CKA vs CKAD vs CKS – What is the Difference


According to a Gartner Report, “By 2022, we will witness that more than 75% of the global organisations will be employing containerized applications in production.”

What is Kubernetes? 

Image source: Kubernetes

It is an open-source network that helps in easing the manual processes including deploying, controlling, and scaling a containerized application. Now you may want to point out what containerized application means. This application eradicates the need to formulate a virtual machine to manage various distributed applications. Containerization is a virtualized method facilitating the smooth functioning of various applications eliminating the scope of latency. Application containerization can develop a single robust infrastructure to accommodate multiple isolated applications. One supreme benefit which containerization offers is portability. Whereas when the operating system is the same across different networks, then the application container can operate in any cloud/ system without ciphering another code. After a thorough understanding of what application containerization is, let us head back to understand what Kubernetes does. 

Kubernetes makes sure to control automated application deployment through its portable and extensible features. Managing the application’s operations is also supervised by Kubernetes which guarantees that the installed application is run as per the customer’s discretion error-free. This platform is a cluster of various components that work in unification to run applications and workloads seamlessly. These parts include API server, scheduler, data storage, controller manager, worker nodes, docker, Kubelet, and Kube-prox. 

Now that we understand what it means, let’s explore the key Kubernetes certifications granted to aspirants aiming to become a specialist in this field. 

There are three Kubernetes certifications offered to a developer or DevOps professional:

CKA- Certified Kubernetes Administrator

It is provided to attain an assurance that the CKA’s applicants possess the adequate qualifications and skills of becoming a niche Kubernetes administrator. An applicant for the administrator’s designation is tested on their knowledge about the various Kubernetes cluster. Their management skills to handle the Kubernetes cluster with ease and their ability to create and lead troubleshooting a cluster are also prime parameters based on which candidates are judged. However, this is not it, the course of CKA is very extensive and would demand a candidate to be well-versed with Kubernetes installation. Accompanied with the competency to know about the upgradation, data backup, certificate, and cluster maintenance. Therefore, you cannot take this adept course for a ride and a candidate must be thorough with the Kubernetes cluster to stand a chance of qualifying. 

Yet, the battle does not end here. To be an expert you are required to conquer this CKA test. It goes without saying that an applicant must be pally with administrative skills and knows the nitty-gritty of Kubernetes internals namely Etcd, Bootstrap, Tls, and Kubelet. Here Etcd is a key data storage server that holds information critical to distributed systems. Secondly, bootstrap is a front-end framework that involves designing an open-source software that supports mobile responsive websites. Whereas Tls is a transport layer security aimed at protecting sensitive data and Kubelet is a node agent that manages application containers. CKA candidates must understand the concept and need for using cluster architecture inside out. 

Troubleshooting: This concept cannot be neglected by candidates since troubleshooting covers a great chunk of the CKA exam. Learning about troubleshooting helps in debugging applications that are deployed in Kubernetes. Troubleshooting plays a major role for cluster administrators as well who are unhappy with their lagging Kubernetes cluster. 

Cluster administration: This is another area that is essential from the standpoint of the exam. Know-how of the cluster administration involves installation and configuration concepts. Applicant’s familiarity with setting up Kubernetes network and storage of the data. Core concepts of Kubernetes API and configuration of basic pods, knowledge about designing the architecture for Kubernetes, and developing a suitable container-based environment. 

Lastly, candidates need to handle monitoring and maintaining the Kubernetes ecosystem so that the applications run inside the containers with finesse. 

Now that we understand the curriculum of CKA, it is equally viable to know the suitability criteria of CKA for the candidates to gain clarity. So, who is suitable to apply for the CKA certification?

To begin with, the certification of CKA is ideal for System Admins, DevOps professionals, and System Architects. These are the key professionals who will benefit from securing this accreditation. The reason being, the ability, and the skill to create manage and administer a Kubernetes cluster is the supreme responsibility of this administrator. Along with this the Kubernetes practitioner’s potency to operate troubleshoot at native cloud applications is also tested. This helps the organization in deriving clarity on the candidate’s working knowledge. 

Point to remember- Kubernetes administrators must shoulder a lot of responsibilities along with the need to hold extensive knowledge and skills. So, make sure that you pull up your socks to become one of the most efficient Kubernetes administrators the technical field could ask for. 

CKAD – Certified Kubernetes Application Developer

This certification ensures that its holders possess the calibre to design, configure and expose cloud-native applications for Kubernetes. They should also take on the full responsibility of the Kubernetes application developer. CKAD developers focus their agenda on namespace resources and performance-centric exercises. This test assesses the developer’s potential to deploy and configure applications that are operating on the Kubernetes cluster. These app developers use their expertise and skills to develop a scalable application in Kubernetes, they also use robust primitives and monitoring to build a remarkable software program. 

The areas of expertise for a CKAD candidate to demonstrate are:

Knowledge about the OCI-Compliant Container runtime like the docker helps in running contents in an uninterrupted and conducive environment. Awareness about this container is mandatory to design open standards for operating system-level virtualization. These open standards help container images to smoothly run in a supportive environment. 

The road to becoming a successful developer is to master the cloud-native application concepts and their architecture. Understanding the cloud-native application will help the developers in designing applications that can run without redundancies in a cloud computing delivery model. This will improve the efficiency of any cloud-based application and empower cloud-computing organizations. 

