How to Set Up a Kubernetes Cluster on RHEL 7.6 on AWS

Containers are being embraced at a breakneck speed – developers love them, and they are great for business because they deliver speed and scale in a cost-efficient manner. So much so, that container technology seems to be overtaking VMs – especially with container orchestration tools like Kubernetes, making them simpler to manage and extracting higher efficiency and speed from them.

Kubernetes cluster architecture

Kubernetes provides an open-source platform for simplifying multi-cloud environments. The disparities between different cloud providers are a roadblock for developers and Kubernetes helps by streamlining and standardizing container-based applications.

Kubernetes clusters are the architectural foundation that drives this simplicity and makes it possible for users to get the functionality they need at scale and with ease. Here are some of the functionalities of Kubernetes –

  • Kubernetes distributes workload efficiently across all open resources and reduces traffic spikes or outages.
  • It simplifies application deployment regardless of the size of the cluster
  • It automates horizontal scaling
  • It monitors against app failure with constant node and container health checks and performs self-healing and replication to resolve any failure issues.

All this makes the work of developers faster and frees up their time and attention from trivial repetitive tasks allowing them to build applications better and faster! For the organization, the benefits are three-fold – higher productivity, better products and, finally, cost efficiencies.

Let’s move to the specifics now and find out how to set up a Kubernetes Cluster on the RHEL 7.6 operating system on AWS.

  • You should have a VPC available.
  • A subnet within that VPC, into which you will place your cluster.
  • You should have Security Groups for the Control Plane Load Balancer and the Nodes created.
  • You should have created the Control Plane Load Balancer.
  • A bastion host, or jump box, with a public IP within your VPC from which you can secure shell into your VMs.
  • A pem file for your AWS region, which you will use to secure shell into your VMs.
Creating the IAM Roles

You will need to create 2 IAM roles: one for the Master(s), and one for the worker nodes.

Master Role

To create an IAM role, go to the IAM (Identity and Access Management) page in the AWS console. On the left-hand menu, click ‘Roles’. Then click ‘Create Role’.

Select the service that will use this role. By default, it is EC2, which is what we want. Then click “Next: Permissions”.

Click ‘Create Policy’. The Create Policy page opens in a new tab.

Click on the ‘JSON tab’. Then paste this json into it:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Action": [
            "Resource": "*",
            "Effect": "Allow"

This json defines the permissions that your master nodes will need.

Click ‘Review Policy’. Then give your policy a name and a description.

Click ‘Create Policy’ and your policy is created!

Back on the Create Role page, refresh your policy list, and filter for the policy you just created. Select it and click ‘Next: Tags’.

You should add 2 tags: Name, with a name for your role, and KubernetesCluster, with the name of the cluster that you are going to create. Click ‘Next: Review’.

Give your role a name and a description. Click ‘Create Role’ and your role is created!

Node Role

For the node role, you will follow similar steps, except that you will use the following json:

    "Version": "2012-10-17",
    "Statement": [
            "Action": [
            "Resource": "*",
            "Effect": "Allow"
Provisioning the VMs
Provisioning the Master

We will use RHEL 7.6 for our cluster because RHEL 8.0 uses iptables v1.8, and kube-proxy does not work well with iptables v1.8. However, kube-proxy works with iptables v1.4, which is installed on RHEL 7.6. We will use the x86_64 architecture.

Log into the AWS console. Go to the EC2 home page and click ‘Launch Instance’. We will search under Community AMIs for our image.

Click ‘Select’. Then choose your instance type. T2.medium should suffice for a Kubernetes master. Click ‘Next: Configure Instance Details’.

We will use only 1 instance. For an HA cluster, you will want more. Select your network and your subnet. For the purposes of this tutorial, we will enable auto-assigning a public IP.  In production, you would probably not want your master to have a public IP.  But you would need to make sure that your subnet is configured correctly with the appropriate NAT and route tables. Select the IAM role you created. Then click ‘Next: Add Storage’.

The default, 10 GB of storage, should be adequate for a Kubernetes master. Click ‘Next: Add Tags’.

We will add 3 tags: Name, with the name of your master; KubernetesCluster, with the name of your cluster; and<name of your cluster>, with the value owned. Click ‘Next: Configure Security Group’.

Select “Select an existing security group” and select the security group you created for your Kubernetes nodes. Click ‘Review and Launch’.

Click ‘Launch’. Select “Choose an Existing Key Pair”. Select the key pair from the drop-down. Check the “I acknowledge” box. You should have the private key file saved on the machine from which you plan to secure shell into your master; otherwise you will not be able to ssh into the master! Click ‘Launch Instances’ and your master is created.

Provisioning the Auto Scaling Group

Your worker nodes should be behind an Auto Scaling group. Under Auto Scaling in the left-hand menu of the AWS console, click ‘Auto Scaling Groups’. Click ‘Create Auto Scaling Group’. On the next page, click ‘Get Started’.

Under “Choose AMI”, select RHEL 7.6 x86_64 under Community AMIs, as you did for the master.

When choosing your instance type, be mindful of what applications you want to run on your Kubernetes cluster and their resource needs. Be sure to provision a size with sufficient CPUs and memory.

Under “Configure Details”, give your autoscaling group a name and select the IAM role you configured for your Kubernetes nodes.

When selecting your storage size, be mindful of the storage requirements of your applications that you want to run on Kubernetes. A database application, for example, would need plenty of storage.

