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Empowered Multi Cloud: Azure Arc and Kubernetes

At Arinco, we love Kubernetes, and in this post I’ll be covering the basics of configuring Azure Arc on Kubernetes. As a preview feature, this integration enables Azure administrators to connect to remote Kubernetes clusters, manage deployments, policy and monitoring data, without leaving the Azure Portal. If you’re experienced with Google Cloud, this functionality is remarkably similar to Google Anthos, with the main difference being that Anthos only focuses on Kubernetes, whereas Arc will quite happily manage Servers, SQL and Data platforms as well.

Azure Arc Architecture

Before we begin, there is a couple of key facts that you need to be aware of while Arc for Kubernetes is in preview:

  • Currently only East US and West Europe deployments are supported.
  • Only x64 based clusters will work at this time and no manifests are published for you to recompile software on other architectures.
  • Testing of supported clusters is still in early days. Microsoft doesn’t recommend the Arc enabled Kubernetes solution for production workloads

Enabling Azure Arc

Assuming that you already have a cluster that will be supported, configuring a connected Kubernetes instance is a monumentally simple task Two steps to be exact.

1. Enable the preview azure cli extensions

1az extension add --name connectedk8s
az extension add --name k8sconfiguration

2. Run the CLI commands to enable an ARC enabled cluster

1az connectedk8s connect --name GKE-KUBERNETES-LAB --resource-group KUBERNETESARC-RG01
Enabling Azure Arc

Under the hood, Azure CLI completes the following when we execute the above command:

  1. Creates an ARM Resource for your cluster, generating the relevant connections and secrets.
  2. Connects to your currently cluster context (see kubeconfig) and creates a deployment using Helm. ConfigMaps are provided with details for connecting to Azure, with resources being published into an azure-arc namespace
  3. Monitors this deployment to completion. For failing clusters, expect to be notified of failure after approximately 5-10 minutes.

If you would like to watch the deployment, it generally takes around 30 seconds for an Arc namespace to show up and from there you can watch as Azure Arc related pods are scheduled.

So what can we do?

Once a cluster is on-boarded to Arc, there is actually quite a bit you can do in preview, including monitor. The most important in my opinion is simplified method to control clusters via the GitOps model. If you were paying attention during deployment, you will have noticed that Flux is used to deliver this functionality. Expect further updates here, as Microsoft has publicly committed recently to further developing a standardised GitOps model.

Using this configurations model is quite simple, and to be perfectly honest, you don’t even need to understand exactly how Flux works. First, commit your Kubernetes manifests to a public repository, don’t stress too much about order or structure. Flux is basically magic here and can figure everything out. Next add a configuration to your cluster and go grab a coffee.

For my cluster, I’ve used the Microsoft demo repository. Simply fork this and you can watch the pods create as you update your manifests.

Closing Thoughts

There is a lot of reasons to run your own cluster, or a cluster in another cloud. Generally speaking, if you’re currently considering Azure Arc you will be pretty comfortable with the Kubernetes ecosystem as a whole.

Arc enabled clusters will just be another tool you could add, and you should use same consideration that you apply for every other service you consider utilising. In my opinion the biggest benefit of the service is simplified and centralized management capability across multiple clusters. This allows me to manage my own AKS clusters and AWS/GCP clusters with centralized policy enforcement, RBAC and monitoring. I would probably look to implement Arc if I was running a datacenter cluster, and definitely if I was looking to migrate to AKS in the future. If you are looking to get test out Arc for yourself, I would definitely recommend the Azure Arc Jumpstart.
Until next time, stay cloudy!

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