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A JSII construct lib to deploy a K3s cluster on AWS with CDK

Project description

NPM version PyPI version Release

What is cdk-k3s-cluster?

cdk-k3s-cluster is a new JSII construct library for AWS CDK that deploys a scalable Kubernetes K3s cluster on Graviton2 Arm-based (mg6 by default) Spot instances with one click command on AWS.

What problem does cdk-k3s-cluster solve?

cdk-k3s-cluster is just another way to deploy Kubernetes (K3s specifically) on AWS. K3s is a minimalist Kubernetes distribution from Rancher often related to Edge and IoT use cases. There is a gazillion of articles on the Internet about how to setup K3s on a Raspberry cluster. The great Alex Ellis has a blog post on it, for example. Since I don't have a Raspberry cluster and I was not planning to buy one I thought I'd use the power of the cloud to mimic it. The result of this experiment is that you could deploy an ephemeral, cheap Kubernetes Arm-based cluster on AWS in a matter of minutes. Unleash your imagination re how you can use it (e.g. an ephemeral cluster part of your deployment pipeline in the cloud?). Note the class today only supports Arm-based instances for deomstration purposes but can easily be adapted to support x86-based instances.

How do you deploy and consume cdk-k3s-cluster?

The cdk-k3s-cluster Cluster API

The Cluster API available in the cdk-k3s-cluster library, not to be confused with the Kubernetes Cluster API project, allows you to build the k3s cluster on AWS with AWS CDK. This library is currently available in both NPM and PyPi.

Creating a default cluster could be as simple as:

import * as k3s from 'cdk-k3s-cluster'

new k3s.Cluster(stack, 'Cluster')

See below for a complete example.


cdk-k3s-cluster first deploys a Graviton2 EC2 instance (m6g.large by default) where it starts the K3s control plane. The kubeconfig file generated and the K3s token are copied to an S3 bucket. It then creates an ASG that spins up the number of Graviton2 worker nodes that you specify (3 by default - the ceiling limit is based on your account limits). These instances launch K3s worker nodes that join the cluster by downloading the token from S3. Ultimately the CDK outputs the link to the kubeconfig file on your private S3 bucket for you to copy it and use it with kubectl. This construct can deploy the worker node instances using either the on-demand or the Spot life cycles to reduce costs further (Spot is used by default). This construct cretes by default a new VPC but it can be configured to deploy either on the default VPC in your account or on a specific existing VPC id.

This is a high level view of the architecture and the deployment flow described above: ks3clusterdeploy

This is a screenshot of the cluster creation user experience using CDK:



Once the cdk-k3s-cluster has been deployed, this a high level view of the consumption flow: ks3clusterconsume

This is an example of the cluster consumption user experience using the aws cli (used to copy the kubeconfig file from S3) and kubectl:

$ aws s3 cp s3://k3sCluster-clusterk3sbucketxxxxxxxxxxxxx/kubeconfig.yaml .
download: s3://k3sCluster-clusterk3sbucketxxxxxxxxxxxxx/kubeconfig.yaml to ./kubeconfig.yaml

$ kubectl get nodes --kubeconfig=./kubeconfig.yaml
NAME                                          STATUS   ROLES    AGE     VERSION   Ready    master   2m49s   v1.16.9+k3s1   Ready    <none>   15s     v1.16.13+k3s1   Ready    <none>   8s      v1.16.13+k3s1   Ready    <none>   1s      v1.16.13+k3s1

How does this relate to EKS

It doesn't. As noted above, cdk-k3s-cluster is just yet another experimental and peculiar way to run Kubernetes on AWS.

What are the running costs for a cluster built with cdk-k3s-cluster?

It obviously depends how many worker nodes you deploy. If we stick to all the defaults (Spot lifecycle and the m6g.medium instance type with 1 Graviton2 CPU and 4GB of memory), as of August 2020 the unit cost in Oregon is $0.0177 which translates to a unit cost of $0.1416 per 8 hours (a work day). A 3 worker nodes cluster would be $0.5664 (including the control plane) per 8 hours (or $1.6992 per 24 hours full day).

A 100 worker nodes cluster (or 101 vCPUs and 404GB of memory) would be $0.0177 x 101 = $1.7877 per hour or $0.0177 x 101 x 24 = $42.9048 per day.

