4 tools to help you drive Kubernetes

4 tools to help you drive Kubernetes

Learning to drive Kubernetes is more important that knowing how to build it, and these tools will get you on the road fast.

Tools in a workshop
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In the third article in this series, Kubernetes basics: Learn how to drive first, I emphasized that you should learn to drive Kubernetes, not build it. I also explained that there is a minimum set of primitives that you have to learn to model an application in Kubernetes. I want to emphasize this point: the set of primitives that you need to learn are the easiest set of primitives that you can learn to achieve production-quality application deployments (i.e., high-availability [HA], multiple containers, multiple applications). Stated another way, learning the set of primitives built into Kubernetes is easier than learning clustering software, clustered file systems, load balancers, crazy Apache configs, crazy Nginx configs, routers, switches, firewalls, and storage backends—all the things you would need to model a simple HA application in a traditional IT environment (for virtual machines or bare metal).

In this fourth article, I'll share some tools that will help you learn to drive Kubernetes quickly.

1. Katacoda

Katacoda is the easiest way to test-drive a Kubernetes cluster, hands-down. With one click and five seconds of time, you have a web-based terminal plumbed straight into a running Kubernetes cluster. It's magnificent for playing and learning. I even use it for demos and testing out new ideas. Katacoda provides a completely ephemeral environment that is recycled when you finish using it.

Katacoda provides ephemeral playgrounds and deeper lab environments. For example, the Linux Container Internals Lab, which I have run for the last three or four years, is built in Katacoda.

Katacoda maintains a bunch of Kubernetes and cloud tutorials on its main site and collaborates with Red Hat to support a dedicated learning portal for OpenShift. Explore them both—they are excellent learning resources.

When you first learn to drive a dump truck, it's always best to watch how other people drive first.

2. Podman generate kube

The podman generate kube command is a brilliant little subcommand that helps users naturally transition from a simple container engine running simple containers to a cluster use case running many containers (as I described in the last article). Podman does this by letting you start a few containers, then exporting the working Kube YAML, and firing them up in Kubernetes. Check this out (pssst, you can run it in this Katacoda lab, which already has Podman and OpenShift).

First, notice the syntax to run a container is strikingly similar to Docker:

podman run -dtn two-pizza  quay.io/fatherlinux/two-pizza

But this is something other container engines don't do:

podman generate kube two-pizza

The output:

# Generation of Kubernetes YAML is still under development!
# Save the output of this file and use kubectl create -f to import
# it into Kubernetes.
# Created with podman-1.3.1
apiVersion: v1
kind: Pod
  creationTimestamp: "2019-06-07T08:08:12Z"
    app: two-pizza
  name: two-pizza
  - command:
    - /bin/sh
    - -c
    - bash -c 'while true; do /usr/bin/nc -l -p 3306 < /srv/hello.txt; done'
    - name: PATH
      value: /usr/local/sbin:/usr/local/bin:/usr/sbin:/usr/bin:/sbin:/bin
    - name: TERM
      value: xterm
    - name: HOSTNAME
    - name: container
      value: oci
    image: quay.io/fatherlinux/two-pizza:latest
    name: two-pizza
    resources: {}
      allowPrivilegeEscalation: true
      capabilities: {}
      privileged: false
      readOnlyRootFilesystem: false
    tty: true
    workingDir: /
status: {}
apiVersion: v1
kind: Service
  creationTimestamp: "2019-06-07T08:08:12Z"
    app: two-pizza
  name: two-pizza
    app: two-pizza
  type: NodePort
  loadBalancer: {}

You now have some working Kubernetes YAML, which you can use as a starting point for mucking around and learning, tweaking, etc. The -s flag created a service for you. Brent Baude is even working on new features like adding Volumes/Persistent Volume Claims. For a deeper dive, check out Brent's amazing work in his blog post "Podman can now ease the transition to Kubernetes and CRI-O."