The need to comprehend programming languages like Java, Python is a must, these languages help a developer in building a fruitful relationship with the computing system. Creating an effortless working program that is user-friendly and liked by all becomes a by-product if you know programming languages. 

CKAD test has exclusivity over the concepts about Deployment, Daemon Sets, Pods, and other API primitives. Deployment Kubernetes controller is responsible for multiple prototypes of an application and replaces those which become inactive. The deployment also supervises the identical pods which help in providing declarative updates to the application. 

All those candidates who are seeking to gain a stronghold of cloud-native software delivery can opt for CKAD. These candidates can be people possessing the qualification of a developer, architect, and operations. For all those high-spirited and talented developers who are meaning to build a Kubernetes-friendly application, CKAD is just right for you. Also, the ability to utilize cluster resources available by the administrator optimally is another prerequisite for a CKAD developer. Also, candidates can take a sigh of relief because troubleshooting does not fall under the curriculum of CKAD. 

CKS- the Certified Kubernetes security specialist

This certification tests the specialist’s knowledge of Kubernetes and cloud security in the real world. The CKS program verifies the security specialist’s knowledge about the best practices to secure container-based applications. A candidate is eligible to apply for the CKS program only when they have attained the certification of CKA. So basically, this qualification acts as an additional validation of their working knowledge on container applications. This exam has a similar pattern to CKA wherein the applicant is judged purely based on their performance in the test. The domains which are assessed in this program entail:

Cluster setup: This practice involves designing a cluster setup that can easily support container applications with precision. This Kubernetes cluster must be structured in a way that it adheres to the Kubernetes policy. This Kubernetes cluster should integrate other lifecycle functions like bootstrap tokens and cluster upgrades. 

Cluster hardening: This concept is aiming at managing the cluster better. Since a well-managed cluster helps in bringing up-gradation easily and aids in incorporating automatic technology in cluster management for greater efficiency. An upgraded cluster helps in reducing the downtime and curtailing disruptions in running the cloud provider. 

System hardeningModern container-based software works the best in a robust environment. This protects the system from cyber-attacks and threats. The system is designed to minimize external access to the network this keeps the data and software safeguarded from hacks. 

Supply chain security: 20% does not seem a small percentage from a 100% pie, this is the percentage of the concept of supply chain security in the CKS exam. This security path is paved for the software supply chain to follow a safe path before the code is deployed in Google Kubernetes. This course outlines the need to lessen base image footprints to make the supply chain safer for the software. 

Microservice vulnerabilities are another landmark concept to which a CKA aspirant has to be well accustomed. This topic revolves around pod-to-pod encryption and Kubernetes secrets. Application developers deploy microservices on-premises and impeccably coalesce them with the public cloud. 

Logging, runtime security, and monitoring tools: This course holds a substantial percentage in the CKS test as well. It ensures performing deep analytical investigation and discovering bugs in the environment. Using audit logging to monitor access of the software. Finally, it helps in shielding physical infrastructure, workloads, and applications from threats. 

The important requirement that needs to be established for adopting CKS certification is to hold a CKA certification prior. The applicants who are moving their interest towards container applications must opt for this CKS program. CKS as the name suggests is a security specialist whose major objective beholds in protecting the Kubernetes software from cybercrime. Integrating a security configuration is a mandate for CKS specialists. Also, a profound survey must be conducted to deduce all sorts of malicious activities that can hamper the performance of the Kubernetes platform.

Having shared the insights and deep understanding of these three certification programs, let us further understand the advantages of these three certifications. Knowing the benefits would enable you to realize its significance and further clarify any doubts. 

Thus, the advantages which a candidate will obtain from securing these certifications include:

Create an identity for yourself: All the developers, administrators, and specialists would pursue another course because that would add another feather to their CV cap. Nonetheless, another course learned also means adding another certification to your skillset, which is a movement towards growth. This added qualification will help you overpower your competitors in the field who will not be as adroit as you.

No one can stop you from becoming a Kubernetes expert: While you have gained yourself another certification, you have also claimed the title of Kubernetes specialist. Since these certifications help you acquire greater knowledge in the field of cloud computing and container application of Kubernetes. 

 A reliable employee: You will be touted as the most preferred asset in the organization after these certifications come your way. Your working knowledge, practical exposure, skills, expertise, and experience will only help you in becoming the favorite certified Kubernetes professional. 

Experience Hiked salary: With the added qualifications, skillset, and expertise in the Kubernetes field, you will more likely witness an appraisal soon. This is because these certifications will be a clear portrayal of your knowledge and understanding of the Kubernetes platform. 

This one’s the most important to every employee which is to boost self-confidence and self-appreciation. Once you see yourself better equipped, skilled, and more informed about the Kubernetes industry, you will see yourself more happy, self-assured, and affirmed in life. 

As Kubernetes has become a de facto tool for container orchestration, it is being asked by many companies today as a mandatory skill, and hence getting certified in either one of these has become a must to showcase and prove your talent. All the certifications mentioned above have become very helpful for people who are aspiring to become experts in Kubernetes-related workflows. At KodeKloud, we help you enrich your skills by providing in-depth knowledge and hands-on labs so you can practice everything in real-time. Go to the below-mentioned links to their prospective certifications. 

Certified Kubernetes Administrator (CKA) with Practice Tests

Certified Kubernetes Application Developer (CKAD)

Certified Kubernetes Security (CKS) Specialist with Practice Tests