Exposing containers


  • kubectl expose creates a service for existing pods

  • A service is a stable address for a pod (or a bunch of pods)

  • If we want to connect to our pod(s), we need to create a service

  • Once a service is created, CoreDNS will allow us to resolve it by name

    (i.e. after creating service hello, the name hello will resolve to something)

  • There are different types of services, detailed on the following slides:

    ClusterIP, NodePort, LoadBalancer, ExternalName

Basic service types

  • ClusterIP (default type)

    • a virtual IP address is allocated for the service (in an internal, private range)
    • this IP address is reachable only from within the cluster (nodes and pods)
    • our code can connect to the service using the original port number
  • NodePort

    • a port is allocated for the service (by default, in the 30000-32768 range)
    • that port is made available on all our nodes and anybody can connect to it
    • our code must be changed to connect to that new port number

These service types are always available.

Under the hood: kube-proxy is using a userland proxy and a bunch of iptables rules.

More service types

  • LoadBalancer

    • an external load balancer is allocated for the service
    • the load balancer is configured accordingly
      (e.g.: a NodePort service is created, and the load balancer sends traffic to that port)
    • available only when the underlying infrastructure provides some "load balancer as a service"
      (e.g. AWS, Azure, GCE, OpenStack...)
  • ExternalName

    • the DNS entry managed by CoreDNS will just be a CNAME to a provided record
    • no port, no IP address, no nothing else is allocated

Running containers with open ports

  • Since ping doesn't have anything to connect to, we'll have to run something else

  • We could use the nginx official image, but ...

    ... we wouldn't be able to tell the backends from each other!

  • We are going to use jpetazzo/httpenv, a tiny HTTP server written in Go

  • jpetazzo/httpenv listens on port 8888

  • It serves its environment variables in JSON format

  • The environment variables will include HOSTNAME, which will be the pod name

    (and therefore, will be different on each backend)

Creating a deployment for our HTTP server

  • We could do kubectl run httpenv --image=jpetazzo/httpenv ...

  • But since kubectl run is being deprecated, let's see how to use kubectl create instead


  • In another window, watch the pods (to see when they will be created):

    kubectl get pods -w
  • Create a deployment for this very lightweight HTTP server:

    kubectl create deployment httpenv --image=jpetazzo/httpenv
  • Scale it to 10 replicas:

    kubectl scale deployment httpenv --replicas=10

Exposing our deployment

  • We'll create a default ClusterIP service


  • Expose the HTTP port of our server:

    kubectl expose deployment httpenv --port 8888
  • Look up which IP address was allocated:

    kubectl get service

Services are layer 4 constructs

  • You can assign IP addresses to services, but they are still layer 4

    (i.e. a service is not an IP address; it's an IP address + protocol + port)

  • This is caused by the current implementation of kube-proxy

    (it relies on mechanisms that don't support layer 3)

  • As a result: you have to indicate the port number for your service

  • Running services with arbitrary port (or port ranges) requires hacks

    (e.g. host networking mode)

Testing our service

  • We will now send a few HTTP requests to our pods


  • Let's obtain the IP address that was allocated for our service, programmatically:
IP=$(kubectl get svc httpenv -o go-template --template "{{ .spec.clusterIP }}")
  • Send a few requests:

    curl http://$IP:8888/
  • Too much output? Filter it with jq:

    curl -s http://$IP:8888/ | jq .HOSTNAME

Try it a few times! Our requests are load balanced across multiple pods.

If we don't need a load balancer

  • Sometimes, we want to access our scaled services directly:

    • if we want to save a tiny little bit of latency (typically less than 1ms)

    • if we need to connect over arbitrary ports (instead of a few fixed ones)

    • if we need to communicate over another protocol than UDP or TCP

    • if we want to decide how to balance the requests client-side

    • ...

  • In that case, we can use a "headless service"

Headless services

  • A headless service is obtained by setting the clusterIP field to None

    (Either with --cluster-ip=None, or by providing a custom YAML)

  • As a result, the service doesn't have a virtual IP address

  • Since there is no virtual IP address, there is no load balancer either

  • CoreDNS will return the pods' IP addresses as multiple A records

  • This gives us an easy way to discover all the replicas for a deployment

Services and endpoints

  • A service has a number of "endpoints"

  • Each endpoint is a host + port where the service is available

  • The endpoints are maintained and updated automatically by Kubernetes


  • Check the endpoints that Kubernetes has associated with our httpenv service:

    kubectl describe service httpenv

In the output, there will be a line starting with Endpoints:.

That line will list a bunch of addresses in host:port format.

Viewing endpoint details

  • When we have many endpoints, our display commands truncate the list

    kubectl get endpoints
  • If we want to see the full list, we can use one of the following commands:

    kubectl describe endpoints httpenv
    kubectl get endpoints httpenv -o yaml
  • These commands will show us a list of IP addresses

  • These IP addresses should match the addresses of the corresponding pods:

    kubectl get pods -l app=httpenv -o wide

endpoints not endpoint

  • endpoints is the only resource that cannot be singular
$ kubectl get endpoint
error: the server doesn t have a resource type "endpoint"
  • This is because the type itself is plural (unlike every other resource)

  • There is no endpoint object: type Endpoints struct

  • The type doesn't represent a single endpoint, but a list of endpoints