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Populating New Namespaces Using Heptio Ark

Heptio Ark is a tool designed to backup and restore Kubernetes cluster resources and persistent volumes. As such, it enables users to do a bunch of very useful things like copy cluster resources across cloud providers or replicate environments for development, staging, testing, QA, etc. In this post, I’ll share a slightly different use case for Ark: populating resources into new Kubernetes namespaces.

Kubernetes namespaces, if you’re not familiar, are a way to scope resource names and provide a way to divide cluster resources between multiple resources via resource quotas (see the Kubernetes documentation on namespaces for more details). As such, when you create a new Kubernetes namespace, it’s empty. However, you may have a need or desire to have certain things present in every namespace within a cluster—for example, perhaps you have a set of ExternalName Services that point to resources outside the cluster to make it easier for applications and developers to integrate with external resources. Maybe you have a ConfigMap that developers can use to configure their applications. It could be that you want a particular secret to be present in all new namespaces so that developers don’t need to worry about managing certain credentials. In such cases, someone (or something) would need to re-create those items every time a new namespace gets created. Or…you could use Ark!

Here are some details on the environment I’ll use to walk you through how this works:

  • Kubernetes 1.11.2 cluster running on AWS
  • A namespace called foo
  • In the foo namespace, three ExternalName Services: extname-1 (points to “”), extname-2 (points to “”), and extname-3 (points to “”)
  • Ark 0.9.3 configured and installed

To verify this, I’ll run a container in the foo namespace and test that the ExternalName Services are working as expected:

kubectl -n foo run -it --rm --restart=Never debug \ /bin/bash

This will, after a minute, open a prompt inside a container running in the foo namespace, at which point I can run host extname-1 and see these results: is an alias for is an alias for is an alias for has address

Repeating this process for extname-2 and extname-3, I see similar results—this tells me that the ExternalName Services are, in fact, created and working as expected, and that the cluster’s DNS service is functioning as expected.

Now, let’s create a new namespace (named bar, of course) and repeat this process:

kubectl create namespace bar
kubectl -n bar run -it --rm --restart=Never debug \ /bin/bash

When I run host extname-1 in this container in this new namespace, I instead get Host extname-1 not found: 3(NXDOMAIN)—indicating the ExternalName Services are not in this namespace, as fully expected.

Here’s where we bring in Ark. I’ll create a backup of the Services in the foo namespace:

ark backup create foo-svc --include-namespaces foo \
--include-resources services

As suggested in the output of this command, I’ll run ark backup describe foo-svc to see the status of the backup job:

Name:         foo-svc
Namespace:    heptio-ark
Labels:       <none>
Annotations:  <none>

Phase:  Completed

  Included:  foo
  Excluded:  <none>

  Included:        services
  Excluded:        <none>
  Cluster-scoped:  auto

Label selector:  <none>

Snapshot PVs:  auto

TTL:  720h0m0s

Hooks:  <none>

Backup Format Version:  1

Started:    2018-08-21 15:52:31 -0600 MDT
Completed:  2018-08-21 15:52:32 -0600 MDT

Expiration:  2018-09-20 15:52:31 -0600 MDT

Validation errors:  <none>

Persistent Volumes: <none included>

Now comes the neat trick—I’ll restore this backup into the bar namespace, using the --namespace-mappings option to Ark:

ark restore create bar-svc --from-backup foo-svc \
--namespace-mappings foo:bar

Now, I could run ark restore describe bar-svc, but let’s just jump directly to see if the services have been restored. Running kubectl -n bar get services shows they’re present:

extname-1  ExternalName  <none>     <none>   18m
extname-2  ExternalName  <none>        <none>   18m
extname-3  ExternalName  <none>  <none>   18m

Neat! With the --namespace-mappings parameter, users can backup from one namespace and restore into a different namespace, thus giving users the ability to “populate” new namespaces with a default set of objects that should be present in all new namespaces. Using Ark is, of course, not the only way to do this, and I’ll explore some other options in a future post.

This post just barely scratches the surface of what Ark is capable of doing; I highly encourage you to have a look at the Ark documentation for more details.

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