Select the security group that you configured for Kubernetes nodes.

Click ‘Create Launch Configuration’. Then select your key pair as you did for the master. Click ‘Create Launch Configuration’ and you are taken to the ‘Configure Auto Scaling Group Details’ page. Give your group a name. Select a group size. For our purpose, 2 nodes will suffice. Select the same subnet on which you placed your master. Click ‘Next: Configure Scaling policies’.

For this tutorial, we will select “Keep this group at its initial size”. For a production cluster with variability in usage, you may want to use scaling policies to adjust the capacity of the group. Click ‘Next: Configure Notifications’.

We will not add any notifications in this tutorial. Click ‘Next: Configure Tags’.

We will add 3 tags: Name, with the name of your nodes; KubernetesCluster, with the name of your cluster; and<your cluster name>, with the value owned. Click ‘Review’.

Click Create Auto Scaling Group and your auto-scaling group is created!

Installing Kubernetes

Specific steps need to be followed to install Kubernetes. Run the following steps as sudo on your master(s) and worker nodes.

 # add docker repo

yum-config-manager --add-repo

# install container-selinux

 yum install -y

# install docker

yum install docker-ce

# enable docker

systemctl enable --now docker

# create Kubernetes repo. The 2 urls after gpgkey have to be on 1 line.

cat <<EOF > /etc/yum.repos.d/kubernetes.repo

# configure selinux

setenforce 0
sed -i 's/^SELINUX=enforcing$/SELINUX=permissive/' /etc/selinux/config

# install kubelet, kubeadm, kubectl, and Kubernetes-cni. We found that version 1.13.2 works well with RHEL 7.6.

yum install -y kubelet-1.13.2 kubeadm-1.13.2 kubectl-1.13.2 kubernetes-cni-0.6.0-0.x86_64 --disableexcludes=kubernetes –nogpgcheck

# enable kubelet

systemctl enable --now kubelet

# Run the following command as a regular user.

sudo usermod -a -G docker $USER
Creating the Kubernetes Cluster

First, add your master(s) to the control plane load balancer as follows. Log into the AWS console, EC2 service, and on the left-hand menu, under Load Balancing, click ‘Load Balancers’. Select your load balancer and click the Instances tab in the bottom window. Click ‘Edit Instances’.

Select your master(s) and click ‘Save’.

We will create the Kubernetes cluster via a config file. You will need a token, the master’s private DNS name taken from the AWS console, the Load Balancer’s IP, and the Load Balancer’s DNS name. You can generate a Kubernetes token by running the following command on a machine on which you have installed kubeadm:

kubeadm token generate

To get the load balancer’s IP, you must execute a dig command. You install dig by running the following command as sudo:

yum install bind-utils

Then you execute the following command:

dig +short <load balancer dns>

Then you create the following yaml file:

 kind: InitConfiguration
 - groups:
   - "system:bootstrappers:kubeadm:default-node-token"
   token: "<token>"
   ttl: "0s"
   - signing
   - authentication
   name: "<master private dns>"
     cloud-provider: "aws"
 kind: ClusterConfiguration
 kubernetesVersion: "v1.13.2"
   timeoutForControlPlane: 10m0s
   - "<Load balancer IPV4>"
     cloud-provider: "aws"
 clusterName: kubernetes
 controlPlaneEndpoint: "<load balancer DNS>:6443"
     cloud-provider: "aws"
     allocate-node-cidrs: "false"
   type: CoreDNS 

You then bootstrap the cluster with the following command as sudo:

kubeadm init --config kubeadm.yaml --ignore-preflight-errors=all

I had a timeout error on the first attempt, but the command ran successfully the second time. Make a note of the output because you will need it to configure the nodes.

You then configure kubectl as follows:

mkdir -p $HOME/.kube
sudo cp -i /etc/kubernetes/admin.conf $HOME/.kube/config
sudo chown $(id -u):$(id -g) $HOME/.kube/config

After this there are some components that need to be installed on Kubernetes on AWS:

# Grant the “admin” user complete access to the cluster

kubectl create clusterrolebinding admin-cluster-binding --clusterrole=cluster-admin --user=admin

# Add-on for networking providers, so pods can communicate. 
# Currently either calico.yaml or weave.yaml

kubectl apply -f

# Install the Kubernetes dashboard

kubectl apply -f

# Install the default StorageClass

kubectl apply -f

# Set up the network policy blocking the AWS metadata endpoint from the default namespace.

kubectl apply -f

Then you have to configure kubelet arguments:

sudo vi /var/lib/kubelet/kubeadm-flags.env

And add the following parameters:

--cloud-provider=aws --hostname-override=<the node name>

After editing the kubeadm-flags.env file:

sudo systemctl restart kubelet

Finally, you have to label your master with the provider ID. That way, any load balancers you create for this node will automatically add the node as an AWS instance:

kubectl patch node <node name> -p '{"spec":{"providerID":"aws:///<availability zone>/<instance ID>"}}'

You can join worker nodes to the cluster by running the following command as sudo, which should have been printed out after running kubeadm init on the master:

kubeadm join <load balancer dns>:6443 --token <token> --discovery-token-ca-cert-hash <discovery token ca cert hash> --ignore-preflight-errors=all

Be sure to configure kubelet arguments on each node and patch them using kubectl as you did for the master.

Your Kubernetes cluster on AWS is now ready!

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