Self Hosting I: Setting up Kubernetes

This article is the first in a series about my experience moving away from free, hosted webservices (email, git, social, file storage etc) and towards self-hosting. I wrote a bit about my motivation to take this project on in Part 0 of the series. You may be interested in this series if you share those concerns or if you’re just looking for a fun project to hack on.

The first step to self hosting is hosting. I’m a fan of Linux containers for running services. I’ve had some chances to use Kubernetes professionally and really enjoyed the experience. This is motivated by a few things. The first one is that I’m not that good at administering linux systems. Every applications has its own config and stores files in different locations. If you go through the install and uninstall cycle enough times things just get messy. You can probably chalk this up to my lack of understanding of the Linux file system heirarchy and where to go hunting for things. Anyways, with Kubernetes I just have to worry about running Kubernetes. Application state is bundled up in the container for the most part.

That said, running Kubernetes isn’t trivial so its worth taking a look at the installation process in a bit of detail.

Choosing a Server and Hosting

I use Fedora as my daily operating system so it made a natural choice as a server operating system. Kubernetes development is moving quite rapidly now so it can be nice to have a distribution that keeps up. I’ve had no trouble upgrading from release to release with the dnf system upgrade tool so the short support life is no obstacle.

Fedora has an flavour specifically for deploying containers called Fedora Atomic but, I’ve found the documentation a little weak and its future isn’t that clear to me following the CoreOS acquisition, so I opted for the traditional server spin.

For hosting, I opted for Digital Ocean and choose the 2 CPU / 4Gb RAM option. The Kubernetes API server alone takes up about 500Mb. 4Gb of RAM may be excessive for a minimal install, but I think 2 Gb is probably as low as you comfortably go. Some services like email can be very RAM heavy so but others consume almost nothing so it worth thinking about what you want to deploy before you get started.

With a new droplet its always nice to deal with updates now and in the future using dnf-automatic:

laptop $ ssh
server $ dnf update && systemctl reboot // Update server
server $ dnf install dnf-automatic      // Automatic updates
server $ systemctl enable --now dnf-automatic-install.timer

Installing Kubernetes

Kubeadm is an excellent tool for spinning up a Kubernetes cluster. They even have a good tutorial for setting up a stand-alone cluster. Unfortunately there are a few wrinkles to following the tutorial on a Fedora server. If you’re the impatient and trusting type you can do the following to get started:

server $ dnf install kubernetes-kubeadm docker tc
server $ systemctl enable --now kubelet
server $ curl >
server $ # Edit : replace <node name> with name of host
server $ bash  # Install everything
server $ # Now go to /etc/sysconfig/selinux and set SELINUX=permissive

Once finished, you’ll have a new Kubernetes cluster with Flannel network and HAProxy ingress controller. To connect remotely, make sure your firewall is open to part 6443, and copy the kubernetes config from your server (/etc/kubernetes/admin.conf) to you local machine (~/.kube/config).

laptop $ kubectl get nodes
server      Ready     master    3d        v1.10.1

If you’re the less trusting type (and you should be!), check out the script at


An ingress controller routes traffic to services based on the domain name and path requested. For example, if traffic for and are directed to the same node, the ingress controller route traffic for each subdomain to a seperate Kubernetes service. This is great because it means we can publish many services on the same server and distinguish them by domain. A typical ingress resource might look something like this:

apiVersion: extensions/v1beta1
kind: Ingress
  name: website
  - hosts:
    -       # Host name for TLS
    secretName: tls-certs  # Certificates for TLS termination
  - host:   # Host name to match
      - path: /            # Path to match
          serviceName: website  # Service to accept traffic
          servicePort: 3000     # Service port

If you have a domain name available, you can set this up by making a wild card record for you domain and pointing it towards your server. For example, my domain is so I set up a record for * and directed that towards my droplet. This means I can host any subdomain of at the droplet (, etc).

Ingress controllers are basically reverse proxies managed by Kubernetes so different implementations are typically backed by different proxy software (Nginx, HAProxy etc). If you’d like to know more about the HAProxy ingress controller installed by the script checkout the repository here.

Finishing up

At this point its best to reboot the system and make sure everything comes back up afterwords. If all goes well, you’re ready to start hosting services. Next time we’ll take a look at hosting our own git repostory and securing services with LetsEncrypt certificates.