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What Is Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) And How Does It Work?

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18th Sep, 2023
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What Is Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) And How Does It Work?

Containerisation has become a cornerstone of application development in the modern IT landscape. Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) stands at the forefront of this revolution. It has empowered organisations to harness the potential of containerised applications within the secure and scalable Azure cloud environment, all while simplifying the variegated complexities of Kubernetes orchestration. 

Read on to learn more about AKS Azure Kubernetes and how it can revolutionise the deployment, scaling, and maintenance of your modern applications. 

What is Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS)?

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is considered the fastest way to build and run cloud-native apps in Azure, data centres, or on the edge, It is designed to provide a  smooth development process with pre-built pipelines and security measures.

AKS in Azure simplifies setting up and managing Kubernetes clusters, making it easier for developers and operations teams to focus on building and running their applications.

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How Does Kubernetes Function in The Azure Environment?

Kubernetes works with Azure through Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) to provide a managed Kubernetes environment. With AKS, you can easily create, scale, and maintain AKS clusters without managing the infrastructure.

Here’s how Kubernetes operates within the Azure environment:-

  • Cluster Creation: To use Kubernetes on Azure, you need to first create AKS cluster. This cluster is a managed Kubernetes cluster consisting of a set of virtual machines (VMs) that become the nodes of your Kubernetes cluster.
  • Azure Resource Management: AKS leverages Azure’s resource management capabilities. This means that the underlying VMs, networking, and storage resources are provisioned and managed by Azure, reducing the operational overhead for cluster creation and maintenance.
  • Node Pools: You can configure one or more node pools within an AKS cluster. Node pools are groups of VMs with similar configurations and scaling settings. You can have different node pools with varying VM sizes and configurations within a single AKS cluster, allowing you to optimise resource allocation for different workloads.
  • Kubernetes API Server: The Kubernetes control plane, including the API server, Etcd (the distributed key-value store), and other components, runs on Azure-managed VMs. These components are responsible for managing the overall state and configuration of the cluster.
  • Monitoring and Logging: Azure provides monitoring and logging solutions such as Azure Monitor and Azure Log Analytics, which can be integrated with AKS for monitoring cluster health, performance, and logs. You can use tools like Prometheus and Grafana for more advanced monitoring.
  • Security: Azure Kubernetes Service integrates with Azure Active Directory (Azure AD) for identity and access management. You can also implement network policies, RBAC (Role-Based Access Control), and integrate with Azure Key Vault for secret management to enhance security.
  • CI/CD Integration: You can set up CI/CD pipelines using Azure DevOps, Jenkins, GitLab CI/CD, or other tools to automate the deployment of your Kubernetes applications on AKS, making it easier to achieve continuous integration and continuous deployment.
  • Integration with Azure Services: AKS in Azure can be seamlessly integrated with various Azure services like Azure Container Registry (ACR), Azure Functions, Azure Logic Apps, Azure SQL Database, and more, enabling you to build comprehensive cloud-native applications.

Benefits of Availing AKS in Azure

The following benefits of Azure Kubernetes Service empower developers and organisations to ensure smooth deployment and management of containerised applications, reducing operational overhead and accelerating application development and deployment:

  1. Scalability: AKS supports horizontal and vertical scaling to accommodate changing workloads. You can easily scale the number of pods and nodes based on demand.
  2. High Availability: AKS clusters are designed for high availability with multiple masters and node pools, ensuring your applications are robust and available.
  3. Security: AKS security is top-notch as it comes with built-in features like Azure Active Directory integration, RBAC, network policies, and Azure Key Vault integration. These help enhance the security of clusters and applications.
  4. Monitoring and Logging: AKS can be integrated with Azure Monitor and Azure Log Analytics, enabling you to monitor the performance, health, and logs of your clusters and applications.
  5. Auto Scaling: AKS can automatically scale the number of nodes in your cluster based on resource utilisation, ensuring that your applications are performant while minimising costs during periods of low demand.

