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Kubernetes StackSet Controller

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The Kubernetes StackSet Controller is a concept (along with an implementation) for easing and automating application life cycle for certain types of applications running on Kubernetes.

It is not meant to be a generic solution for all types of applications but it's explicitly focusing on "Web Applications", that is, application which receive HTTP traffic and are continuously deployed with new versions which should receive traffic either instantly or gradually fading traffic from one version of the application to the next one. Think Blue/Green deployments as one example.

By default Kubernetes offers the Deployment resource type which, combined with a Service, can provide some level of application life cycle in the form of rolling updates. While rolling updates are a powerful concept, there are some limitations for certain use cases:

  • Switching traffic in a Blue/Green style is not possible with rolling updates.
  • Splitting traffic between versions of the application can only be done by scaling the number of Pods. E.g. if you want to give 1% of traffic to a new version, you need at least 100 Pods.
  • Impossible to run smoke tests against a new version of the application before it gets traffic.

To work around these limitations I propose a different type of resource called an StackSet which has the concept of Stacks.

The StackSet is a declarative way of describing the application stack as a whole, and the Stacks describe individual versions of the application. The StackSet also allows defining a "global" load balancer spanning all stacks of the stackset which makes it possible to switch traffic to different stacks at the load balancer (for example Ingress) level.

                                 +-----------------------+
                                 |                       |
                                 |     Load Balancer     |
                                 | (for example Ingress) |
                                 |                       |
                                 +--+--------+--------+--+
                                    | 0%     | 20%    | 80%
                      +-------------+        |        +------------+
                      |                      |                     |
            +---------v---------+  +---------v---------+  +--------v----------+
            |                   |  |                   |  |                   |
            |       Stack       |  |       Stack       |  |      Stack        |
            |     Version 1     |  |     Version 2     |  |     Version 3     |
            |                   |  |                   |  |                   |
            +-------------------+  +-------------------+  +-------------------+

The StackSet and Stack resources are implemented as CRDs. A StackSet looks like this:

apiVersion: zalando.org/v1
kind: StackSet
metadata:
  name: my-app
spec:
  # optional Ingress definition.
  ingress:
    hosts: [my-app.example.org, alt.name.org]
    backendPort: 80
  # optional desired traffic weights defined by stack
  traffic:
  - stackName: mystack-v1
    weight: 80
  - stackName: mystack-v2
    weight: 20
  stackLifecycle:
    scaledownTTLSeconds: 300
    limit: 5 # maximum number of scaled down stacks to keep.
             # If there are more than `limit` stacks, the oldest stacks which are scaled down
             # will be deleted.
  stackTemplate:
    spec:
      version: v1 # version of the Stack.
      replicas: 3
      # optional horizontalPodAutoscaler definition (will create an HPA for the stack).
      horizontalPodAutoscaler:
        minReplicas: 3
        maxReplicas: 10
        metrics:
        - type: Resource
          resource:
            name: cpu
            targetAverageUtilization: 50
      # full Pod template.
      podTemplate:
        spec:
          containers:
          - name: skipper
            image: registry.opensource.zalan.do/teapot/skipper:latest
            args:
            - skipper
            - -inline-routes
            - '* -> inlineContent("OK") -> <shunt>'
            - -address=:80
            ports:
            - containerPort: 80
              name: ingress
            resources:
              limits:
                cpu: 10m
                memory: 50Mi
              requests:
                cpu: 10m
                memory: 50Mi

The above StackSet would generate a Stack that looks like this:

apiVersion: zalando.org/v1
kind: Stack
metadata:
  name: my-app-v1
  labels:
    stackset: my-app
    stackset-version: v1
spec:
  replicas: 3
  horizontalPodAutoscaler:
    minReplicas: 3
    maxReplicas: 10
    metrics:
    - type: Resource
      resource:
        name: cpu
        targetAverageUtilization: 50
  podTemplate:
    spec:
      containers:
        image: registry.opensource.zalan.do/teapot/skipper:latest
        args:
        - skipper
        - -inline-routes
        - '* -> inlineContent("OK") -> <shunt>'
        - -address=:80
        ports:
        - containerPort: 80
          name: ingress
        resources:
          limits:
            cpu: 10m
            memory: 50Mi
          requests:
            cpu: 10m
            memory: 50Mi

For each Stack a Service and Deployment resource will be created automatically with the right labels. The service will also be attached to the "global" Ingress if the stack is configured to get traffic. An optional HorizontalPodAutoscaler resource can also be created per stack for horizontally scaling the deployment.

