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How should a great K8s distro feel? Try the new Canonical Kubernetes, now in beta

Kubernetes revolutionised container orchestration, allowing faster and more reliable application deployment and management. But even though it transformed the world of DevOps, it introduced new challenges around security maintenance, networking and application lifecycle management. 

Canonical has a long history of providing production-grade Kubernetes distributions, which gave us great insights into Kubernetes’ challenges and the unique experience of delivering K8s that match the expectations of both developers and operations teams. Unsurprisingly, there is a world of difference between them. Developers need a quick and reproducible way to set up an application environment on their workstations. Operations teams with clusters powering the edge need lightweight high-availability setups with reliable upgrades. Cloud installations need intelligent cluster lifecycle automation to ensure applications can be integrated with each other and the underlying infrastructure.

We provide two distributions, Charmed Kubernetes and MicroK8s, to meet those different expectations. Charmed Kubernetes wraps upstream K8s with software operators to provide lifecycle management and automation for large and complex environments. It is also the best choice if the Kubernetes cluster has to integrate with custom storage, networking or GPU components. Microk8s has a thriving community of users; it is a production-grade, ZeroOps solution that powers laptops and edge environments. It is the simplest way to get Kubernetes anywhere and focus on software product development instead of working with infrastructure routines and operations.

After providing Kubernetes distributions for over seven years, we decided to consolidate our experience into a new distribution that combines the best of both worlds: ZeroOps for small clusters and intelligent automation for larger production environments that also want to benefit from the latest community innovations.

Canonical Kubernetes will be our third distribution and an excellent foundation for future MicroK8s and Charmed Kubernetes releases. You can find its beta in our Snap Store under the simple name k8s. We based it on the latest upstream Kubernetes 1.30 beta, which officially came out on 12 March. It will be a CNCF conformant distribution with an enhanced security posture and best-in-class open source components for the most demanding user needs: network, DNS, metrics server, local storage, ingress, gateway, and load balancer.

ZeroOps with the most essential features built-in

Canonical Kubernetes is easy to install and easy to maintain. Like MicroK8s, Canonical Kubernetes is installed as a snap, giving developers a great installation experience and advanced security features such as automated patch upgrades. Adding new nodes to your cluster comes with minimum hassle. It also provides a quick way to set up high availability.

You need two commands to get a single node cluster, one for installation and another for cluster bootstrap. You can try it out now on your console by installing the k8s snap from the beta channel:

sudo snap install k8s --channel=1.30-classic/beta --classic
sudo k8s bootstrap

If you look at the status of your cluster just after bootstrap – with the help of the k8s status command – you might immediately spot that the network, dns, and metrics-server are already running. In addition to those three, Canonical Kubernetes also provides local-storage, ingress, gateway, and load-balancer, which you can easily enable. Under the hood, these are powered by Cilium, CoreDNS, OpenEBS, and Metrics Server. We bundle these as built-in features to ensure tight integration and a seamless experience. We want to emphasise standard Kubernetes APIs and abstractions to minimise disruption during upgrades while enabling the platform to evolve.

All our built-in features come with default configurations that make sense for the most popular use cases, but you can easily change them to suit your needs.

Same Kubernetes for developer workstations, edge, cloud and data centres

Typical application development flows start with the developer workstation and go through CI/CD pipelines to end up in the production environment. These software delivery stages, spanning various environments, should be closely aligned to enhance developer experience and avoid infrastructure configuration surprises as your software progresses through the pipeline. When done right, you can deploy applications faster. You also get better security assurance as everyone can use the same K8s binary offered by the same vendor across the entire infrastructure software stack.

When you scale up from the workstation to a production environment, you will inevitably be exposed to a different class of problems inherent to large-scale infrastructure. For instance, managing and upgrading cluster nodes becomes complicated and time-consuming as the number of nodes and applications grows. To provide the smooth automation administrators need, we offer Kubernetes lifecycle management through Juju, Canonical’s open source orchestration engine for software operators.  

If you have Juju installed on your machine already, a Canonical Kubernetes cluster is only a single command away:

juju deploy k8s --channel edge

By letting Juju Charm automate your lifecycle management, you can benefit from its rich integration ecosystem, including the Canonical Observability Stack.

Enhanced security posture

Security is critical to any Kubernetes cluster, and we have addressed it from the beginning. Canonical Kubernetes 1.30 installs as a snap with a classic confinement level, enabling automatic patch upgrades to protect your infrastructure against known vulnerabilities. Canonical Kubernetes will be shipped as a strict snap in the future, which means it will run in complete isolation with minimal access to the underlying system’s resources. Additionally, Canonical Kubernetes will comply with security standards like FIPS, CIS and DISA-STIG.

Critical functionalities we have built into Canonical Kubernetes, such as networking or dns, are shipped as secure container images maintained by our team. Those images are built with Ubuntu as their base OS and benefit from the same security commitments we make on the distribution.

While it is necessary to contain core Kubernetes processes, we must also ensure that the user or operator-provided workloads running on top get a secure, adequately controlled environment. Future versions of Canonical Kubernetes will provide AppArmor profiles for the containers that do not inherit the enhanced features of the underlying container runtime. We will also work on creating an allowlist for kernel modules that can be loaded using the Kubernetes Daemonsets. It will contain a default list of the most popular modules, such as GPU modules needed by AI workloads. Operators will be able to edit the allowlist to suit their needs.

Try out Canonical Kubernetes 1.30 beta

We would love for you to try all the latest features in upstream Kubernetes through our beta. Get started by visiting

Besides getting a taste of the features I outlined above, you’ll be able to try exciting changes that will soon be included in the upcoming upstream GA release on 17 April 2024. Among others, CEL for admission controls will become stable, and the drop-in directory for Kubelet configuration files will go to the beta stage. Additionally, Contextual logging and CRDValidationRatcheting will graduate to beta and be enabled by default. There are also new metrics, such as image_pull_duration_seconds, which can tell you how much time the node spent waiting for the image.

We want Canonical Kubernetes to be a great K8s for everyone, from developers to large-scale cluster administrators.

Try it out and let us know what you think. We would love your feedback! You can find contact information on our community page.

We’ll also be available at KubeCon in Paris, at booth E25 – if you are there, come and say hi.

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What is Kubernetes?

Kubernetes, or K8s for short, is an open source platform pioneered by Google, which started as a simple container orchestration tool but has grown into a platform for deploying, monitoring and managing apps and services across clouds.

Learn more about Kubernetes ›

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