Build a Pine64 Kubernetes Cluster with k3os

Kubernetes (k3os) arm64 cluster with custom 3D printed case

The k3os project was recently announced and I finally got a chance to test it out. k3os greatly simplifies the steps needed to create a Kubernetes cluster along with its counterpart, k3s, to reduce the overhead of running Kubernetes clusters. Paired with Rancher for the UI, all of these components make for an even better option. You can even run Rancher in your (arm64) k3os cluster via the Rancher Helm chart now.

Instead of using Etcd, k3s opts to use SQLite by default and does some other magic to reduce extra Kubernetes bloat and simplify management. Check here for more about k3s and how it works and how to run it.

k3os replaces some complicated OS components with much simpler ones. For example, instead of using Systemd it uses OpenRC, instead of Docker it uses containerd, it also leverages connman for configuring network components and it doesn’t use a package manager.

The method I am showing in this post uses the k3os overlay installation, which is detailed here. The reason for this choice is because the pine64 boards use u-boot to boot the OS and so special steps are needed to accommodate for the way this process is handled. The upside of this method is that these instructions should pretty much work for any of the Pi form factor boards, including the newly released Raspberry Pi4, with minimal changes.

Setup

If you haven’t downloaded and imaged your Pine64 yet, I like to use the ayufan images, which can be found here. You can easily write these images to a microSD card on OSX using something like Etcher.

Assuming the node is connected to your network, you can SSH into it.

ssh [email protected] # or use the ip, password is rock64

When using the overlay installation, the first step is to download the k3os rootfs and lay it down on the host. This step applies to all nodes in the cluster.

curl -sL https://github.com/rancher/k3os/releases/download/v0.2.1/k3os-rootfs-arm64.tar.gz | tar --strip-components=1 -zxvf - -C 

The above command is installing v0.2.1 which is the most current version as of writing this, so make sure to check if there is a newer version available.

After installing, lay down the following configurations into /k3os/system/config.yaml, modifying as needed. After the machine is rebooted this path will become read only so if you need to change the configuration again you will need to edit /etc/fstab to change the location to be writable again.

Server node

ssh_authorized_keys:
- ssh-rsa <your-public-ssh-key-to-login>
hostname: k3s-master

k3os:
  data_sources:
  - cdrom
  dns_nameservers:
  - 192.168.1.1 # update this to your local or public DNS server if needed
  ntp_servers:
  - 0.us.pool.ntp.org
  - 1.us.pool.ntp.org
  password: rancher
  token: <TOKEN>

The k3s config will be written to /etc/rancher/k3s/k3s.yaml on this node so make sure to grab it if you want to connect the cluster from outside this node. Reboot the machine to boot to the new filesystem and you should be greeted with the k3os splash screen.

Agent node

The agent uses nearly the same config, with the addition of the server_url. Just point the agent nodes to the server/master and you should be good to go. Again, reboot after creating the config and the host should boot to the new filesystem and everything should be ready.

ssh_authorized_keys:
- ssh-rsa <your-public-ssh-key-to-login>
hostname: k3s-node-1

k3os:
  data_sources:
  - cdrom
  dns_nameservers:
  - 192.168.1.1 # update this to your local or public DNS server if needed
  ntp_servers:
  - 0.us.pool.ntp.org
  - 1.us.pool.ntp.org
  password: rancher
  server_url: https://<server-ip-or-hostname>:6443
  token: <TOKEN>

You can do a lot more with the bootstrap configurations, such as setting labels or environment variables. Some folks in the community have had luck getting the wifi configuration working on the RPi4’s out of the box, but I haven’t been able to get it to work yet on my Pine64 cluster. Check the docs for more details on the various configuration options.

After the nodes have been rebooted and configs applied, the cluster “should just work”. You can check that the cluster is up using k3s using the kubectl passthrough command (checking from the master node below).

k3s-master [~]$ k3s kubectl get nodes
NAME         STATUS   ROLES    AGE     VERSION
k3s-master   Ready    <none>   6d1h    v1.14.1-k3s.4
k3s-node-1   Ready    <none>   7m10s   v1.14.1-k3s.4

NOTE: After installing the overlay filesystem there will be no package manager and no obvious way to upgrade the kernel so use this guide only for testing purposes. The project is still very young and a number of things still need to be added, including update mechanisms and HA. Be sure to follow the k3os issue tracker and Rancher Slack (#k3os channel) for updates and developments.

Conclusion

This is easily the best method I have found so far for getting a Kubernetes cluster up and running, minus the few caveats mentioned above, which I believe will be resolved very soon. I have been very impressed with how simple and easy it has been to configure and use. The next step for me is to figure out how to run Rancher and start working on some configurations for running workloads on the cluster. I will share more on that project in another post.

There are definitely some quirks to getting this setup working for the Pi and Pine64 based boards, but aren’t major problems by any means.

References

This post was heavily inspired by this gist for getting the overlay installation method working on Raspberry Pi.

Josh Reichardt

Josh is the creator of this blog, a system administrator and a contributor to other technology communities such as /r/sysadmin and Ops School. You can also find him on Twitter and Facebook.