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The main advantage with Kubernetes (especially in low ops environments like GKE) is not scalability, but availability and ease of development (spinning things up and down is super-easy). The learning curve to stand something up is not very high and pays of over time compared to SSH-ing into VMs.

I'm very comfortable with containers (less so specifically with k8s), but generally for stateless or stateless'ish services. What are the advantages of k8s specifically for a database?

High availability, deployment consistency and, if needed, ability to scale-out on demand to name a few. You can can have an all-inclusive environment for sandboxing, development or production use-cases. Easy to spin-up and tear down.

A good alternative is to use a database service and not have to worry about it at all. However if you do have to operate one, orchestration systems give you the tools to handle it properly WRT your availability and performance SLA/SLOs.

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