I’ve been doing a lot of deployments on Kubernetes and as we all know applications act differently once deployed to their target environments. And while testing can be done against a remote cluster, it often poses additional complications like firewalls, etc. In the past, I’ve deployed applications locally on a Microk8s cluster, but that has its own issues since I don’t always have the luxury of developing in a proper linux dev environment. It can run in WSL, but the WSL experience is still not amazing.

In comes K3D, a tool for deploying lightweight Kubernetes clusters based on K3S but inside of Docker containers. With a couple of commands this tool will create a fully working Kubernetes cluster that will run anywhere Docker will. Since it’s based on K3S, it comes out of the box with a local storage provider and the traefik ingress controller.

Creating a Cluster

Let’s create a sample cluster with 1 server and two agents, each allocated 1GB of memory, and a container registry for pushing images.

kind: Simple
apiVersion: k3d.io/v1alpha4
  name: project
servers: 1
agents: 2
  hostPort: "6443"
image: rancher/k3s:v1.25.5-k3s1
  - volume: /tmp:/tmp/k3d-project
      - all
  - port: 8080:80
      - loadbalancer
  - port:
      - loadbalancer
    wait: true
    timeout: 6m0s
    disableLoadbalancer: false
    disableImageVolume: false
    disableRollback: false
      - arg: --tls-san=
          - server:*
    nodeLabels: []
    updateDefaultKubeconfig: false
    switchCurrentContext: false
    gpuRequest: ""
    serversMemory: "1024Mi"
    agentsMemory: "1024Mi"
    name: k3d-registry
    hostPort: "55000"
  config: |
          - http://k3d-registry:5000    

And spin it up with a simple command:

$ k3d cluster create --config k3d.yaml --wait
INFO[0000] Using config file k3d.yaml (k3d.io/v1alpha4#simple) 
INFO[0000] portmapping '8080:80' targets the loadbalancer: defaulting to [servers:*:proxy agents:*:proxy] 
INFO[0000] portmapping '' targets the loadbalancer: defaulting to [servers:*:proxy agents:*:proxy] 
INFO[0000] Prep: Network                                
INFO[0000] Created network 'k3d-project'                
INFO[0000] Created image volume k3d-project-images      
INFO[0000] Creating node 'k3d-registry'                 
INFO[0000] Successfully created registry 'k3d-registry' 
INFO[0000] Starting new tools node...                   
INFO[0000] Starting Node 'k3d-project-tools'            
INFO[0001] Creating node 'k3d-project-server-0'         
INFO[0002] Creating node 'k3d-project-agent-0'          
INFO[0002] Creating node 'k3d-project-agent-1'          
INFO[0003] Creating LoadBalancer 'k3d-project-serverlb' 
INFO[0003] Using the k3d-tools node to gather environment information 
INFO[0003] HostIP: using network gateway address 
INFO[0003] Starting cluster 'project'                   
INFO[0003] Starting servers...                          
INFO[0004] Starting Node 'k3d-project-server-0'         
INFO[0008] Starting agents...                           
INFO[0009] Starting Node 'k3d-project-agent-1'          
INFO[0009] Starting Node 'k3d-project-agent-0'          
INFO[0013] Starting helpers...                          
INFO[0013] Starting Node 'k3d-registry'                 
INFO[0013] Starting Node 'k3d-project-serverlb'         
INFO[0020] Injecting records for hostAliases (incl. host.k3d.internal) and for 5 network members into CoreDNS configmap... 
INFO[0023] Cluster 'project' created successfully!      

Then we get the kubeconfig, so we can use all our favorite k8s tools:

$ k3d kubeconfig get homepage > kubeconfig
$ chmod 600 kubeconfig
$ export KUBECONFIG=$(pwd)/kubeconfig
$ kubectl get nodes
NAME                   STATUS   ROLES                  AGE     VERSION
k3d-project-server-0   Ready    control-plane,master   5m3s    v1.25.5+k3s1
k3d-project-agent-1    Ready    <none>                 4m59s   v1.25.5+k3s1
k3d-project-agent-0    Ready    <none>                 4m58s   v1.25.5+k3s1

So what does this actually create in Docker?

$ docker ps
CONTAINER ID   IMAGE                            COMMAND                  CREATED          STATUS          PORTS                                                                                  NAMES
f1b88aa66d90   ghcr.io/k3d-io/k3d-proxy:5.4.6   "/bin/sh -c nginx-pr…"   15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes>6443/tcp,>80/tcp, :::8080->80/tcp,>443/tcp   k3d-project-serverlb
1f6742a53c26   rancher/k3s:v1.25.5-k3s1         "/bin/k3d-entrypoint…"   15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes                                                                                          k3d-project-agent-1
da2b8cb04bcd   rancher/k3s:v1.25.5-k3s1         "/bin/k3d-entrypoint…"   15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes                                                                                          k3d-project-agent-0
06133c82d3ed   rancher/k3s:v1.25.5-k3s1         "/bin/k3d-entrypoint…"   15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes                                                                                          k3d-project-server-0
485ca888006c   registry:2                       "/entrypoint.sh /etc…"   15 minutes ago   Up 15 minutes>5000/tcp                                                                k3d-registry

So, 3 containers for k3s, one for the proxy, and one for the registry. The proxy container will have a port mapping for each of the entries in the ports section in the config.

Deploy and Access a Real Application

To really show how this shines, let’s deploy a real application and access it. Homepage is a beautiful modern dashboard that can automatically detect running applications in Kubernetes. It can be easily deployed to a cluster using Helm.

$ helm repo add jameswynn https://jameswynn.github.io/helm-charts
$ helm repo update
$ helm install homepage jameswynn/homepage -f values.yaml

And add the following to values.yaml:

  create: true
  name: homepage

enableRbac: true

    enabled: true
      gethomepage.dev/enabled: "true"
      gethomepage.dev/name: "Homepage"
      gethomepage.dev/description: "Dynamically Detected Homepage"
      gethomepage.dev/group: "Dynamic"
      gethomepage.dev/icon: "homepage.png"
      - host: homepage.k3d.localhost
          - path: /
            pathType: Prefix

    - kubernetes:
          show: true
          cpu: true
          memory: true
          showLabel: true
          label: "cluster"
          show: true
          cpu: true
          memory: true
          showLabel: true
    - search:
        provider: duckduckgo
        target: _blank
    mode: cluster

This configures a few things:

  • Creates a service account which is needed for Homepage to detect running apps
  • Configures the ingress to make the app available at http://homepage.k3d.localhost:8080
  • Configures the ingress annotations such that Homepage can auto-detect itself
  • Adds a widget to Homepage to show statistics about the cluster

Homepage on K3D

I’ll post a follow up article expanding on this by using Tilt for a local CI/CD loop soon.