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Use Cases of AKS

Azure Kubernetes Service is primarily used to simplify tasks and enhance the scalability, reliability, and agility of applications. Here is a consolidated list of the key use cases of AKS in Azure:-

  • Microservices: AKS is particularly well-suited for deploying and managing microservices-based applications. In a microservices architecture, applications are broken down into small, loosely coupled services that can be developed, deployed, and scaled independently. 
  • Web Applications: AKS is an excellent choice for hosting and scaling web applications. Whether you have a simple website or a complex web application with various services, AKS can efficiently help launch and scale containers running your web components. It allows you to easily adjust the number of instances based on web traffic, ensuring a responsive and cost-effective web presence.
  • API Services: AKS is ideal for deploying and scaling API services. As organisations expose more APIs to support their applications and ecosystems, AKS simplifies the management of these services. 
  • CI/CD Pipelines: Integrating AKS into your CI/CD (Continuous Integration/Continuous Deployment) pipelines streamlines the process of deploying containerised applications. This automation ensures that new code changes are quickly and consistently deployed to your AKS clusters, reducing manual intervention and minimising the risk of errors in the deployment process. 
  • Dev/Test Environments: AKS is valuable for creating development and testing environments that closely mirror production. By using AKS for dev/test, you ensure consistency between environments, reduce “it works on my machine” issues, and allow developers and testers to work with realistic replicas of the production environment. 

Steps to Create AKS Cluster

Creating an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) cluster involves several steps:

  • Sign in to the Azure Portal with your Azure account.
  • Optionally, create a resource group to organise your AKS resources.
  • Click “+ Create a resource.”
  • Search for “Kubernetes Service” or “AKS” in the Azure Marketplace and select it.
  • In the “Basics” tab:
  • Select your Azure subscription.
  • Choose or create a resource group.
  • Pick the Azure region.
  • Select the desired Kubernetes version.
  • In the “Node Pools” tab:
  • Configure node pool settings, including VM size and count.
  • Optionally, enable Virtual Nodes with Azure Container Instances.
  • Choose your authentication method in the “Authentication” tab (e.g., Azure Active Directory or service principal).
  • In the “Networking” tab:
  • Choose network configuration (Azure CNI or kubenet).
  • Decide on a Load Balancer (new or existing).
  • Specify the virtual network and subnet.
  • In the “Monitoring” tab, enable Azure Monitor for AKS.
  • In the “Scaling” tab, configure auto-scaling if needed.
  • Optionally, add tags for organisational purposes in the “Tags” tab.
  • Review your settings in the “Review + Create” tab and click “Create.”
  • Monitor the deployment progress in the Azure Portal; it may take a few minutes.
  • Access your AKS cluster using Azure CLI, kubectl, or Azure Portal once deployment is complete.

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How to Connect the AKS Private Cluster

To connect to an Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) private cluster, you can use the Cloud Shell or Azure CLI. Here are the steps for both methods:-

Using Cloud Shell

  • Open Azure Cloud Shell: Go to Azure Cloud Shell and sign in.
  • Select Subscription and Resource Group: If needed, set the subscription and resource group using an az account set.
  • Get AKS Credentials: Run az aks get-credentials –resource-group <ResourceGroup> –name <AKSClusterName> –admin.
  • Verify Connection: Use kubectl get nodes to verify connectivity to your AKS private cluster.

Using Azure CLI

  • Install Azure CLI: Install Azure CLI on your local machine if not already installed.
  • Login to Azure: Run az login to log in to your Azure account.
  • Select Subscription and Resource Group: Set the subscription and resource group if you have multiple using az account set.
  • Get AKS Credentials: Execute az aks get-credentials –resource-group <ResourceGroup> –name <AKSClusterName> –admin.
  • Verify Connection: Check connectivity to your AKS private cluster with kubectl get nodes.