For the most part the Stacks will be dynamically managed by the system and the users don't have to touch them. You can think of this similar to the relationship between Deployments and ReplicaSets.

If the Stack is deleted the related resources like Service and Deployment will be automatically cleaned up.

The stackLifecycle let's you configure two settings to change the cleanup behavior for the StackSet:

  • scaleDownTTLSeconds defines for how many seconds a stack should not receive traffic before it's scaled down.
  • limit defines the total number of stacks to keep. That is, if you have a limit of 5 and currently have 6 stacks for the StackSet then it will clean up the oldest stack which is NOT getting traffic. The limit is not enforced if it would mean deleting a stack with traffic. E.g. if you set a limit of 1 and have two stacks with 50% then none of them would be deleted. However, if you switch to 100% traffic for one of the stacks then the other will be deleted after it has not received traffic for scaleDownTTLSeconds.

Features

  • Automatically create new Stacks when the StackSet is updated with a new version in the stackTemplate.
  • Do traffic switching between Stacks at the Ingress layer, if you have the ingress definition in the spec. Ingress resources are automatically updated when new stacks are created. (This require that your ingress controller implements the annotation zalando.org/backend-weights: {"my-app-1": 80, "my-app-2": 20}, for example use skipper for Ingress) or read the information from stackset status.traffic.
  • Safely switch traffic to scaled down stacks. If a stack is scaled down, it will be scaled up automatically before traffic is directed to it.
  • Dynamically provision Ingresses per stack, with per stack host names. I.e. my-app.example.org, my-app-v1.example.org, my-app-v2.example.org.
  • Automatically scale down stacks when they don't get traffic for a specified period.
  • Automatically delete stacks that have been scaled down and are not getting any traffic for longer time.
  • Automatically clean up all dependent resources when a StackSet or Stack resource is deleted. This includes Service, Deployment, Ingress and optionally HorizontalPodAutoscaler.
  • Command line utility (traffic) for showing and switching traffic between stacks.
  • You can opt-out of the global Ingress creation with externalIngress: spec, such that external controllers can manage the Ingress or CRD creation, that will configure the routing into the cluster.
  • You can use skipper's RouteGroups to configure more complex routing rules.

Docs

Kubernetes Compatibilty

The StackSet controller works with Kubernetes >=v1.14.

How it works

The controller watches for StackSet resources and creates Stack resources whenever the version is updated in the StackSet stackTemplate. For each StackSet it will create an optional "main" Ingress resource and keep it up to date when new Stacks are created for the StackSet. For each Stack it will create a Deployment, a Service and optionally an HorizontalPodAutoscaler for the Deployment. These resources are all owned by the Stack and will be cleaned up if the stack is deleted.

Setup

The stackset-controller can be run as a deployment in the cluster. See deployment.yaml.

The controller depends on the StackSet and Stack CRDs. You must install these into your cluster before running the controller:

$ kubectl apply -f docs/stackset_crd.yaml -f docs/stackset_stack_crd.yaml

After the CRDs are installed the controller can be deployed:

$ kubectl apply -f docs/deployment.yaml

Custom configuration

controller-id

There are cases where it might be desirable to run multiple instances of the stackset-controller in the same cluster, e.g. for development.

To prevent the controllers from fighting over the same StackSet resources they can be configured with the flag --controller-id=<some-id> which indicates that the controller should only manage the StackSets which has an annotation stackset-controller.zalando.org/controller=<some-id> defined. If the controller-id is not configured, the controller will manage all StackSets which does not have the annotation defined.

