Kubernetes Starter Pack


Optional, but screw it, go all in. This is going to be a fairly ‘Rancher-oriented’ affair. RancherOS is a Linux distribution made to run Docker.

RancherOS doesn’t have a wizard like other Linux install media. Instead, you boot into it, and run a command to install to a block device. That command needs a cloud-config.yml thing. You can put a lot of things in there, but for my purposes, I just put my SSH key, and a static IP config. I also switch the console to the ‘ubuntu’ console, as I find it to be more comfortable than the default.

The install guide mentions that you could have your cloud-config.yml at some URL, but I just put a second USB stick in the thing I’m installing on. One USB thing is the RancherOS live media, the other is a USB thing with my cloud-config.yml. I boot into the live environment, mount my USB with cloud-config.yml somewhere, and run the install.



This is definitely one of my new favorite things. Follow the instructions, run the little wizard thing, adjust it as you need to, and fire away.

I’ve switched my stuff from Ubuntu to RancherOS, but RKE doesn’t care. It just needs whatever minimum version of Docker to be running, and that’s it. rke up, wait a little bit, and you’ll have yourself a functional cluster. I haven’t had any problems with it, and I’ve done many rounds of rke up and rke remove (cluster creation, cluster removal). It even has the ability to SSH through a bastion host to your cluster nodes.

Pro tip: don’t mess with “cluster_domain:”. I thought I was gonna be cute and set my cluster domain to ‘travnewmatic.com’. That was a bad idea and led to A LOT of frustration with DNS and cert-manager/letsencrypt stuff.

Only change what you need to in that cluster.yml. The only special stuff I have in my cluster.yml has to do with the nodes: section at the beginning, otherwise everything is default from the config generator wizard thing.

Learn from my mistakes: if you use rke to create a cluster, and your cluster isn’t behaving right when you’re trying to do stuff with it later, tear your cluster down and make a new cluster.yml, get it back to as vanilla as possible, then test again.

Ubuntu note: when I was using rke to create a node on some ubuntu hosts, I ran into a problem with a particular setting in /etc/sysctl.conf. To change temporarily, run

sysctl net.ipv4.conf.all.rp_filter=0

Add this line in /etc/sysctl.conf to make the change persistent across reboots:


The default setting, whatever it was, caused problems with some network thing in kubernetes. I looked at the logs for that container to see why it wasn’t coming up, and the error made specific reference to that sysctl setting. I did not need to make this change when creating nodes running RancherOS.


kubectl is the CLI utility used to interact with your kubernetes cluster. I have kubectl installed on a desktop in my apartment (not one of the kubernetes nodes, though it could be). Once kubectl is installed, copy the kube_config_cluster.yml generated by rke to ~/.kube/config. Assuming everything is alright you should be able to issue commands like ‘kubectl get all’ and get something back from your newly minted kubernetes cluster.

BONUS: kubectl autocomplete! Very handy.



You get the idea. Helm is a way of deploying (I think that’s the right word) multi-resource applications. I think its quite powerful. I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with it, but it is a good thing to have setup. It doesn’t come with kubernetes, but I’d wager that everyone using kubernetes is using helm to some degree.

HELM JUST HAD AN UPDATE. A lot of the examples you see in guides use the old version and will throw some kind of error if you copy-paste using the new version. Not a huge deal. Keep banging on it, and it will eventually work. See the FAQ for some of the changes.


cert-manager provides automatic letsEncrypt functionality, and is a dependency for Rancher. This is easy to setup, via helm or manifest. The instructions on the website are sufficient. I made a script to do it for me:

kubectl apply --validate=false -f https://raw.githubusercontent.com/jetstack/cert-manager/release-0.12/deploy/manifests/00-crds.yaml
kubectl create namespace cert-manager
helm repo add jetstack https://charts.jetstack.io
helm repo update
helm install cert-manager --namespace cert-manager --version v0.12.0 jetstack/cert-manager

I still have more to learn about how to do things with cert-manager. The instructions are reasonably clear, though I am not 100% confident in my cert-manager abilities yet. I recommend installing cert-manager, and running through the tutorials/examples to get a feel for it.



At first, I made a Rancher container, and then used that to make a cluster, but that’s weak not HA. A better method is to install Rancher INTO your kubernetes cluster. The instructions on the website work BUT THERE IS CURRENTLY A BUG with the ‘latest’ Rancher version with regards to how it interacts with cert-manager. I needed to specify –version v2.3.4-rc7 when installing from helm. This worked for me:

helm repo add rancher-latest https://releases.rancher.com/server-charts/latest
helm repo update
kubectl create namespace cattle-system
helm install rancher rancher-latest/rancher \
  --version v2.3.4-rc7 \
  --namespace cattle-system \
  --set hostname=rancher.urdomain.here \
  --set ingress.tls.source=letsEncrypt \
  --set [email protected]

Adjust the –set hostname= and –set letsEncrypt.email= fields to your desired rancher domain and email respectively.

Wait a while for everything to come up and go to https://rancher.urdomain.here to use your new HA Rancher install!



Kubernetes facilitates the creation of a compute resource from separate nodes, but it doesn’t do the same for storage. That’s where software defined storage options like Longhorn come in. Longhorn is still a developing project, but it does work. It lets you combine storage across nodes into one giant pool. It also has backup and restore functionality, as well as the ability to replicate your data across multiple physical disks for durability. I haven’t played with this much other than installation and throwing disks at it, but its very easy to get off the ground. Currently it only supports ext4 and xfs filesystems.

RancherOS currently does not include open-iscsi which is required by Longhorn. Enable and start the open-iscsi service on RancherOS with the following:

ros service enable open-iscsi

ros service up open-iscsi

To be continued

This has been a SUPER EXCITING past few days. I’ve learned how to:

  • Comfortably install RancherOS
  • Create (and tear down) a cluster using RKE
  • Interact with the cluster with kubectl and helm
  • Install cert-manager into the cluster
  • Install Rancher into the cluster

My reference material has mainly been the official documentation for the various projects (kubernetes, rancher, kubectl, helm, and cert-manager). I got help with the cluster domain problem in the cert-manager slack channel. The next issue I ran into was that problem with Rancher working with cert-manager. Googled a bit, found issues (here and here) on github similar to what I was experiencing, used a solution described there, and it worked. I suspect that fairly soon the latest rancher version will work fine with the latest cert-manager version, it just isn’t this week in January 2020.

While my trajectory hasn’t been a perfectly straight line, I am very satisfied with the progress I’ve made over the past week or so. I’ve joined the Kubernetes and Rancher slack things:

They’re not official support channels, so be friendly. It might take a while for someone to respond.

Planning to churn through the Kubernetes lessons on Katacoda and whatever else I can get my hands on. Making a giant distributed computing thing out of crap laying around my apartment is really, really fun.

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