AKS Security, Monitoring and Compliance

Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) provides a range of features to help you maintain the security and compliance of your containerised workloads. Here’s an overview of these aspects:-


  • Azure AD Integration: Integrate with Azure AD for identity and access management.
  • RBAC: Implement fine-grained access controls with Role-Based Access Control.
  • Network Security: Use Azure Virtual Network and network policies for enhanced security.
  • Azure Policy: Define and enforce compliance and security policies.
  • ACR Integration: Securely manage container images with Azure Container Registry (ACR).
  • Secrets Management: Store and manage sensitive data securely with Azure Key Vault.

Monitoring and Logging

  • Azure Monitor: Monitor performance, health, and resource utilisation.
  • Log Analytics: Analyse logs and telemetry data with Azure Log Analytics.
  • Container Monitoring: Collect container-specific metrics for observability.
  • Auto-Scaling: Implement cluster auto-scaling and set up alerts.


  • Certifications: Comply with industry standards and certifications like ISO, SOC, and HIPAA.
  • Audit Logs: Capture activity logs for auditing and compliance reporting.
  • Kubernetes Compliance: Follow Kubernetes security best practices.
  • Third-Party Integration: Integrate with third-party security and compliance tools.

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Azure Kubernetes Service Pricing

Azure Kubernetes Service pricing is based on several factors, including the number of nodes, VM size, and region where your AKS cluster is deployed. Here are some key aspects of AKS pricing:

  • Node Costs: Based on VM size and count.
  • Node Pools: Separately priced based on configuration.
  • Control Plane: Partially covered, with potential extra charges.
  • Networking: Costs for data transfer and egress.
  • Storage: Charges for Azure Disk or Files usage.
  • Reserved Instances: Available for cost savings.
  • Monitoring: Costs for Azure Monitor and Log Analytics.
  • Additional Features: Extra charges for some features.
  • Dev Spaces: Charges may apply for development.

It’s essential to consult the official Azure Kubernetes Service pricing page and use the Azure Pricing Calculator to estimate your specific costs based on your AKS cluster’s configuration, region, and usage patterns. 

Key Differences Between AKS and Service Fabric

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Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) and Azure Service Fabric are container orchestration and management platforms on Microsoft Azure, but they have distinct features, use cases, and architectural differences. Below is a tabular comparison highlighting the key differences between AKS and Service Fabric:

AspectAzure Kubernetes Service (AKS)Azure Service Fabric
Primary Use CaseOrchestrating and managing containerised applicationsBuilding and managing microservices applications
Container OrchestrationKubernetes-based, ideal for Docker containersProprietary orchestration platform
Application ModelStateless and stateful applicationsMicroservices, including stateful and stateless
Cluster ManagementManaged control plane with no control plane accessFull control over cluster and underlying infrastructure
ScalingHorizontal and vertical scaling for pods (containers)Fine-grained application scaling
NetworkingKubernetes networking model, including CNICustomisable network topologies, including SDN


As organisations increasingly adopt containerisation and microservices architectures, AKS has emerged as a powerful solution to streamline container management, enhance scalability, and accelerate the development and launching of cloud-native applications on the Azure cloud platform. 

With the robust and flexible environment of AKS, it has become one of the most widely used and powerful app development tools for deploying stateless and stateful containerised workloads.


Pavan Vadapalli

Blog Author
Director of Engineering @ upGrad. Motivated to leverage technology to solve problems. Seasoned leader for startups and fast moving orgs. Working on solving problems of scale and long term technology strategy.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

1What is AKS cluster terraform?

AKS cluster Terraform is a set of Terraform configurations and scripts used to provide and manage Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) clusters as infrastructure as code.

2How do I run AKS in Azure?

You can run Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) in Azure by creating an AKS cluster using the Azure Portal, Azure CLI, ARM templates, or other Azure provisioning methods.

3Is Azure Kubernetes Service a PaaS service?

Yes, Azure Kubernetes Service (AKS) is considered a managed Kubernetes service and falls under the category of Platform as a Service (PaaS) in Azure, abstracting much of the underlying infrastructure management.