Quick intro

Once you have deployed the controller you can create your first StackSet resource:

$ kubectl apply -f docs/stackset.yaml
stackset.zalando.org/my-app created

This will create the stackset in the cluster:

$ kubectl get stacksets
NAME          CREATED AT
my-app        21s

And soon after you will see the first Stack of the my-app stackset:

$ kubectl get stacksetstacks
NAME                  CREATED AT
my-app-v1             30s

It will also create Ingress, Service, Deployment and HorizontalPodAutoscaler resources:

$ kubectl get ingress,service,deployment.apps,hpa -l stackset=my-app
NAME                           HOSTS                   ADDRESS                                  PORTS     AGE
ingress.extensions/my-app      my-app.example.org      kube-ing-lb-3es9a....elb.amazonaws.com   80        7m
ingress.extensions/my-app-v1   my-app-v1.example.org   kube-ing-lb-3es9a....elb.amazonaws.com   80        7m

NAME                TYPE        CLUSTER-IP     EXTERNAL-IP   PORT(S)  AGE
service/my-app-v1   ClusterIP   10.3.204.136   <none>        80/TCP   7m

NAME                        DESIRED   CURRENT   UP-TO-DATE   AVAILABLE   AGE
deployment.apps/my-app-v1   1         1         1            1           7m

NAME                                            REFERENCE              TARGETS         MINPODS   MAXPODS   REPLICAS   AGE
horizontalpodautoscaler.autoscaling/my-app-v1   Deployment/my-app-v1   <unknown>/50%   3         10        0          20s

Imagine you want to roll out a new version of your stackset. You can do this by changing the StackSet resource. E.g. by changing the version:

$ kubectl patch apps my-app --type='json' -p='[{"op": "replace", "path": "/spec/stackTemplate/spec/version", "value": "v2"}]'
stackset.zalando.org/my-app patched

Soon after, we will see a new stack:

$ kubectl get stacks -l stackset=my-app
NAME        CREATED AT
my-app-v1   14m
my-app-v2   46s

And using the traffic tool we can see how the traffic is distributed (see below for how to build the tool):

./build/traffic my-app
STACK          TRAFFIC WEIGHT
my-app-v1      100.0%
my-app-v2      0.0%

If we want to switch 100% traffic to the new stack we can do it like this:

# traffic <stackset> <stack> <traffic>
./build/traffic my-app my-app-v2 100
STACK          TRAFFIC WEIGHT
my-app-v1      0.0%
my-app-v2      100.0%

Since the my-app-v1 stack is no longer getting traffic it will be scaled down after some time and eventually deleted.

If you want to delete it manually, you can simply do:

$ kubectl delete appstack my-app-v1
stacksetstack.zalando.org "my-app-v1" deleted

And all the related resources will be gone shortly after:

$ kubectl get ingress,service,deployment.apps,hpa -l stackset=my-app,stackset-version=v1
No resources found.

Building

This project uses Go modules as introduced in Go 1.11 therefore you need Go >=1.11 installed in order to build. If using Go 1.11 you also need to activate Module support.

Assuming Go has been setup with module support it can be built simply by running:

$ export GO111MODULE=on # needed if the project is checked out in your $GOPATH.
$ make

Note that the Go client interface for talking to the custom StackSet and Stack CRD is generated code living in pkg/client/ and pkg/apis/zalando.org/v1/zz_generated_deepcopy.go. If you make changes to pkg/apis/* then you must run make clean && make to regenerate the code.

To understand how this works see the upstream example for generating client interface code for CRDs.

Upgrade

<= v1.0.0 to >= v1.1.0

Clients that write the desired traffic switching value have to move from ingress annotation zalando.org/stack-traffic-weights: '{"mystack-v1":80, "mystack-v2": 20}' to stackset spec.traffic:

spec:
  traffic:
  - stackName: mystack-v1
    weight: 80
  - stackName: mystack-v2
    weight: 20

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