking, security, identity, management, and monitoring of AKS clusters. This baseline takes you through all the needed facets of AKS to come up with a plan for implementing AKS across your enterprise. The final result will be based on your organization’s business requirements.
How to use it:
This document will take you through 6 core areas divided up into sections with sub-sections.
You will start with your networking and work your way through the sections finishing off with operations.
This document has a Visio file of the AKS architecture you can download to get you started. You can download this right away and build it out with specifics to your needs as you work through this document. In fact, there are multiple Visio templates you can download to help.
A common area that folks really struggle with when getting started with AKS is planning the IP addresses. Teams need help deciding to use Kubenet or Azure CNI for the networking model. You cannot change this on an AKS cluster after it is deployed so you have to make this decision upfront. The only way to go from one networking model to another is to deploy a new cluster. Admins often worry about IP exhaustion when utilizing Azure CNI. There is a Visio and another sub-doc to help with all of this within the IP Address section. It has a link to this: repo (https://github.com/mspnp/aks-baseline/blob/main/networking/topology.md) that has a markdown file that has a table to help with planning your subnets for AKS and this document that helps you determine to go with Kubenet or Azure CNI as well as critical information on each model type and IPs.
This document also covers GitOps, multi-tenancy, and cost management with AKS.
The next four documents I am going to mention fit different scenarios so you may or may not need them. I will call out in the “How to use it” sections below each reference.
AKS Secure Baseline with Private Cluster
What it is:
This document helps you deploy a secure AKS cluster, compliant with Enterprise-Scale for AKS guidance and best practices. This document also contains links to reference scripts for deploying a private AKS cluster.
How to use it:
In practice in the real world, you will want to deploy a private AKS cluster 99% of the time. There needs to be a very solid reason not to. By doing this alone you will greatly improve the security posture of your AKS cluster. By default, when you deploy AKS the API server is accessible via a public IP. Deploying a private AKS cluster makes the AKS API Server private and only accessible on the Azure or when connected to your Azure VNet that the private cluster is on i.e. if you are connected via ExpressRoute. I would recommend you plan to deploy your clusters as private and utilize this document right along the baseline document when designing your AKS architecture.
This reference architecture details how to run multiple instances of an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster across multiple regions in an active/active and highly available configuration.
How to use it:
If you need multi-region AKS clusters with greater high availability then this is a document you will want to look at to guide you with this. If you don’t need multi-region-based clusters skip this document.
Microsoft has built a 9-part series of articles to help when organizations need to run PCI workloads on AKS. Below are the first 3 of those articles as this is where you start. You will want to reference all 9 parts of the series though.
Introduction of an AKS regulated cluster for PCI-DSS 3.2.1 – This reference architecture describes the considerations for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster designed to run a sensitive workload. The guidance is tied to the regulatory requirements of the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS 3.2.1).
Architecture of an AKS regulated cluster for PCI-DSS 3.2.1 – This article describes a reference architecture for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster that runs a workload in compliance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS 3.2.1). This architecture is focused on the infrastructure and not the PCI-DSS 3.2.1 workload.
Configure networking of an AKS regulated cluster for PCI-DSS 3.2.1 – This article describes the networking considerations for an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster that’s configured in accordance with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS 3.2.1).
How to use it:
If your organization plans to run any workloads that need PCI compliance on AKS then you will want to check out this document and utilize it when designing for your AKS clusters. It gets into topics such as TLS, DDoS protection, pop-to-pod security, and more.
Advanced Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) microservices architecture
What it is:
This reference architecture details several configurations to consider when running microservices on Azure Kubernetes Services. Topics include configuring network policies, pod autoscaling, and distributed tracing across a microservice-based application.
How to use it:
The chances are high that you will be running microservice-based workloads on your AKS cluster. Utilize this document in your design process to ensure your architecture is ready to handle microservices-based workloads. It also includes a Visio file to help you get started.
Part #2 is to deploy the architecture you designed. The best option for deploying Azure infrastructure and AKS clusters is to script it as IaC (Infrastructure as Code). Scripting the deployment vs manually deploying allows you to have documentation via code, standardization, and a templatized deployment for repeatability. You can take this code and place it in a pipeline for ease of deployment, in a service catalog for access to teams across your org, or as an inner source for use among DevOps teams.
Microsoft has built something called the AKS Landin Zone Accelerator as a starting point to use for building out your IaC for AKS. The idea is that you can utilize the Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) Baseline documentation as a reference when designing your AKS and use the AKS Landing Zone Accelerator to deploy. Now your architecture should be based on the AKS baseline with some modifications to fit your specific needs. The AKS Landing Zone Accelerator may need to be modified to fit your specific needs as well. As long as your architecture is based on the AKS Baseline then you should not have to make a ton of modifications to the AKS Landing Zone Accelerator code. In fact, 80% or more of the work should be done for you already when utilizing the AKS Landing Zone Accelerator IaC code.
The AKS Landing Zone Accelerator contains IaC code for both bicep and terraform. It also has instructions on how to deploy the AKS Baseline using either of the two languages.