This does not include, for example, the costs of the S3 bucket (probably marginal) or network traffic.

Getting started

cdk-k3s-cluster is available in both NPM and PyPi modules ready to be imported into your CDK program.

I am a Typescript type of person

This is an example of how to consume the NPM module with a CDK application written in Typescript. If you need to setup your Typescript environment this is a good guide.

$ mkdir myk3scluster-typescript
$ cd myk3scluster-typescript
# initialize the AWS CDK project
$ cdk init -l typescript
# install the cdk-k3s-cluster npm module
$ yarn add cdk-k3s-cluster

Update your ./bin/myk3scluster-typescript.ts file with the following content.

import * as cdk from '@aws-cdk/core';
import * as ec2 from '@aws-cdk/aws-ec2';
import * as k3s from 'cdk-k3s-cluster';

const app = new cdk.App();

const env = {
  region: app.node.tryGetContext('region') || process.env.CDK_INTEG_REGION || process.env.CDK_DEFAULT_REGION,
  account: app.node.tryGetContext('account') || process.env.CDK_INTEG_ACCOUNT || process.env.CDK_DEFAULT_ACCOUNT

const stack = new cdk.Stack(app, 'k8sCluster', { env })

new k3s.Cluster(stack, 'Cluster', {
  vpc: k3s.VpcProvider.getOrCreate(stack),
  spotWorkerNodes: true,
  workerMinCapacity: 3,
  workerInstanceType: new ec2.InstanceType('m6g.medium'),
  controlPlaneInstanceType: new ec2.InstanceType('m6g.medium')
  bucketRemovalPolicy: cdk.RemovalPolicy.DESTROY

In this typescript example, we are using all of the properties available today. Note that we set the bucket removal policy to DESTROY (this will remove completely the S3 bucket - the safe default behavior is to leave the bucket in the account). For an up to date list of all the properties please refer to the file in this repo.

I am a Python type of person

This is an example of how to consume the PyPi module with a CDK application written in Typescript. If you need to setup your Python environment this is a good guide.

$ mkdir myk3scluster-python
$ cd myk3scluster-python
# initialize the AWS CDK project
$ cdk init -l python
# activate the Python virtual environment
$ source .env/bin/activate
# install the dependencies
$ pip install cdk-k3s-cluster

Update your ./ file with the following content. Note how, in this example, we are only using two of the parameters available. To use all the defaults you could use cluster = k3s.Cluster(self, "MyK3sClusters"):

#!/usr/bin/env python3

from aws_cdk import core
import cdk_k3s_cluster as k3s

class K3sCluster(core.Stack):
    def __init__(self, scope: core.Construct, id: str, **kwargs):
        super().__init__(scope, id, **kwargs)
        k3s.Cluster(self, "MyK3sClusters", worker_min_capacity=5, spot_worker_nodes=True)

app = core.App()
K3sCluster(app, "K3sCluster")

Deploying the stack (regardless of the language you have used)

deploy the CDK stack:

# see the difference before the deployment
$ cdk diff
# deploy it
$ cdk deploy

If you want to deploy in an existing VPC use either cdk deploy --context use_default_vpc=1 or cdk deploy --context use_vpc_id=<vpc id>

Clean up

Cleaning up the environment is as easy as running cdk destroy from where you left your prompt.

Known issues and limitations

  • First and foremost this is a learning experiment. We have done limited tests with it.
  • We have not tested this beyond a mere kubectl get nodes test. Let alone trying anything like arkade
  • cdk-k3s-cluster only deploys Arm-based instances. It would be trivial to add x86 based instances support but it's not there today
  • All the control plane and worker nodes are deployed in public subnets and the SGs are fairly permissive in terms of "source". Picking private subnets would have probably broken the use case of deploying into the default VPC (which is handy). This prototype over-indexes more on deployment convenience and ease of use than on best practices. Be mindful of that
  • The control plane instance always deploys on-demand while for worker nodes you can pick between on-demand and Spot
  • The ASG for worker nodes is configured with a single parameter that becomes the min, max and desired count for the ASG
  • For simplicity, both the control plane instance and the worker nodes share the same instance type


This library has been authored by Massimo and Pahud.

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