Kubernetes for sideprojects: Hardware is dead

Philip Heltweg

August 15, 2019

Why invest in a personal cloud

It has never been easier to host your personal side projects. Tools like surge.sh or Heroku make it painless to run your code. And if all else fails the old reliable “drag and drop files to a ftp” is always there - so why invest time into setting up your own personal cloud with kubernetes?

My goal for technology is typically to find a setup that gets boring to work with because I know it well and can focus on delivering new functionality. For that a setup needs to be future proof (so it continues to work for a long time), generic (so I can use it for a wide range of applications and do not need to switch for every project) and not bound to any company or product.

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Photo by Taylor Vick on Unsplash

Docker & kubernetes

Docker and Kubernetes check most of these boxes. Kubernetes has de-facto won the orchestration war for containerized applications and managed kubernetes offerings from all major cloud providers means there is no provider lock-in. As an open source project that is not bound to individual company or setup you retain flexibility. Lastly learning more about it is useful in any case - if you stop developing your side projects the devops knowledge you gained still looks good on a CV.

A further important point that separates kubernetes from similar offerings is that you can 100% forget about hardware while still being free to use standard technology. That means you do not need to maintain a set of servers if you use a managed kubernetes offering (like you would need to with docker swarm) but you are still not locked into any provider (like you would be by using AWS Beanstalk, Firebase or Heroku).

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Why not…?

My own personal journey has made me try out the following alternatives in the order they are written down here and I have abandoned them all.

  1. Own servers
    • You need to maintain and update your own servers. If you do it without automation you will forget what you did.
    • The complexity and learning curve is close to kubernetes anyway. Instead of learning about deployments and stateful sets you will need to know about processes or package managers.
    • Scaling is harder.
  2. Services (e.g. Firebase)
    • Very easy to set up and use, probably advisable if you work on one or a few projects
    • Using vendor specific tools (like firebase realtime database) locks you and the logic of your app into that vendor. What if they change their offering (price? functionality?)
    • Services are the hammer that makes very problem look like a nail. Instead of picking the best technology for a job you will start trying to shoehorn your problems to be solved by what is available.
  3. Docker Swarm
    • I really liked it, very close to kubernetes but considerably easier
    • Sadly still forces you to manage your own servers to set up the swarm cluster, I could not find a “managed docker swarm” solution (if you know one, let me know!)

The value of infrastructure as code

By choosing kubernetes you also commit to keeping your infrastructure in code which has a plethora of benefits:

Organizing your projects

Google Cloud setup for personal cloud

Google Cloud setup for personal cloud

For my personal cloud I chose:

Further reading

About Me

I am a full stack developer and digital product enthusiast. I am available for freelance work and always looking for the next exciting project :).
You can reach me online either by email (pheltweg@gmail.com) or on twitter https://twitter.com/rhanarion.