Kubernetes-based development with Devspace

Modern applications are increasingly based on microservices. Splitting large applications into smaller pieces makes the whole thing easier to maintain and develop. However, instead of developing a big monolith, we work on a set of small applications, which makes it harder to debug and deploy the whole system. Fortunately, there are many tools to help us. An interesting comparison of some of them can be found here. In what follows, we want to see how easy it is to do Kubernetes-based development with devspace.

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A microservices application

Let's assume that we are developing a microservices application, for example an online shop. In essence, our webshop consists of a front-end application that communicates with a backend via an API. For simplicity, let's say our backend looks like this:

Kubernetes-based development with Devspace

User management is provided by the iam service. Orders are processed via the message queue. Most of the business logic in our backend is wrapped in serverless functions served by faas. The state of our application is kept in our database. Finally, for some good reasons (e.g. ease of test configuration), we are developing our software in a monorepo.

Over time, our microservices application will necessarily contain a lot of business logic that will be wrapped up in even more microservice code or serverless functions. For example, we might need a connector service between our message queue and our faa, or an asset service with some logic to add new assets in a controlled way. A very practical way to host our microservices is to dock them and let Kubernetes orchestrate them.

Usually our IAM service is a third party like keycloak or fusionauth that we can easily deploy on Kubernetes using a helm diagram. Helm is a very handy package manager for Kubernetes. For example, a typical fusionauth deployment would look something like this:


                                                                                    

Our message queue is probably redismq, rabbitmq or kubemq, for which we also easily find bar charts.

Then come our own custom services for which we need to write our own Kubernetes resources (deployments, services, ingresses, etc.). Finally, we can write some kind of script to install all the necessary bar charts and apply our Kubernetes resources.

Because our software deals with sensitive data and does our business, we have to be careful when we deploy a new version. Therefore, we want to test it in some way before releasing it, which is very easy to do on Kubernetes clusters. Indeed, we can imagine that we have two environments, one for testing and one for production. The test (or staging) environment would be synchronised with the main branch of our software repository while the production environment would be the counterpart of the production branch of our repository. We develop on the main branch and, as soon as Q&A is happy with the software being pushed there, we push it to production.

We are now in a complicated situation where we want to develop our software on a development machine, test it in some way on an almost productive environment, and release it into a production environment. This leads us to three different build and deployment procedures. On a development machine, we surely want to interact with an ephemeral database. Also, the login credentials for our microservices (such as the asset management service) must be trivial. On a development machine, we may want to grant unprotected access to some of our services for debugging purposes. In production, we want to secure and hide as much as possible.

Finally, if our development environment was close to the production environment, we would minimise the surprises that follow a deployment to staging or production, which would increase our productivity.

Entering the devspace

Devspace is a clique tool that allows us to automate both the building and deployment of container images. In addition, this tool could just as easily replace our makefile or docker-compose configurations and offers us the possibility to do Kubernetes-based development. Thanks to this last possibility, let's assume we have set up a small cluster on our development machine. With one click, you can ask Jelastic to configure this development cluster for you via a very simple interface.

Kubernetes-based development with Devspace
Kubernetes-based development with Devspace

You can also manually set up your own desktop cluster type, minikube or docker.

The easiest way to install devspace (not on your Kubernetes cluster, but on a remote machine from which you develop your code!


                                                                                    

Then, depending on our use case, we could run


                                                                                    

and follow the instructions. In our particular case, we want to build

  • our API
  • a set of customised microservices

This is what we do with the following configuration:


                                                                                    

The above configuration defines how to build our API and microservices. When pushed to their docker registry, both docker images will have the same random label (defined by the DEVSPACE_RANDOM built-in variable). Instead of using a docker daemon, we can also choose to use custom build commands or kaniko. We can use environment variables, such as SOME_IMPORTANT_VARIABLE and provide the usual options for building docker images.

Secondly, we want to deploy

  • our API
  • our customised microservices
  • various third party services (iam, message queue, faas, assets)

To take care of this, we complete the previous configuration with the following snippet:

The first deployment, my-custom-service, consists of


                                                                                    

The second deployment, api, is an ordinary helm installation. Instead of writing our own helm diagram, we could have used the built-in component diagrams which offer a compromise between defining our own helm diagrams and keeping the configuration of our Kubernetes resources simple. With our current devspace configuration in place, we can start our :

This command builds our docker images and deploys our software to the default namespace of our development Kubernetes cluster. We are now in a situation where we can develop our code on our development machine and push it to our development Kubernetes cluster. With hot reload or auto reload, we can even fix our code and the result is automatically propagated to our cluster.

Deploying in multiple environments

We now have a configuration that works for development. We are not too far from the configuration of our staging environment. Firstly, our docker images should be tagged following the /:staging- pattern. Secondly, our staging environment relies on an external database and IAM services. Therefore, we don't want to deploy them on staging and we need to adapt the services that depend on them. In devspace we can define profiles. So far, our configuration does not refer to any profile, so it is the development profile. We can define the staging profile, let it be based on the development profile and adapt it as we have just described. To do this, we add the following configuration to our devspace.yaml :

We can of course follow the same philosophy coupled with the concept of parent profiles to define our production profile. Then, building and deploying to the test phase or production is as simple as

Of course, remote debugging of these profiles is also possible.

We have only scratched the surface...

Many other features are available, such as custom command definition, (reverse) port forwarding, file synchronisation, container log streaming, etc . Used judiciously in CI/CD pipelines, devspace can greatly simplify the way you release your software.

Written by

Laurent Michel
Product owner at Softozor

Hidora customer since 2017, using jelastic PaaS and gitlab managed ci/cd to reduce infrastructure overheads for their e-commerce platform.

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