Kubernetes – Part 1: Why the need? Certifications (CKA, CKAD, CKS), pre-requisites, queries and motivation.

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For logical and concise context, I have split this top in three different blog post, feel free to navigate to the respective parts via the links below:

1. Kubernetes – Part 1: Why the need? Certifications (CKA, CKAD, CKS), pre-requisites, queries and motivation – this blog!
2. Kubernetes – Part 2: CKA and CKAD Exam, where to begin – documentation or courses?
3. Kubernetes – Part 3: CKA and CKAD exam preparation, approach, synopsis, tips and experience
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In this Part 1, we’ll discuss the need for learning Kubernetes (K8s), the certifications that Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) / Linux Foundation (LF) offer, pre-requisites, my motivation and answers to a few queries from a non-developer perspective.

Why the need to learn Kubernetes?

Kubernetes (K8s) has had a substantial growth in the last few years – VMware, Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc. all major vendors have their own flavour of Kubernetes offerings and majority of the cloud providers have or are in process of the adoption of this open-source ‘enterprise ready’ orchestration product. The evolution of running applications as a container has disrupted the IT industry, like the way virtualization did over a decade ago. There is no doubt that running applications as a container will surpass the standard of running virtual machines within the next decade. So, whether you are an architect, specialist, engineer or a developer or from infrastructure background – you will come across the need to learn Kubernetes in the next few years.

Motivation:

With VMware announcing the Tanzu brand back in VMworld 2019 and the “Tanzu Kubernetes Grid (TKG)” coming to life with VMware vSphere 7 (last year), my zeal for learning Kubernetes arose and I started reading articles every now and then. It was in the last quarter of 2020, I dedicated time to focus on learning the technology leading to passing the CKA (December 2020) and CKAD (January 2021) exams – which brings me to this blog of sharing my experience for the many aspirants out there.

I have been working on the “Infrastructure” side of IT all my career and this blog would potentially be quite helpful for the aspirants from a non-developer, infrastructure background. But even if you are a developer, looking to pass the CKA and CKAD exams – it will still significantly contribute to your learning path.

Certifications offered by Cloud Native Computing Foundation (CNCF) / Linux Foundation (LF):

  1. CKA – Certified Kubernetes Administrator program is to provide assurance that CKAs have the skills, knowledge, and competency to perform the responsibilities of Kubernetes administrators.
  2. CKAD – The Certified Kubernetes Application Developer exam certifies that users can design, build, configure, and expose cloud native applications for Kubernetes.
  3. CKS – The Certified Kubernetes Security Specialist program focused on the skills, knowledge, and competence on a broad range of best practices for securing container-based applications and Kubernetes platforms during build, deployment and runtime.

Are there any pre-requisites before you begin?

The start of your journey to learn Kubernetes could begin with your level of experience with Linux but it does not mean you need to have extensive knowledge or need to have been worked as “Linux Admin” – it just makes the journey a bit easier to “begin with”.

Note – the phrase, I used i.e. “begin with” in the last sentence. Aspirants from a Windows background could also look forward for Kubernetes, they would just need to spend a bit more time understanding some Linux concepts and commands before they begin or perhaps learn during your Kubernetes studies. This is coming from a Windows background individual like me, as I was able to learn few tricks on the way – so no discouragement there. Remember to “google” any Linux commands or terminologies you are not familiar with as this will help significantly.

The CKA, CKAD and the recently announced CKS exams, are all based on testing your skill on multiple Kubernetes clusters running on Linux (Ubuntu is being used as an OS at the time of writing this blog).

Do you need to have deep understanding of Docker before you begin with Kubernetes?

No. Even though Kubernetes is a “container” orchestration product. It does not have a dependency on Docker. Kubernetes uses common “container runtime standards” and docker is one of the container products being used. If you do not want to use docker the other option available (as of writing this blog) are containerd and CRI-O. Therefore, it is not necessary to have deep understanding of any specific container runtime like docker but it is good to have some basic knowledge of containers before you begin.

I started with the Kubernetes Essentials on acloudguru/linuxacademy course but there are quite a few basic essential courses available like Getting started with Kubernetes on Pluralsight and Kubernetes for the Absolute Beginners – Hands-on on Udemy.

Which exam to go for first?

The CKA and CKAD exams are independent of each other and an aspirant can opt to take any one of the two to begin with. I have seen many individuals/instructors making the statement that CKAD is easier of the two. Having passed both the exams, I have a slight difference in opinion.

If you are a developer, then yes CKAD may be a good option for you to begin with as it focuses on build, monitor, and troubleshoot scalable applications and tools in Kubernetes.

If you are a non-developer and from an infrastructure background, you’d like to know the foundation of Kubernetes cluster e.g. set it up and administration. Your existing experience of infrastructure would lead to a good tempo in understanding the architecture, the various design options, decision making in deployment of Kubernetes components.

Both CKA and CKAD exams have some overlap in the curriculum, so if you pass any one of them – you will spend less time to prepare for the other.

I choose to go with CKA exam first (as a non-developer) which helped me thinking from an enterprise design perspective and also helped me score some easy points in the exam.

The CKS exam made available recently, is focused on security of Kubernetes clusters e.g. Hardening, minimising vulnerabilities, monitoring, runtime security, etc. The aspirant should have attained CKA first as a pre-requisite before taking the CKS exam.

The curriculum of all exams is kept up to date and is available on github here.

That’s it for the Part 1, in Part 2, (<- click here) I’ll share some of the on-demand courses available on-line for CKA and CKAD and the ones I shortlisted for my studies and the reasons why.

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