Saturday, February 24, 2018

Building a Reclaimed Kubernetes Cluster

Thanks to family hand-me-downs, over the passing years I have become a repository of unwanted laptops. Some of them barely boot anymore, but three-quarters of them have two cores and 2 GB of RAM or more. One actually had four cores and 8 GB of RAM... making it a veritable workhorse. I could make them disposable workstations, but instead I wove them together and created a personal Kubernetes cluster.

The base OS for the nodes is Ubuntu's latest LTS release. Rather than using Conjure on MaaS to set up the cluster (which required an isolated network for bootp and DNS and meh), I leveraged Kubespray's flurry of Ansible scripts to prep an inventory of machines over SSH. This ended up being surprisingly low impact and worked perfectly for the use case of building a test lab with piecemeal hardware.

Laptops work just fine as server nodes with a few tweaks:
  • Even if you use the server distribution of Ubuntu, laptop events such as closing the lid will still result in a suspend/hibernate/resume action. Edit /etc/systemd/logind.conf to make sure the laptop keeps running when closed:
    sudo vi /etc/systemd/logind.conf
    sudo service systemd-logind restart
  • The display will remain on once you start ignoring LidSwitch events - run a script at startup to turn the display off and save energy.
  • Even if you are running in console mode, NVIDIA Optimus laptops will go nuts and seemingly run the discrete and on-chip GPUs nonstop, overheating the machine. Install Ubuntu's Bumblebee packages to prevent this:
    sudo apt-get install bumblebee bumblebee-nvidia primus linux-headers-generic
  • As with all Kubernetes nodes, disable swap by commenting out the partition in /etc/fstab. Since you will no longer need to resume from hibernate mode on the laptop, it can be safely disabled

Once you have the laptops prepped and the latest updates applied, you will need to make sure each node has a copy of python-netaddr installed: sudo apt-get install python-netaddr Ansible issues its commands over SSH, so ensure you have keyfile-based authentication set up from the machine you will be running Kubespray on to each of the nodes. If you don't already have an SSH key generated (for example, if you will run Kubespray on the master node), then you can generate a passwordless one via ssh-keygen. After that, copy the public key to each node with:

ssh-copy-id node1
ssh-copy-id node2

After that, the machine you are running Kubespray on will need Ansible installed. I ran Kubespray on the master node to keep things simple - so on that Ubuntu box I issued:

sudo apt-add-repository ppa:ansible/ansible
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install ansible
git clone
cp -rfp inventory/sample inventory/mycluster

This will:
  1. Install Ansible on the box
  2. Download the Ansible scripts from Kubespray
  3. Creates a new Ansible inventory called "mycluster" that is a clone of the Kubespray sample
An important thing to remember is that you address nodes by straight IP address - not by hostname. This is especially important with Ansible scripts because the node's hostname may well change as part of the installation process. If your nodes are fetching their IP address via a DHCP server, ensure the DHCP server has static IP allocations for your nodes.

Once you have all the IP addresses for your nodes, set them in your inventory file. An easy way to do this at the command line is:

declare -a IPS=(
CONFIG_FILE=inventory/mycluster/hosts.ini python3 contrib/inventory_builder/ ${IPS[@]}

Verify the inventory is correct by cracking open inventory/mycluster/hosts.ini - if you want to change hostnames, now is the time.

I would recommend having Kubespray build a kubectl configuration file automagically for you. To have this generated as an artifact, change inventory/mycluster/group_vars/k8s-cluster.yml to have the following entry set: kubeconfig_localhost: true After these tweaks you should be ready to launch Kubespray's Ansible playbook. Note that Ubuntu's convention is to have you operate as a normal user and sudo all of your commands, so you will need to use Ansible's --become parameter:

ansible-playbook -i inventory/mycluster/hosts.ini cluster.yml --ask-become-pass --become

At this point Kubespray will try its best to get a cluster up and running on the nodes specified in your inventory file. At the very end Kubespray will provide you with a kubectl configuration file in artifacts/admin.conf, which you can then copy or merge into another workstation's ~/.kube/config file.
Once you have the Kubernets configuration file set on your workstation, you can use it to fetch an authtoken to get into the Kubernetes Dashboard. The proper way to do this is to generate a new system secret that has the appropriate permissions to interrogate the running cluster... but the lazy way is to just steal the token used by Kubernetes' namespace controller.

I'm lazy, so first I list all the secretes in the kube-system namespace:

kubectl -n kube-system get secrets

And then fetch the token for the namespace controller:

kubectl -n kube-system describe secret namespace-controller-token-???

So that I can use it to login to the web dashboard:

kubectl proxy &

Now you should have a working cluster you can mess with!

So that the laptops were properly ventilated, I placed each vertically into a metal document sorter from an office supply store. This gives me a nifty vertical rack for the laptops that has plenty of air circulation and allows me to route cables out of the way.

I've constructed one weird frakencluster - but it works!

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