3. oc new-app

The oc new-app command is extremely powerful. It's OpenShift-specific, so it's not available in default Kubernetes, but it's really useful when you're starting to learn Kubernetes. Let's start with a quick command to create a fairly sophisticated application:

oc new-project -n example
oc new-app -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/openshift/origin/master/examples/quickstarts/cakephp-mysql.json

With oc new-app, you can literally steal templates from the OpenShift developers and have a known, good starting point when developing primitives to describe your own applications. After you run the above command, your Kubernetes namespace (in OpenShift) will be populated by a bunch of new, defined resources.

oc get all

The output:

NAME                                READY     STATUS      RESTARTS   AGE
pod/cakephp-mysql-example-1-build   0/1       Completed   0          4m
pod/cakephp-mysql-example-1-gz65l   1/1       Running     0          1m
pod/mysql-1-nkhqn                   1/1       Running     0          4m

NAME                                            DESIRED   CURRENT   READY     AGE
replicationcontroller/cakephp-mysql-example-1   1         1         1         1m
replicationcontroller/mysql-1                   1         1         1         4m

NAME                            TYPE        CLUSTER-IP       EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)    AGE
service/cakephp-mysql-example   ClusterIP   <none>        8080/TCP   4m
service/mysql                   ClusterIP    <none>        3306/TCP   4m

NAME                                                       REVISION   DESIRED   CURRENT   TRIGGERED BY
deploymentconfig.apps.openshift.io/cakephp-mysql-example   1          1         1         config,image(cakephp-mysql-example:latest)
deploymentconfig.apps.openshift.io/mysql                   1          1         1         config,image(mysql:5.7)

NAME                                                   TYPE      FROM      LATEST
buildconfig.build.openshift.io/cakephp-mysql-example   Source    Git       1

NAME                                               TYPE      FROM          STATUS     STARTED         DURATION
build.build.openshift.io/cakephp-mysql-example-1   Source    Git@47a951e   Complete   4 minutes ago   2m27s

NAME                                                   DOCKER REPO                                                      TAGS      UPDATED
imagestream.image.openshift.io/cakephp-mysql-example   docker-registry.default.svc:5000/example/cakephp-mysql-example   latest    About aminute ago

NAME                                             HOST/PORT                                                                         PATH   SERVICES                PORT      TERMINATION   WILDCARD
route.route.openshift.io/cakephp-mysql-example   cakephp-mysql-example-example.2886795271-80-rhsummit1.environments.katacoda.com   cakephp-mysql-example   <all>                   None

The beauty of this is that you can delete Pods, watch the replication controllers recreate them, scale Pods up, and scale them down. You can play with the template and change it for other applications (which is what I did when I first started).

4. Visual Studio Code

I saved one of my favorites for last. I use vi for most of my work, but I have never found a good syntax highlighter and code completion plugin for Kubernetes (if you have one, let me know). Instead, I have found that Microsoft's VS Code has a killer set of plugins that complete the creation of Kubernetes resources and provide boilerplate.

First, install Kubernetes and YAML plugins shown in the image above.

Then, you can create a new YAML file from scratch and get auto-completion of Kubernetes resources. The example above shows a Service.

When you use autocomplete and select the Service resource, it fills in some boilerplate for the object. This is magnificent when you are first learning to drive Kubernetes. You can build Pods, Services, Replication Controllers, Deployments, etc. This is a really nice feature when you are building these files from scratch or even modifying the files you create with Podman generate kube.


These four tools (six if you count the two plugins) will help you learn to drive Kubernetes, instead of building or equipping it. In my final article in the series, I will talk about why Kubernetes is so exciting for running so many different workloads.

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About the author

Scott McCarty - At Red Hat, Scott McCarty helps to educate IT professionals, customers, and partners on all aspects of Linux containers, from organizational transformation to technical implementation, and works to advance Red Hat's go-to-market strategy around containers and related technologies. He also liaises with engineering teams, both at the product and upstream project level, to help drive innovation by using feedback from Red Hat customers and partners as drivers to enhance and tailor container...